Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - January/February 2005

Volume 3, Number 1


This e-newsletter from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Workplace Accommodations is an update on our research, project activities, and resources of interest. The Work RERC is a NIDRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center that identifies, develops and promotes new assistive and universally designed technologies that maximize independence and participation of people with disabilities in the workplace. More information about the Work RERC can be found at our website,


There are 6.63 million people working in the United States as retail and personal services sales workers, and 12% of them have a disability (Occupations of Workers with Disabilities, 1991-92, U.S. Census Bureau). However, in spite of these large numbers, most "accessible checkstands" in stores have been designed to be accessible only for customers, not employees. To address this population, one of the RERC's development projects focuses on a universally designed grocery/retail checkstand that is accessible to employees with disabilities.

To ensure that our design will actually be implemented within the industry, we have developed a relationship with Atlanta-based NCR Corporation. NCR is a leading worldwide provider of retail data warehousing and store automation solutions such as interactive kiosks, scanners and point of sale systems.

Currently, the project is gathering information on functional characteristics and limitations of individuals engaged in grocery retail checkout, and we are determining the desired design specifications and performance requirements for the workstation. One aspect of this research involves measuring comfortable reach ranges, working heights and object placement for potential users with or without disabilities. During these tests, motion capture technology collects information that will be translated into animations of each individual’s performance. These animations will be used as models to test existing and future design suggestions.

New designs based on the collective data will be constructed early this summer. NCR is supplying the electronic and mechanical components that will allow us to evaluate the success of these designs. NCR is also helping us identify retail outlets that would be suitable candidates to implement our recommendations.

For more information, or to participate in the design specification tests, contact:
David Ringholz, Project Director
Georgia Tech Industrial Design Program, College of Architecture
Phone: 404-894-9110


* NIH Establishes New Centers on Demography of Aging -
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established four demography centers to increase knowledge about older Americans. The centers will investigate a variety of research topics and will be located at Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of North Carolina, and Pennsylvania State University. The University of North Carolina will research the effects of population aging on labor force participation. Many older Americans have age-related characteristics that could be considered disabilities. By providing information on the disability status and labor force participation of these individuals, the new demography centers will provide more insight about the types of accommodations needed for this population in the workplace. Visit UNC’s Demography and Economics of Aging Research Center at [] [Source: NIH]

* EEOC and Northwest Airlines Settle Discrimination Suit -
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Northwest Airlines have agreed to settle an ADA disability discrimination suit in which the EEOC alleged that Northwest excluded job applicants with epilepsy or insulin-dependent diabetes from airport ramp equipment service employee and cleaner positions. In the agreement, Northwest will offer an individualized assessment of applicants with insulin-dependent diabetes or a seizure disorder to safely perform a job’s essential functions. Northwest will also provide a monetary settlement of $510,000, which will be distributed between the 28 individuals involved in the case. [Source: EEOC]

* NCD Report: Progress of Disability Policy -
The National Council on Disability (NCD) released its annual report, titled “National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, December 2002 - December 2003.” The report reviews policy activities and makes recommendations in 13 different areas, including employment and the workforce development system. One recommendation is the establishment of a blue ribbon panel to study and provide advice to Congress on how to “strengthen the capacity of the economy to retain and benefit from the services and experience of older workers with adult-onset disabilities.” View the full text of the NCD annual report at [] [Source: NCD]

To read more about these and other important issues related to employment, disability and workplace accommodations, view the January edition of “Workplace Accommodations Policy Highlights” on our web site.
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September 15-16, 2005
Atlanta, GA

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations is announcing a Call for Papers for its 2005 State of the Science Conference.

This conference will establish a national dialogue on the current state and future directions of workplace accommodations. The conference format will include plenary sessions, paper presentations in breakout sessions, and extensive opportunity for networking and discussion. A goal of the conference will be to develop an agenda for future directions in research, service delivery, and product development based on user needs for workplace accommodations.

The conference will bring together researchers, practitioners (i.e., rehabilitation engineers, rehabilitation counselors, occupational therapists), policy makers, product designers, employers, and employees with disabilities who are interested in improving access to the workplace for people with disabilities.

We are particularly interested in papers that address one or more of the following themes and questions:

Presentations may address one or more of the conference themes by reporting on Research and Development, Policy Development and Issues, Service Delivery, Best Practices and Case Studies, or Training and Dissemination.

If you would like to submit a presentation for the conference, please complete the submission form with a 250-350 word abstract available at


Do You Need Training on Workplace Accommodations?

In order to develop an online course on workplace accommodations, the RERC on Workplace Accommodations is conducting a survey to determine what types of information professionals need to help people with disabilities in the workplace. If you are a rehabilitation case manager, therapist, rehabilitation engineer, human resources development professional, or facilities manager who is currently recommending or implementing workplace accommodations or you need training in order to do so, we want your input.

The survey includes the requirements you must meet for professional certification and explores topics you would like to learn more about. In preparation for the development of a web-based course, questions are included to determine the course format trainees would prefer. The survey takes about 10-20 minutes to complete.

To participate in this survey, go to and follow the link "Participate in a Survey of Professional Training Needs" under the "Highlights" section. If you have other questions or comments, please contact Karen Milchus at or call 1-800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).

Are you an upper extremity amputee who has a prosthesis with a wrist unit?

The Work RERC, Georgia Tech's Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics Program, and Hanger Orthopedic Group, Inc. are conducting a survey to determine what benefit wrist units provide to upper extremity amputees when performing various tasks.

The survey includes questions about your age, gender, amputation level, and prosthesis type. The survey also reviews a list of tasks that an amputee might complete using his or her wrist unit, and asks the respondent to evaluate the benefit the wrist unit provides for these tasks. The survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. Note that this is the survey has also been distributed through Hangar orthopedic Group.

We hope that information learned from the survey will assist with the future development of wrist units. If you have any questions about the survey or your participation, feel free to contact Karen Milchus or Susan Kestner at (404) 894-0393 or 800-726-9119.

Is anyone out there laying down on the job?

The Workplace RERC is conducting a research study on the benefits and prevalence of computer workstations specifically designed to allow user access from a significantly reclined or supine position. Our product search has revealed a number of products that are currently available on the market, and we would like to learn about the application and effectiveness of these as well as other custom designs that have been developed over the years. If you have experience working with, prescribing, or designing reclining/supine computer workstations and would like to participate in a 30-minute telephone survey, please contact Scott Haynes at or through our toll free number at 800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).

Join the RERC on-line discussion group on workplace accommodations for persons with disabilities at

The Work RERC has an on-line discussion group on workplace accommodations, policy issues regarding employees with disabilities, and accessible design. The discussion group serves as a forum to ask our staff questions about specific issues and share resources. In addition, periodically we will moderate discussions on various topics related to workplace policy or accommodation services. The discussion is conducted via e-mail. To join the group, send a blank e-mail to with "subscribe workaccommodations" in the SUBJECT line.

Join our Consumer Advisory Network!

The RERC is looking for employees with disabilities to participate in future surveys and perhaps interview/focus groups on workplace accommodations. Sign up via our on-line forms:


American Society on Aging and National Council on the Aging Conference

March 10-13, 2005
Philadelphia, PA

The Changing Face of Aging in the Workplace
Poster Presentation: Jon Sanford
Older workers represent a growing percentage of the workforce. Yet, despite ADA requirements mandating reasonable work accommodations for people with disabilities, little effort has been made to address the needs of older adults. The lack of a supportive environment often results in premature retirement for many older workers. This session will explore the needs of older workers and efforts to develop new universally designed accommodations to support aging in the workplace. This presentation also addresses diversity or multiple population groups, research findings, and recommendations for policy.

CSUN 20th Annual International Conference, "Technology and Persons with Disabilities"

March 14-19, 2005
Los Angeles, CA

Visit the CATEA exhibit at CSUN to learn more about our projects, and join us for the following educational sessions.


These links are found on our web site’s Resources page at

Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access
Provides resources and technical expertise in architecture, product design, and facilities management.

Center for Universal Design
National research, information, and technical assistance center that promotes universal design in housing, public and commercial facilities, and related products.
This global assistive technology explorer is a resource for assistive technology (AT) products and a link to a wide variety of AT and disability-related information. The searchable database is designed to help you target solutions, determine costs and link to vendors that sell AT products.


New Version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Released

ScanSoft has announced the release of Dragon Naturally Speaking Version 8.0. The main improvement advertised by the company is increased accuracy, up to 99 percent. Other reported features include: customization to fit the applications and vocabulary that the user needs, instant formatting of dates and acronyms, improved voice commands for tasks such as filling out templates, and a simplified Vocabulary Builder and Editor for customizing vocabulary files. Version 8 also includes support for more digital recording devices, including some PDAs. Finally, Naturally Speaking 8 is enterprise ready, and user profiles can be accessed from any machine on a network. This feature is particularly exciting for people who work in settings where they do not have a permanently assigned workstation, or who may need to access a different computer for work group meetings, conference room presentations, etc. The cost is $99 and up, depending on the version required.



This talking device allows persons who are blind or visually impaired to independently identify barcoded retail products at work, home or school. It identifies and speaks the names of barcoded products and operates on desktop and personal computers. It employs audible user prompts and requires minimal keyboard usage. It includes a complete database management system with user-definable databases. ScanTELL is currently available for Windows 95 and MS-DOS based desktop, notebook, and palmtop PCs. Contact Compusult for computer system requirements and pricing information.

Compusult Limited:
Phone: 888-388-8180

If you have questions about AT or other issues related to job accommodations, please contact the Work RERC staff at 1-800-726-9119 (voice/TTY) or by e-mail at

This is a publication of the RERC on Workplace Accommodations, which is supported by Grant H133E020720 of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education. The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.

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