Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - April/June 2005

Volume 3, Number 2

GREETINGS FROM THE WORK RERC!

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, http://workrerc.org/


JOIN US AT THE RESNA 2005 CONFERENCE IN ATLANTA!

Visit the Work RERC exhibit, and come to the following Work RERC staff presentations on Saturday afternoon, June 25th:


PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Work RERC Welcomes a New Staff Member

Mike Williams has joined the RERC staff as a Research Scientist. He will be involved with the Assessment of User Needs (R1) and the Retrospective Analysis of User Needs (R2) research projects. Mike also serves as a Research Scientist at the Atlanta VA Medical Center's Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Vision Loss and Aging, and he is also assigned to the VA Blind Rehabilitation Service National Program Office in Washington DC as a Data Manager and Rehab Planning Specialist. He holds an academic appointment as an Instructor at Georgia State University. Please join us in welcoming Mike to the project. He can be reached at mike.williams@coa.gatech.edu

Training on Workplace Accommodations

The Work RERC is currently developing an on-line course on workplace accommodations. To assist with the design of the course, an on-line survey was conducted to determine what type of information professionals need to help people with disabilities in the workplace. Survey questions covered the work and training experience of the respondents, what requirements they must meet for professional certification, what topics they would like to learn more about, their current level of knowledge on these topics, and preferences for course format.

The respondents represented a variety of professions, representing vocational rehabilitation, technology, therapists, business (ADA consultants, human resources), and educators. The most prevalent professions were rehabilitation engineer / technologist, ADA consultant, vocational evaluator, and human resources manager.

Selected preliminary findings from the survey include:

These and additional findings are currently being documented and will be submitted for publication. A presentation on this research was made at the Technology and Disability (CSUN) conference in March, and the conference abstract is available at http://workrerc.org/News/publications.php


EXCERPTS FROM THE MAY 2005 ISSUE OF THE “WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS POLICY HIGHLIGHTS” NEWSLETTER

Personnel Changes at Federal Agencies

In Washington, a number of personnel changes have taken place over the last few months. Dan Blair is now the acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Dr. Troy Justesen is the Acting Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Joanne Wilson left her position as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), an agency that provides funds for state vocational rehabilitation agencies. In April, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) kicked off a nationwide awareness campaign for the Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network (EARN), a program designed to connect job applicants with disabilities with employers who are hiring.

OPM Issues Proposed Regulations Regarding Federal Job Applicants

OPM issued proposed regulations that will give federal agencies greater authority to quickly certify and appoint job applicants with disabilities based solely on documentation submitted by the applicant. Under the new rules, agencies will be able to make these certifications based on determinations made by other federal agencies (such as the Social Security Administration) and/or medical documentation submitted by the applicant.

Judicial Overview

In New York, (Brady v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ), a jury ruled against Wal-Mart by returning a $7.5 million verdict in favor of Patrick S. Brady, a 21-year old man who has cerebral palsy. The jury found Brady was discriminated against when he was transferred from his position in the pharmacy to a position picking up garbage and collecting shopping carts from the parking lot.

NCD Issues Report on Emergency Planning

In addition to its annual performance report, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released "Saving Lives: Including People with Disabilities in Emergency Planning," which calls for immediate action by the federal government to overhaul emergency planning for people with disabilities. The report seeks to assist the federal government in establishing policies and practices that include people with disabilities in emergency preparedness, disaster relief, and homeland security programs.

To read more about these and other important issues related to employment, disability and workplace accommodations, view the May edition of “Workplace Accommodations Policy Highlights” on our web site.
http://workrerc.org/News/Highlights0505.php


WORKPLACE ACCOMMODATIONS: STATE OF THE SCIENCE CONFERENCE
September 15-16, 2005 in Atlanta, GA

This conference, hosted by the Work RERC, 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 opportunities for networking and discussion. 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. 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.

Details about the conference schedule and registration will be available in late June, but overall, the presentations will address one or more of the following themes and questions:

  1. Evidence-Based Practice - e.g., what accommodations are effective and for whom; what are the gaps in providing accommodations?
  2. Safety in the Workplace - e.g., what are the unique safety risks for people with disabilities in the workplace; do accommodations compromise workplace safety; can accommodations compensate for safety risks?
  3. Telework - e.g., is telework a reasonable accommodation; what accommodations do teleworkers need?
  4. Aging Workers - e.g., what are the types of problems faced by aging workers; what accommodations will an aging workforce need and are these accommodations reasonable?
  5. Universal Design and AT - e.g., how are new universally designed products changing the need for assistive devices; what tools/efforts can promote development of universally designed products?

For more information, visit our web site at http://workrerc.org/conference.php or call 1-800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).


BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE WORK RERC

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 scott.haynes@coa.gatech.edu 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 workaccommodations@coa.gatech.edu

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 workaccommodations@lists.gatech.edu with "subscribe workaccommodations" in the SUBJECT line.


RECENT EVENTS and STAFF PRESENTATIONS

Spring has been a busy time for the Work RERC, as researchers presented at CSUN’s Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, American Occupational Therapy Assoc. (AOTA) Conference, Institute for Industrial Engineers (IEE) Research Conference, and SAE’s Digital Human Modeling for Design & Engineering Conference. Presentations included:

Selected papers and presentation materials from these conferences are posted on our web site’s Publications page at http://workrerc.org/News/publications.php


USEFUL RESOURCES

assistivetech.net
http://www.assistivetech.net
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 users target solutions, determine costs and link to vendors that sell AT products.

Disability Employment 101: Learn to Tap Your 'HIRE' Potential
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/products/employmentguide/
Guide to acquaint business leaders with programs and resources available to assist them in hiring people with disabilities.

Disability Online
http://www.doleta.gov/disability/
This Employment & Training Administration (U.S. Department of Labor) site offers tips on jobs, training and resumes, as well as workplace accommodation resources and employment initiatives nationwide for people with disabilities.


ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY (AT) IN THE WORKPLACE

Mobility Mate Emergency Alert System

Mobility Mate is a personal security system with GPS (Global Positioning System) capabilities. The system is activated with the touch of a single button, which connects the user to an emergency assistance operator. The GPS device lets the operator know the user's location within 30 feet. The operator can then dispatch police, ambulance, or roadside assistance; provide driving directions; or connect the user to a "hot list" of contacts such as family members. Unlike similar-sounding systems that are now available for some automobiles, Mobility Mate is portable or can be mounted to a wheelchair or scooter. It costs $495 for the hardware and one year of service. Subsequent service costs $17 - $22 per month. Mobility Mate is produced by No Boundaries LLC.
http://www.noboundaries.tv/mm.htm

Free Accommodation Solutions for Your Computer: CursorXP and Stickies

Do you have trouble figuring out where your computer mouse is pointing? CursorXP is freeware that allows users to customize the look of their mouse cursor. The software can change the shape of the cursor, add drop shadows to make the cursor more visible, and add animations and color changes to show clicking. It is compatible with Windows 2000 and XP. CursorXP is produced by Stardock.
http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_description/0,fid,22461,00.asp

Stickies is a PC-based sticky notes program, which allows users to place reminders or notes on their computer screen. Once on the screen, the stickies will remain where placed until closed, even if the computer is restarted. Unlike the paper variety of sticky notes, these individual notes can be programmed to appear at a specified time to act as reminders, include links to open a browser window, and can be embedded in e-mail. Users can customize the appearance of stickies -- changing fonts, modifying colors, resizing, and crossing out completed "to do" items. They can also be transferred to and from a PDA. Stickies is produced by Zhorn Software.
http://www.zhornsoftware.co.uk/stickies/


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 workrerc@coa.gatech.edu


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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