Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - October/November 2005

Volume 3, Number 4


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,

Job Satisfaction and Productivity of Employees with Disabilities and Accessibility of Support Spaces in Office Buildings

The extent to which the physical resources in a working environment satisfy employees' needs to perform their job is directly related to the quality of those environments. In most office environments,accessibility requirements are provided for the work station and/or office space used by the individual with a disability. These requirements also cover accessible restrooms, ramped building access, adapted work areas and technological devices, all of which play significant roles in daily working life. However, accessibility to other parts of the office building, which may include the support areas such as fax and photocopy facilities, refresh spaces, locker rooms, and filing spaces, may be overlooked.

Providing accessible work stations/offices, wheelchair accessible toilets, ramped building access, adapted work-stations and technological devices is not adequate to complete everyday work tasks by people with disabilities. These features should not be viewed in isolation from the support spaces and the rest of the office building. Access to each of these areas and to colleagues' work spaces is critical in facilitating spontaneous and informal face-to-face contact between employees.Increased communication increases productivity. Moreover, inaccessible office spaces within the working environment may lead to social exclusion for the employees with disabilities and make them feel out of place, negatively affecting workplace satisfaction.

To further explore these issues, the Work RERC is conducting a pilot study to determine whether access to support spaces and to colleague's work stations has any relationship to the job performance, social interaction, and job satisfaction of employees with disabilities. The office building of the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Tech will be used as the context for this pilot study. Job satisfaction, job performance, and social interaction data will be collected from employees with and without disabilities through a survey instrument. Connectivity of office spaces and the
accessibility of the office building will be examined using Space-Syntax Software and analysis. Using the blueprints of the CATEA building, two accessibility maps will be created - one each for people with and without disabilities. Then these maps will be compared to each other and to the subjective survey responses in order to determine whether the connectivity and accessibility of office spaces affect job performance, social interaction and job satisfaction.

For more information about this Work RERC project, please contact Mine Hashas at or call her at 1-800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).

Do You Know a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math Educator with a Disability?

In a spin-off project funded by the National Science Foundation, Work RERC researchers are conducting a survey of science, technology,engineering and math (STEM) K-16 educators who have a disability to learn about their employment experiences and the workplace accommodations they use.

Karen Milchus, director of the study, explains that while schools are scrambling to find qualified STEM teachers and are even exploring alternative licensing programs, very little attention has been focused on making the profession more welcoming to an underrepresented group -- people with disabilities. One barrier to potential teachers with disabilities is a lack of access to workplace accommodations. For a science professor, accommodations might range from using an overhead projector instead of a white board, to lowering an eye wash to wheelchair height, to using magnification devices for reading and laboratory observation. Unfortunately, teachers often don't get what they need, or don't know what types of accommodations might work for them. Milchus explains that one of the goals of the current survey will be "to determine what types of accommodations work, and for whom, so that we can share this information with other teachers and school administrators."

For now, the project is seeking input from teachers with disabilities about their work experiences. The survey is anonymous and takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. To participate in this research project, go to

Contact us at or call 800-726-9119 (voice/TTY) if you have questions about the survey.


Over the last few months, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor have both been busy promoting the employment of people with disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the Department of Labor has coordinated a number of activities, including Disability Mentoring Day, and has issued several fact sheets on topics such as how to interview job applicants with disabilities. The EEOC has also issued
fact sheets in association with National Disability Employment Awareness Month which pertain to the employment rights of people with cancer and individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

In judicial news, a U.S. Commerce Department employee was awarded $3 million in compensatory damages after her employer failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation. On the research front, Cornell University released a report demonstrating the scarcity of jobs for Americans with disabilities. The report, based on Census Bureau data, shows that the employment rate for Americans age 21 to 64 with sensory, physical, mental, or self-care disabilities fell to 38.3 %, down 2.5%
from 2001.

To read more about these and other important issues related to employment, disability and workplace accommodations, view the October 2005 edition of "Workplace Accommodations Policy Highlights" on our website.

HTML Format
PDF Format


Workplace RERC State of the Science Presentations
September 15-16, 2005 - Atlanta, GA

Our conference on the current status and future directions of workplace accommodations is over, but information about presentations and copies of handouts and slides have been posted. A goal of this conference was to develop an agenda for future directions in research, service delivery, and product development based on user needs for workplace accommodations. If you missed an interesting topic at our recent State of the Science conference, now you can review the Power Point presentations for most of the sessions. Check out the link on our website at

Welcome Our New Staff


The Work RERC has an on-line, e-mail discussion group on workplace accommodations, policy issues regarding employees with disabilities, and accessible design, called 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. To join the group, send a blank e-mail to with "subscribe workaccommodations" in the SUBJECT line.


The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy
(ODEP) has developed several new fact sheets:

* Employment Laws: Disability & Discrimination -

* Employment Laws: Medical and Disability-Related Leave -

* Employment Laws: Overview & Resources for Employers -

* Diverse Perspectives: People with Disabilities Fulfilling Your Business Goals -

* Focus on Ability: Interviewing Applicants with Disabilities -

These and many other Fact Sheets on topics concerning job accommodations and the employment of workers with disabilities are available on the ODEP web site at

The EEOC has issued its "Final Report on Best Practices for the Employment of People with Disabilities in State Government" containing information about EEOC's findings about Best Practices on employing persons with disabilities in government jobs. The report is posted at

Questions and Answers About Blindness and Vision Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act -


International Conference on Aging, Disability and Independence (ICADI)
February 1-5, 2006 St. Petersburg, FL

CSUN Conference
March 20-25, 2006
Los Angeles, CA


ATIA 2006 Conference
January 18-21, 2006
Orlando, FL

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.

If you would like to subscribe to this listserv, or if you prefer to leave the distribution list, you may do so by following the directions below or by contacting the project at or toll free at 800-726-9119 (voice/TTY).

To subscribe: Send e-mail to "" with a SUBJECT of "subscribe workrerc-news".

To unsubscribe: Send an e-mail to "" with a SUBJECT of "unsubscribe workrerc-news".