Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - June 2007

Volume 5, 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,


The CATEA Consumer Network (CCN) was recently surveyed to learn more about how employees acquire workplace accommodations over time. The CCN consists of adults who self-identify as having at least one severe functional difficulty (e.g., seeing, hearing, moving, and/or thinking). Fifty-four (54) people with a history of workplace accommodations completed the online survey, and they identified 69 accommodations as the most important ones that they use. (Some participants selected more than one accommodation as being important to them.) Here’s what we learned from you!

Seventeen participants (31%) indicated that their accommodations were made at no cost. Some respondents said that they contributed to the costs of purchasing accommodations (n=14; 26%), and others said their employers contributed to the costs (n=26; 48%). A few people indicated that vocational rehabilitation paid for the accommodations (n=6; 11%). For this question, respondents could select more than one answer.

About 43% of respondents (n=23) said they had upgrades or modifications made to their initial workplace accommodation. Newer, faster, or more powerful versions of hardware and software were needed to keep up with changes in phone, computer and other work-related technology. Other modifications included battery replacement, stronger lights and sound systems, and installing compatible input or output devices on upgraded computer systems.

For some employees, ever-changing technology in the workplace may require additional changes or upgrades in order for their equipment to remain compatible. Nine people needed computer upgrades such as a new monitor, faster CPU, and upgraded software. Eight people identified changes to phone technology such as upgrading to video phone technology and CapTel phones.

For others, different accommodations or upgrades may be needed to address the progressive nature of their health conditions and respond to their changing capabilities. For example, one person who used an amplified telephone switched to a captioned telephone.

Once an accommodation has worked effectively in one situation, it may be applied to other work tasks. For example, one person who used flashing lights discovered that he needed multiple lights as signals for different electronic features (phone, fax, PC, AIM). Another person with a hearing impairment needed different audio loop systems to be able to use multiple cell phones.

The survey findings for the costs of upgrades and/or modifications to the accommodations were similar to who paid for the initial accommodations. Again, people reported that some changes were made at no cost (n=15; 27%). However, 21 respondents (39%) said that employers paid for upgrades/changes, and 13 of the respondents (24%) said they contributed to costs for upgrades/ modifications to the initial accommodations. Six of the respondents (11%) stated that vocational rehabilitation services contributed to future upgrades or modifications.

This CCN survey uncovered information about when and how assistive technology is used in the workplace and who pays for it. We will conduct future surveys to learn more about the effectiveness of workplace accommodations.


The word “anthropometry” comes from the Greek origin, “anthropos,” meaning man, and “metron,” meaning “measure.” It literally means the “measurement of humans.” Anthropometry is the field of the human sciences that concerns the measuring of human physical traits such as size, mobility, and strength. Anthropometric data is vital in industrial design, clothing design, ergonomics, and architecture, where the data is used to optimize the design of everyday products and systems.

Today, standard anthropometric data about the human hand is scant and limited, although the number of handheld products is increasing dramatically due to technological advances. Almost every product we use requires the use of our hands. In addition, anthropometric data about persons with limited manual dexterity and strength is even more scarce.

For these reasons, industrial design student, Doria Kung, decided to conduct a study of manual dexterity with persons who have limited manual strength and flexibility. The limited manual dexterity anthropometry study gathered measurement data of persons with limited flexibility in their hands, and persons of age 55 and older. Measurements of hand strength, range of motion, and size were collected for this study. All measurements were taken from the subject’s right hand, because traditional anthropometry measurements are all taken on the right side of the body.

In order to make the data usable and readily available, we created the Comprehensive Hand Anthropometry Database (CHAD) website. Currently, a total of 32 participants have been measured, and their measurement data was included in the database for users to search through and generate statistical reports. The data is available at


Participants Needed for Research Study of Adjustable Computer Workstation
The Work RERC is looking for people to participate in a computer workstation research study. This study will help researchers learn more about the performance, utility and comfort of fully-integrated, adjustable computer workstations. We are screening and recruiting up to 60 individuals in the metro Atlanta area, including individuals who experience chronic low back pain.

The research session will last approximately 3 hours. The activities will be recorded on video and audiotape for later analysis. Participants will be compensated $50 per session for their participation.

Research sessions are scheduled for July 9th through August 3rd (excluding weekends) at CATEA, on the campus of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia.

If you are interested in this study and you fit the following characteristics, please contact us and refer to the Adjustable Supine Computer Workstation study:

In addition, we are recruiting individuals with low back pain to participate in the study that fit the following criteria:

For more information about the study please contact Mr. Charlie Drummond at CATEA at (404) 894-4960 or (800) 726-9119 for voice/TTY, or by email at

Join the CATEA Consumer Network (CCN)
The opinions of people with disabilities are vital to ensure that products and resources respond to their needs, so CATEA has created the CATEA Consumer Network (CCN) to make the voices of people with disabilities heard in research at Georgia Tech and affiliated institutions.

After signing up, members of the CCN will receive:

Sign up today at You can become a member by completing our 5-10 minute confidential signup form. Then you can join with others throughout the country to help shape the future of products and services designed for you .You may also be paid for your participation in our studies. The CCN Signup Form may also be completed by phone. Contact a CATEA research representative at 1-800-726-9119 (voice or TTY) or 404-894-4960. Please email us at with any questions.


During the last three months, lawmakers revisited legislation related to workplace accommodations. Two laws addressing minimum wage standards and employment of persons with disabilities are being revised and updated, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is reviewing the effectiveness of four federal programs aimed at improving employment options for people with disabilities. Regulatory agencies concentrated their efforts on providing new resources to aid the public in understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to guide employers in creating a more inclusive work environment. The Department of Justice issued a new toolkit on understanding the ADA, and the EEOC published a fact sheet on the ADA & employment in the healthcare industry. On the judicial front, the EEOC proceeded with its disability discrimination case against Wal-Mart.

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The Work RERC is sponsoring several training opportunities this summer.

For in-person training, check out our pre-conference session at the Achieving New Heights conference in Denver (June 21). “Accommodations in the Workplace: The How-To-Guide for Employment Practices” will be a full-day introductory course on workplace accommodations. Presenters will include Carrie Bruce and Sarah Endicott. For more information, see:

In addition, a half-day course on “Aging at Home and in the Workplace” will be presented at the 4th Annual Summer Workshops on Assistive Technology in Lexington, Kentucky on June 27. Presenters will include Jon Sanford and Dory Sabata. For more information, see

Not able to travel? The Work RERC will also be conducting a two-part webcast series in July on Workplace Assessments, featuring presenter Sarah Endicott. The assessment process for determining an individual’s need for workplace accommodations involves collecting accurate information about the person, the job, and the environment in which the job is performed. This two-part series on workplace accommodations will focus on the later two components:

Registration is required ($30 each or $50 for both sessions) through Georgia Tech’s Professional Education office at:

Use the links above or search for “workplace assessment” or the course numbers on the Georgia Tech Professional Education webiste. CEUs (accepted by RESNA) and CRCCs are available (one hour for each session).


Grocery Checkstand Design: Guidelines & Resources
Illustrated guidelines for universal design of grocery checkstands, developed from RERC research, are now available on our website:

Presentations from CSUN 2007
Copies of RERC Powerpoints presented at the CSUN 2007 conference have been posted to our website:


RESNA Annual Conference
June 16-19, 2007
Arizona Biltmore Resort
Phoenix, AZ

Visit our exhibit booth (#215) and join us for the following presentations:

Festival of International Conferences on Caregiving, Disability, Aging and Technology (FICCDAT)
June 16-19, 2007
Toronto, Canada

2nd International Conference on Aging and Technology:

Growing Older with a Disability Conference

For more information on Work RERC staff presentations, go to the Events page on our web site:


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.


Council for Disability Awareness (CDA)
The CDA recently published the “2007 Disability Awareness Survey,” a landmark survey of working Americans, which gauged wage earners’ awareness of their likelihood of experiencing a disability, as well as their preparedness should a disability strike. The executive summary thoroughly reviews the survey findings and extracts critical implications regarding the ability of America’s workforce to weather financially an income-limiting disability.

Entering the World of Work: What Youth with Mental Health Needs Should Know About Accommodations
The NBDC is a national corporate resource for hiring, working with, and marketing to people with disabilities.
A new publication from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability and Employment Policy

Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Labor has created a free, nationwide database of approximately 2,000 new job candidates with disabilities seeking work in a variety of fields. Federal employers can tap into the database at, while private sector and other government employers can request unlimited searches by calling, toll-free, 1-866-327-6669.

NFPA Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities
This guide from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides information on the five general categories of disabilities: mobility, visual, hearing, speech and cognitive impairments. It outlines the four elements of evacuation information that occupants need: notification, way finding, use of the way, and assistance. The Guide features a checklist that building services managers and people with disabilities can use to design a personalized evacuation plan. Government resources and text based on the relevant code requirements and ADA criteria are included.

See the NFPA web site for more information on these other publications:

ADA Basic Building Blocks
This introductory web course on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) explores the legal requirements and spirit of the ADA. The self-paced course is organized into 12 topics. Upon completion of the course if you meet ALL established criteria, you may be eligible to earn 0.5 continuing education units (CEU), which equates to 5 contact hours. In addition, the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) has approved the course for CRCC credit equal to 3.5 clock hours. You may apply for either or both credits, as long as you are eligible. There is no charge to take the web course, but there is a $50 CEU fee to receive continuing education credit.



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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