Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - January 2008

Volume 6, 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 Work RERC’s Policy Initiatives Project is currently running a Delphi study to help in the development of a policy framework that identifies and assesses policies, practices, and issues that influence the availability and nature of workplace accommodations. Perhaps the most recognized of these policies is Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in their place of employment. Yet the ADA is only one component in a much larger network of laws, regulatory rulemakings, and court rulings that guarantee that people with disabilities will have access to the workplace.

The policy Delphi uses an online polling instrument to gather and analyze the opinions of key stakeholders on important and complex policy issues. The Delphi is a process that takes place over several rounds, during which participants assess the importance of a number of forecasts, issues, and goals related to workplace accommodations. Reponses of the panel are used to formulate new questions for subsequent rounds and eventually lead to a set of proposed policy options. At the end, the Delphi group assesses the feasibility of initiatives and policies to address issues related to workplace accommodations and fulfill goals found to be desirable.

Our policy Delphi seeks to explore participants’ feelings on awareness, regulatory, economic, social, and technological issues related to workplace accommodations. Some of the key issues addressed by our current policy Delphi include:

Another Delphi round will be beginning soon. If you would be interested in participating, or would like more information about the project, please contact:
Paul M.A. Baker, Ph.D., AICP, Project Director
Phone: 404-385-4618; E-mail:


CATEA has recently been awarded a grant to develop the "Workplace Accommodation Wizard" that will enable human resource personnel to identify employees’ needs and solutions for workplace accommodations. The Wizard will include both an employer-driven assessment tool and a rule-based system for using the assessment information to identify specific accommodations from, the National Public Internet Site on Assistive Technology (AT), which contains information on over 18,000 AT products.

Currently, there are few guidelines and even fewer tools available that enable employers to make informed decisions about how to make worksites accessible. Employers often find themselves in a position where they must conduct individualized workplace assessments without prior experience and with an inadequate understanding of legal requirements, disability, and accommodations. Workplace-specific assessment tools combined with a comprehensive database of AT will enable human resource personnel in a variety of employment sectors to conduct a workplace assessment, find potential accommodations, read reviews of those accommodations, and find links to specific products. By providing this tool to employers, we hope to help them identify more appropriate accommodations for potential and existing employees with disabilities and make that process easier.

This initial effort, focusing on office-based employment, will leverage the resources of the Work RERC and, both located at CATEA. Funding for this three-year project (grant H133G070063) comes from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, part of the U.S. Department of Education.


The Work RERC’s webcast series continues with two new presentations:

Cost: $30; 10% discount available for groups of 10+ registering together (contact for more information). College-issued CEUs (accepted by RESNA and others) are available upon course completion.

Registration for each course is required through Georgia Tech’s Professional Education office: (search for the course name)
If the course is not yet listed, email and we will notify you when registration opens.


CATEA staff and researchers of the Workplace Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Center (RERC) will be presenting at the International Conference on Aging, Disability and Independence (ICADI) in St. Petersburg, Florida, from February 21st to 23rd, 2008. The ICADI will focus on approaches to support people as they age in maintaining independence in daily living at home, at work and in the community. These issues will be addressed in seven ICADI tracks by an international cadre of presenters representing research and development, policy, practice and services, business, and consumer perspectives.

In addition, on February 20th, the Work RERC will be co-sponsoring a preconference course on The 21st Century Community. This pre-conference workshop will explore the contributions of universal design to the independence and participation of individuals throughout their lifespan.

For more information:

Preconference Intensive: The 21st Century Community

(Ed Steinfeld, Jordana Maisal, Jon Sanford, organizers)
This course will review current research and practice of universal design in housing, work environments, public spaces, and the products and technology related to the use of these environments. The first part of the workshop will explore new ways of conceptualizing universal design, how universal design can become part of mainstream in design and engineering practice and the emerging market. The second part of the workshop will explore how principles of Evidence Based Practice can be applied in this field. The third part will take a more in-depth look at the components of the 21st Century Community and engage participants in identifying directions for research and practice using the Evidence Based Practice paradigm.

Presentations will include:

Track Sessions: Work RERC / CATEA Research Presentations


ADA Restoration Act of 2007

The ADA Restoration Act, which calls for clarifying who is covered under the ADA, has received bipartisan support in the forms of HR 3195 and S. 1881. It is now under review for Congressional approval and is continuing in its testimony and debate stages. On October 4th, testimony related to this act was rendered to the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. The House’s Congressional counterpart, the U.S. Senate, also conducted a hearing before its Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on November 15th.

For more information:
Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities -
National Public Radio, (10/22/07 Article), "Activists Fight to Rewrite Disabilities Act" -
U.S. Senate -

New Legislation Effecting Veterans with Disabilities

On November 5, 2007, President Bush signed two bills with ties to disability issues for veterans. The "Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act" (H.R. 327, also Public Law No. 110-110), addresses psychiatric impairments incurred during combat by requiring U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to develop and implement a comprehensive program to reduce the incidence of suicide among veterans. This Act addresses special needs resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression that can impair soldiers following times of combat. The Act’s strategy for this specific group of government employees includes outreach for veterans and their families, education on recognizing the symptoms of psychiatric illness, expansion of the scope of health assessments and best practices research in suicide prevention. Perhaps its application could be replicated to other workforce groups as well. Additionally, the "Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2007" (H.R. 1284), addresses economic inequity by providing a cost-of-living increase for those receiving veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation.

For more information:
White House Press Releases -

Presidential Candidate Views on Disabilities

Several candidates have recently shared their visions of national disability policy regarding issues such as employment, healthcare, transportation, veteran affairs, and education. On November 3, 2007 in Manchester, New Hampshire, a group of presidential candidates assembled for the National Forum on Equality, Opportunity, and Access. Hosted by local and national disability organizations, it set historic precedence as the first of its kind to focus primarily on disability issues. Over 600 voters with disabilities attended with their families and friends, in which 7 of the 16 invited candidates participated: Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Congressman David Bonoir (on behalf of Senator John Edwards, D-NC), Congressman Mike Gravel (D-AK), Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) via phone. To date, only four of the 16 current or former candidates have included issue statements on issues affecting Americans with disabilities on their campaign websites: Edwards, Kucinich, McCain, and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). At the political party level, the Democratic Party is the sole organization to have a comprehensive outline regarding its stance on disability issues while the Green Party briefly addresses disability in one of its ten key platform values, "Social Justice and Equal Opportunity".

For more information:
AAPD - and

John Edwards -
Dennis Kucinich -
John McCain -
Barack Obama -
The Democratic Party -
The Green Party -

New Freedom Initiative (NFI) and Spirit Awards

On October 24th, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao presented seven national awards to businesses and organization who contributed to either the promotion or enhancement of disability. Six awardees - including three businesses, two non-profit organizations, and one individual – received the New Freedom Initiative (NFI) Awards. The individual recipient was John Kemp, a Washington, D.C.-based disability advocate and Executive Director of the US Business Leadership Network. The nonprofit designations were given to the Laurie Mitchell Employment Center in Alexandria, VA and Positive Vibe Café in Richmond, VA. The companies that were acknowledged for their actions promoting an inclusive workforce were The Dow Chemical Company in Midland, MI, the Gap Inc. in San Francisco, CA, and the Northrop Grumman Corporation in Los Angeles, CA for their "Operation Impact" Program. The last awardee, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, was given the second annual SPIRIT Award.

For more information:
U.S. Department of Labor -

ODEP Partners with CVS to Develop Best Practice Models

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment and Policy (ODEP) and CVS/Caremark have formed an alliance to develop best practice models that promote disability employment in the recruitment, hiring, and professional development phases. The agreement, which was signed on 10/23/2007, has four goal objectives: training & education on disability employment issues for CVS Human Resource staff, outreach & communication by disseminating information to CVS staff and the public, technical assistance related to workplace accommodations and developed model programs, and the encouragement of national dialogue on the topic. Once developed, these models may be shared with other employers.

For more information:
U.S. Department of Labor -

ODEP grants $2.3 Million to Disability Employment Consortium at Rutgers

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has awarded a two-year, $2.3 million grant to a Rutgers-based consortium for a center aimed at increasing the rates of employment and economic independence for adults with disabilities. The program’s goal, in part, is to foster leadership and build strategic partnerships among agencies in workforce development and economic development in this area of focus. Its research will address five critical target areas identified by ODEP:

In addition to the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, the consortium members include the American Public Human Services Administration; the National Leadership Consortium for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Delaware; the Elizabeth M. Boggs Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Brunswick, NJ; and the Community Solutions Group LLC in Arlington, VA.

For more information:
U.S. Department of Labor -


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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