Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - March/April 2010

Volume 7, Number 2

An update from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Workplace Accommodations (Work RERC) on our research, project activities, and resources of interest. More information about the Work RERC can be found at http://workrerc.org/


Subjects Sought for Survey on Use of Workplace Accommodations

What accommodations work well, for whom, and in what settings? Those are the questions that the Work RERC is trying to determine with its User Needs Project. The purpose of this project is to characterize the assistive technology and other accommodation requirements of workers with disabilities in order to identify gaps in technology and accommodation practice. In addition to identifying what accommodations people are using, the study will also investigate user perceptions of satisfaction, importance, and frequency of use for these accommodations.

The survey is online and should take 30-60 minutes to complete, depending on the number of accommodations used. You will have the option of saving your survey and continuing it at a later time. Individuals who have difficulty using the computer may also schedule an appointment with us to complete the survey over the phone. Contact information is listed on the survey site.

If you are interested in finding out more about this survey, please visit the link below, where you will find more information and can continue on to take the survey if you desire. The survey encompasses all individuals with disabilities who are employed in any capacity. Please help us spread the word and get people involved!

Survey Link - http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/200473/workplace-features-that-aid-function


National Engineering Design Challenge: U.D. Award

Congratulations go to Bishop Kelly High School for winning a Work RERC-sponsored award for "Best Application of Universal Design Principles" as part of the National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC). The NEDC challenges high school students from across the country to design and build a workplace accommodation device to help a person with disabilities from their community.

The Bishop Kelly High School students won both the UD award and the overall competition for their design of a "Portable AT Writing Device (PAWD)" to help people who have tremors write by hand. The device was initially designed as an easy-to-use, ergonomic, and portable tool for a specific individual. Subsequent versions were redesigned to work with right- or left-handed users, fit a range of hand sizes, and easily load and unload a variety of writing implements. Watch their semi-finals presentation.

Winners of UD (and overall) awards: Bishop High School Team Photo of Portable AT Writing Device

The competition is organized by the Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) and AbilityOne (formerly known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program). NISH is one of two national, nonprofit agencies that support the nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program. For more information, visit http://www.jets.org/programs/nedc/index.cfm.


Analysis of Responses to the ICDR's Call for Recommendations on Disability Research Topics

Researchers from the Work RERC, Wireless RERC, and the University of Central Florida recently worked with the Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR) on a project to analyze public comments from ICDR's call for recommendations to help it establish research priorities.

ICDR is a federal committee comprised of the various agencies involved in disability research and policy. Members include the Cabinet Departments, National Council on Disability (NCD), National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Access Board, and others. The ICDR is responsible for coordinating activities between these agencies, identifying research needs, and making policy recommendations to the federal government.

For a three-week period, beginning in March 2009, the public was invited to submit comments about research priorities online and then vote on the best recommendations in a number of areas, including employment. An unprecedented 847 recommendations were received. At the invitation of the ICDR's executive director, researchers from the Work RERC, Wireless RERC, and the University of Central Florida were invited to analyze the comments. Special content analysis software was utilized to aid the researchers.

Collaboration and coordination was the largest single topic that received recommendations, with collaboration receiving far more input. This is an important finding, suggesting the importance of collaboration as key to federal agencies' disability research agenda. Of particular note is how collaboration can enhance knowledge across disciplines. For example, those interested in workplace accommodations have much to gain from those working on accessible transportation, as there are a number of interrelated issues. Second, collaboration may involve better communication and exchange of resources between agencies. For example, benefits may result from NCD, NIDRR, and the Access Board working more closely to improve disability research.

Dr. Paul M.A. Baker, a project director for the Workplace Accommodations RERC, will present the group's findings at the NARRTC Annual Conference, to be held May 3-4, 2010, in Alexandria, Virginia.


Professional Education Opportunities

Are you interested in finding out more about workplace and other accommodations? CATEA will be offering several professional education courses this Spring (with repeats in the Fall):

With the exception of the online course, the courses are offered on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta. Contact Georgia Tech Professional Education for further information and to register.


Upcoming Presentations

Work RERC researchers will be presenting the following presentations at the National Association of Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers annual meeting in Washington, DC in early May.

In addition, visit us in the exhibit hall for the APSE (Atlanta, GA) and RESNA (Las Vegas) conferences in June.


Case Study Resources

  • People with Disabilities in the Workplace
    The DBTAC: Southeast ADA Center has a new feature on its website that presents the employment experiences of individuals with disabilities in the workplace. A different employee will be featured every month. Visit http://sedbtac.org/ada/ada_in_action/empprofiles.php
  • Work RERC Case Examples
    The Work RERC's website includes a database of accommodation examples for employees in a variety of occupations. Many of these examples come from the popular Job Accommodation Show & Tell at the annual RESNA conference. Visit http://www.workrerc.gatech.edu/accommodations.php
  • Do you have an interesting employment or accommodation story to share? Consider contributing to one or both of these resources!


    Other Disability and Employment Updates

    Walgreens Launches Training Program in Texas for People with Disabilities

    Walgreens has announced the launch of a pilot program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to expand its employment of people with disabilities at its retail stores. The program aims to hire people with disabilities for 10 percent of service clerk openings at stores in the area.

    Some people may remember a recent program by Walgreens to create an integrated and inclusive workplace [http://www.walgreens.com/responsibility/people/Not_a_Charity.html] in its new distribution centers. Success with that program and a partnership with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) led to a training program and this new pilot.

    Training lasts about four weeks and will take place in at least 10 area store locations. Randy Lewis, Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Logistics for Walgreens says that "once this pilot program is proven successful, we intend to expand it to other markets around the country in 2011." People with disabilities who are interested in the training program in Texas should contact their local vocational rehabilitation agency for more information about how to sign up. Trained candidates can then apply for service clerk positions at http://careers.walgreens.com.

    Walgreens is the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2009 sales of $63 billion. The company operates 7,179 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Source: http://news.walgreens.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5285

    Broadband Use in America

    In late February, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the results of a consumer survey, " Broadband Adoption & Use in America." The survey of 5,000 people found that about one-third of Americans are not connected to high speed (non-dial-up) Internet at home. Of these individuals who are not connected, 39% have some type of disability. The reasons for not using broadband were similar for people with or without disabilities and included cost and digital literacy. The survey also found that people with disabilities participated in a narrower scope of online activities. The researchers suggest that this might reflect problems with accessing the Internet or interacting with web pages. These findings have implications for people with disabilities who are teleworking full- or part-time from home. See page 38 of the full report (link above) for disability-related results.

    FCC Action: Access to Wireless Phones for People who are Hard of Hearing

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Enforcement Bureau has taken action against several companies for failing to provide adequate information about the availability of hearing aid compatible wireless handsets to people who are hard of hearing. Manufacturers and wireless service providers are required to offer handsets that have minimal feedback and noise when used with a hearing aid. They are also post information about these products on their public web sites so that individuals and employers can have sufficient information for purchasing decisions [http://wireless.fcc.gov/hac/index.htm?job=home]. In January, the Enforcement Bureau proposed forfeitures totaling $87,000 against seven companies, and issued Citations to two additional companies, for violating the reporting and posting requirements.

    Updates to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

    The Access Board will be holding a public hearing in Washington, D.C. on May 12, 2010, on its proposed updates to requirements for information and communication technologies (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. This legislation helps ensure that Federal employees with disabilities have comparable access to and use of information and data, both through the procurement of accessible ICT and the development of accessible electronic information. The revised standards and guidelines were released in March and will be available for public comment until June 21. The May meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on these standards. Further comments will be accepted until June 21. Visit the Access Board website for more information about the proposed rules and/or the public meeting.


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