Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - July-Sept. 2010

Volume 7, Number 4

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

Job Accommodations and Workplace Participation

The Work RERC's project on workplace participation seeks to better understand the influence of accommodations on the participation of employees with mobility disabilities. Researchers on this project have recently completed data analysis from the first phase.

Traditionally, job accommodations are recommended to enhance performance of job tasks, but not for the purpose of increasing workplace participation. Job tasks are the execution of individual work duties and assessed by one's efficiency and performance. In contrast, participation encompasses a sense of inclusion and belonging through the involvement in workplace social activities and interactions. This includes, in part, the ADA mandate that employees with disabilities have equal access to benefits and privileges of employment that are offered to other employees. Although it is well documented that job accommodations can improve task performance of employees with disabilities, little is known about the impact of these interventions on participation outcomes.

One hundred employees who work full time in an office setting (50 with mobility disabilities; 50 without disabilities) were recruited in this phase. Participants were asked to completed surveys about their job accommodations, workplace participation, overall participation, and health during a single telephone interview.

Results from these interviews show that job accommodations have a higher positive impact on task performance than on workplace participation in meetings with coworkers, professional development, and participation in work-related social events. This may be due to a higher percentage of unmet needs in accommodations for using the shared workspace (50%) than that for the use of individual workspace (6%). We found that employees with unmet accommodation needs in shared workspaces were found to be significantly less satisfied with their participation in meetings (p=.022) and social events (p=.015) than those without unmet need. They were also less likely (p=.018) to report that their accommodations provided them with an equal opportunity to participate at work.

The nature of participation as a sense of belonging is an important part of its definition. Belonging and inclusion are more than just being able to complete job tasks. Lack of participation in workplace social activities may impact the ability of employees to move forward in their careers, seek promotion, and take advantage of professional development opportunities. To ensure a satisfied work experience, accommodations that enhance participation in the workplace are just as important as those for task performance.

Subjects Sought for Survey on Accommodation Costs and Benefits

As part of a Work RERC project, the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University is conducting a study to look at the long-term costs and benefits of providing accommodations to employees. This research will help us to assess the costs, benefits, and utility of workplace accommodations and understand what organizational policies, practices, and cultures lead to successful use of accommodations.

If you are a person who has ever asked for an accommodation or for flexibility in your schedule or work situation, we want to hear about your experiences through our online survey. If you implemented accommodations for your employees, we want to hear from you as well. We want to gather information from both the employee and employer perspective. Learn more about the research and participate in the survey at

For questions about this research, contact:

Have You Filled Out our Survey on Workplace Accommodation Use?

The Work RERC's survey examining relationships between functional ability, job requirements, and accommodation use is still active. We truly appreciate all you have done to help us distribute information and obtain survey responses.

We've begun some preliminary data analysis and noticed that we need more responses from specific groups. Particularly, we need information from those who work in trades, service professions, and laborers. Please continue to distribute information on our survey to the those that might be interested. Remember, to be eligible for the survey, an individual must have a functional limitation AND be employed or volunteer. Now is also the time to finish any partial surveys that have been saved for completion at a later time.

Visit the link below to find more information and continue on to take the survey if you desire. It may also be taken by telephone. Please contact Maureen Linden at 404-894-0561 for more information or to complete the survey by phone.

National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC) Starts

Registration and Round I for this year's NEDC begins on September 1, 2010. 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 Work RERC will once again be sponsoring an award for "Best Application of Universal Design Principles" as part of this competition. 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 about the NEDC, visit


Are you interested in finding out more about workplace and other accommodations? CATEA will be offering several professional education courses this Fall, including two which will be conducted online as a series of webcasts:

With the exception of the webcasts, the courses are offered on the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta. Visit for further information and to register for courses.

Upcoming Presentations

Work RERC researchers will be sponsoring a track on "Work and Aging" at the upcoming ICADI conference in Newcastle, UK. The conference runs from Sept. 8-10, 2010 at the Sage ( Look for the following presentations:

Disability and Employment Updates

Updates to the ADA Title II and III Regulations

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued final rules revising ADA Title II and Title III regulations, including updated ADA Standards for Accessible Design. While these sections of the ADA do not focus on the workplace, changes that could impact employees include:

These new rules will become effective six months after publication in the Federal Register. For further information, including the final rules, visit

US Dept. of Labor Seeks Input on Implementation of Section 503 of the Rehab. Act

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is seeking input from the public on ways to strengthen its regulations requiring federal contractors to take affirmative action to employ people with disabilities. These regulations involve how Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is implemented. In particular, the Department of Labor is asking:

Comments are due September 21, 2010. For more information, visit:

Video: Ten Employment Myths: Information about the Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. Department of Justice has a new 17-minute video for employers to explain the ADA and address unfounded misconceptions and fears that many employers may have about hiring people with disabilities. This and other ADA accessible streaming videos are available at the ADA Video Gallery -

Featured Accommodations - iPhone-Based Aids for Vision and Hearing

Many developers are beginning to look toward the iPhone and other mobile technologies as platforms for assistive technology. In this issue, we highlight two new iPhone applications for people with sensory disabilities.

Eye Glasses is an application that turns the iPhone into a portable video magnifier. Choose a magnification level (2-8x), hold the autofocusing iPhone 3GS camera about five inches away from the item that you want to magnify, and view it in the display. Eye Glasses is available from Freeverse for $3. Visit

FaceTime is a feature built into the iPhone 4 operating system that expands videoconferencing (e.g., Skype, iChat) to mobile technology. The application is being marketed as a means for people who are deaf to communicate remotely through sign language. It should be noted that previous attempts to use sign language through mobile videoconferencing have faced challenges with achieving sufficient video resolution and transmission smoothness. Please let the Work RERC know about your experiences with this product and we will share it in a future newsletter. Visit

Other Upcoming Events

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