A Prophylactic Approach to Workforce Evolution

Katy Chaffee and Frank Lepore

Evolution is marked by growth and challenged by an exchange of complications. Technological advancements have eliminated certain classes of injuries and opened doors for people with disabilities. A new set of injuries is now making an unwelcome appearance -- carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, and an array of back, shoulder and neck complications. Historically, injuries are addressed following occurrence as opposed to instituting preventative measures.

Employers and employees make costly investments in training and education. As the workforce ages, the use of relevant technology and universal design present a potential asset previously reserved for personnel with disabilities.

Despite the abundance of technological solutions available, there is little general knowledge among either employers or employees about beneficial offerings. Workforce trainings should provide information about technology that enhances performance and addresses wellness at work, but also contributes to improved relationships between working peers, employers, and employees.

State of the art has become the commonplace term for technology that is destined to be outdated within a period of months. A forward look encompassing the best of technology and safety offers employers the prospect of increased productivity and higher profit, resulting from a decrease in workers compensation and medical claims. The end result of a combination of universal design and training is a preventive approach striving for a work environment with a zero injury occurrence and presented in a manner that builds a team-oriented workforce.

Presentation Handout (MS Word)

Katy Chaffee is a transition specialist serving youth, families, and schools for Vermont Vocational Rehabilitation. She also has a leadership role as senior counselor for the stateís transition team. For many years, Katyís career focused on community development and workforce training for marginalized populations. In addition, she worked in mental health, specializing in counseling with children, adolescents and families. Katy graduated from Lesley College with a masterís in mental health counseling and holds a BA from University of California, Berkeley. Recent publications include: Nothing but the Best: Vermont Counselorís Guide to Effective Practices written by the Vermont Transition Team; Signposts, A Vermont Guide to Transition Planning for Students and Young Adults Diagnosed with Aspergerís and High-Functioning Autism, co-authored with Frank Lepore. Signposts has received national attention as a result of its presentation at the National RSA conference, Washington, D.C. in June 2005.

Frank Lepore holds a masterís degree in education and counseling from Plymouth University in New Hampshire and a BA from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. His tenure in human services spans over thirty years, both in public and private sector. Frank Leporeís current position is Regional Manger for the northeastern region of the State of Vermont Vocational Rehabilitation. Prior positions include field work, grant writing, supervision, training and coordination with diverse populations including psychiatric, developmentally and physically disabled. A special interest in autism spectrum students led to co-authoring Signposts; A Vermont Guide to Transition Planning for Students and Young Adults Diagnosed With Aspergerís and High-Functioning Autism, with co-presenter Katy Chaffee.

Presentation from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference, September 15-16, 2005, Atlanta, GA