Improving Workplace Access and Accommodation for Chemically Sensitive Employees

Mary Lamielle

An ever-increasing number of individuals are reporting injuries from and reactions to chemical and environmental exposures in the workplace. People with chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities (CS/ES) need accommodation and remediation. Those experiencing more severe reactions require immediate removal from environmental triggers to minimize their level of illness and disability. Many people with these disabilities can be accommodated with a little creativity and common sense at minimal expense. Affected individuals are frequently the best judge of what needs to be done to reduce or eliminate debilitating exposures. A collaborative project on indoor environmental quality (IEQ) funded by the U. S. Access Board and conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), , provides extensive recommendations for designing, constructing, furnishing, and operating and maintaining public and commercial buildings to make them more accessible for people with chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities and healthier for everyone. When it is not possible to make the workplace fully accessible, it may still be feasible to designate and maintain a Cleaner Air Room that would meet specific criteria and be identified by a Cleaner Air Symbol as adopted in California in 2001. Assistive technology would still be required by many to facilitate employment. Efforts to improve IEQ for people with chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities will make the workplace healthier for all employees.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-15
Slides 16-31

Mary Lamielle is a nationally recognized educator and advocate on behalf of people with chemical sensitivities. As executive director of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, she has worked to protect the public health and improve the lives of people disabled by chemical and environmental exposures through public awareness, policy development, research, and advocacy. She has served on numerous federal committees including projects at the U.S. Access Board, the EPA, and membership with the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. She participated in the Disability Policy Summit sponsored by the National Council on Disability in 1996, and has more recently served on NIDRR-funded projects on independent living. She recently gave a presentation for HUD's Disability Task Force on the serious housing problems faced by those with chemical and electrical sensitivities. In addition to providing direct assistance to tens of thousands of people with these disabilities, Mary published The Delicate Balance newsletter for over a decade. She has received numerous awards recognizing her important work.

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