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A D A Wisconsin Employment Link Newsletter:  Linking Employers to Workplace Solutions.

Issue 2, Vol 1, May 2009

The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is a coalition of people with disabilities, businesses, and government entities supported by Great Lakes Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, WorkSource Wisconsin, and Employment Resources, Inc. More information about the ADA Wisconsin Partnership.

Send your questions, comments, or suggestions to ada@eri-wi.org. Or Join Our Mailing List.

Food for Thought: Local Grocer Provides All the Ingredients for an Inclusive Work Environment


Photo of Tammy LiddicoatBy Britta Jabbar | ADA Wisconsin Partnership

Gordy’s County Market is a leading grocer in the Eau Claire area. Over the last several years, they have become known as an employer who supports an inclusive and diverse workplace culture.

Meghan Price is a Human Resources Manager at the Gordy’s County Market store in Eau Claire, WI. "We currently have five people with disabilities on our staff right now. They came to us through various supported employment services: REACH Inc., REM Wisconsin, and Aurora Vocational Center."

Becoming an employer that is inclusive of community-members with disabilities was a priority for Gordy’s owners and store managers. "They’ve been very interested in and very accepting of employing people with disabilities—getting them trained and finding jobs for them." Meghan says. Leadership from the management-level on this issue was critical. "I couldn’t do it without the support of the management and the owners."

Employing people with disabilities sometimes means doing things a little differently. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), qualified workers with disabilities have a right to request reasonable accommodations that will help them perform the essential functions of the job. Using accommodations is kind of like taking a different route from Madison to Milwaukee: It may look a little different on the way there, but the end result is the same.

Making accommodations is usually easier than employers realize. "We haven’t come across something we haven’t been able to do yet," Meghan says. "Most accommodations are a simple matter of changing things around or letting someone take a different break schedule. There are no costs and no problems for us."

Photo of Gordy's Country Market Grocery Store.Meghan offers four points to remember when working with employers to establish accommodations:

1. Creativity and flexibility are key to creating successful accommodations. One employee at Gordy’s had difficulty staying focused on a single task for his entire shift. The manager and job coach changed his job tasks so that he alternated between bagging groceries and rounding up carts every 15-30 minutes. "It worked out really well," said Meghan.

Accommodations are not one-size-fits-all, even among people with similar diagnoses or medical conditions. Each individual has a different set of abilities and limitations, and accommodations can help fill gaps between a person’s unique abilities and the requirements of the job.

2. Get co-workers involved. Building workplace culture and helping an employee fit in are an important part of accommodating an employee. When Gordy’s hired an individual who was deaf, the manager arranged for someone from the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Office to meet with the staff. "We gave everyone the opportunity to come and learn. She gave a great presentation." The staff also learned some signs so that they could do some basic communication with the new employee.

3. Universality of accommodations. Keep in mind that ALL employees—disabled or not—routinely make modifications to their job to accommodate their needs, abilities, and life. A common example is flexible scheduling. "Our employees need to schedule around other activities, Special Olympics schedules, or classes they have to take for supported employment programs. Everyone is entitled to a fairly flexible work schedule. We take into account that everyone has obligations and another part of their life outside of work that they have to get to. It’s not a disability issue; it’s a human nature issue."

4. Make use of support services and external resources. Meghan credits the employment services for the success of their supported employees. "We couldn’t do it without them, because they offer invaluable resources in coaching and training. Just having a coach there is helpful, so we can free up our staff to do their jobs."

Making the commitment to inclusive employment practices has paid off. Gordy’s County Market stores have benefitted in numerous ways from including people with disabilities on their staff.

"It’s good for public relations because…our customers recognize what we do and are appreciative of our efforts to be inclusive. But it’s also good for our employees too. We have a lot of teenaged employees and I think it’s a great experience for them to work side-by-side with people with disabilities."

Meghan believes that her young employees become more open-minded and learn to value diversity at school and in their daily lives.

Furthermore, including people with disabilities in the hiring pool means that Gordy’s has broader access to workers with valuable skills and qualities. "We get good reliable employees and they are a great part of the team."

Meghan encourages other employers who might be apprehensive of taking steps to become more inclusive of people with disabilities. "You just have to be a little bit more flexible, more open minded. It’s not something that’s ever been difficult or scary or hard. It really makes it a better work environment for everyone."

To learn more about employing an individual in a supported employment program, please contact Stacy Wigfield, President, REACH, Inc.

Phone: (715) 833-7755
Email: stacyceo@reach-inc.org

Article Resources:

Additional Resources for Employers:

Additional Resources for Employees:

Definitions:

Supported employment

A model for integrating people with severe disabilities into competitive employment.

The essential features of supported employment are:

  1. Ongoing on-site training and support by a job coach
  2. Equitable wages and other employment benefits
  3. Non-segregated work environment
  4. Opportunity for learning and advancement

Developed in the 1970s, supported employment has proven to be beneficial to employees, employers, and funding agencies. Not only is it a cost-effective method of service delivery, supported employment increases job satisfaction and quality of life, extends job duration, and decreases employers’ hiring, training, and retention costs.

If your business would like to learn more about employing an individual in a supported employment program, please contact [Provide reference / WorkSource Wisconsin]

More about Supported Employment: http://www.dol.gov/odep/archives/fact/supportd.htm


Reasonable accommodations:

Modifications or adjustments to jobs, work environments, or workplace policies that enable qualified employees with disabilities to perform the fundamental duties of their jobs and have equal access to benefits available to employees without disabilities - from the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Diversifying Your Workforce (pdf)


Essential Job Functions:

Essential functions are the basic job duties that an employee must be able to perform, with or without reasonable accommodation. You should carefully examine each job to determine which functions or tasks are essential to performance. (This is particularly important before taking an employment action such as recruiting, advertising, hiring, promoting or firing) - from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer.

Learning Disabilities: Teamwork Results in Effective Workplace Solutions

By Phil Goodman | Employment Resources, Inc. - Phil Goodman, is a licensed Occupational Therapist. Occupational Therapy plays an integral part in many assistive technology services. Using creativity, new technology, and practical experience, ERI has provided individualized assistive technology consultation and training services to hundreds of individuals with disabilities.

Photo of Phil GoodmanIt is estimated that about 15 percent of Americans have a learning disability. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), “learning disabilities are disorders that affect the ability to understand or use spoken or written language, do mathematical calculations, coordinate movements, or direct attention.” A Learning disability (LD) can often go unnoticed and like other disorders, those that have them are not always likely to talk about them. These days LD is more often noticed and diagnosed as students pass through the school systems where counseling and support is available to help the individual recognize and cope with a learning disability. However, adults in the work world who have learning disabilities do not receive the supports that are commonly available in school. Furthermore, some workers in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s may experience LD but never received a diagnosis or sought assistance for it. This can be a significant problem for the displaced worker who spent his whole career in production and manufacturing, and now must learn a different set of skills for a new career.

During the job application process and in the workplace, individuals with learning disabilities are faced with questions like:

It is important for employers to be aware of learning disabilities, familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and informed about accommodations for current or potential employees with learning disabilities.

Disclosing a Learning Disability

A number of research studies have found that more than 90 percent of people with an LD prefer not to disclose their disability in the workplace (Gerber, 2008). Individuals have to decide if and when they should disclose to the potential employer that they have a disability. If they feel they can handle the job for the most part, or that the employer might not understand their difficulties, some people won’t tell. Others know their disability and have learned what accommodations they might need and are more likely to disclose.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Act stipulate that a qualified worker with a disability is someone who can do the work, with or without a reasonable accommodation. These laws prohibit employers from asking if an individual has a disability. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the worker to disclose that s/he has a disability in order to be granted protection under disability law and to request necessary accommodations.

Impact on Job Performance

If an individual you employ discloses a learning disability, how will it impact his or her job performance? Certainly, everyone brings different strengths and talents to a job. However, it is also fair to say that some individuals with LD (and without) will find certain job-related tasks to be difficult and even problematic. Learning disabilities affect performance in unique and highly individualized ways, depending on the individual, the task, the situation, etc.

Adults with learning disabilities often learn early on how to work around their disabilities and create solutions that work for them—they have had to do this their whole lives. LD often requires people to think "outside the box," often leading to more creative solutions and imaginative answers to problems. In fact, many highly successful adults with LD include business leaders, such as Charles Schwab, Paul Orfalea of Kinkos, John Chambers of Cisco, and Don Winkler of Ford Motor Credit (Gerber, 2008).

The information age has brought new challenges and rewards for individuals with learning disabilities. Overall, jobs have become more fast-paced and with more pressure to continually learn new tasks and technologies. On the other hand, advances in technology make the workplace, and work tasks, more accessible than ever before.

Typical Accommodations in the Workforce

Job accommodations require teamwork and open communication between an employee and the employer. The job accommodation development process is similar to many workplace problems which are solved through research and common sense. Teamwork and trust result in effective solutions.

Since learning disabilities cover multiple areas and each person experiences different areas to varying degrees, honest and open dialogue is the best way to proceed. Appropriate accommodations will be different depending on the presentation of the disability. Some people need to hear audio as opposed to printed text. This can be accomplished by going over material with someone else, making voice recordings, or by using any of a number of computer text-to-speech programs. Some people would rather use a voice recorder as opposed to taking hand written notes. Some just need to reorganize work duties or work spaces to perform better.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a helpful resource for both workers and employers in the accommodation development process. JAN has experts on hand who can provide advice and solutions on an individualized basis. Best of all, the service is available free of charge. Also, the JAN website has a database of accommodation tips for numerous disabilities, including learning disabilities. JAN’s phone number is 1-800-526-7234, and the website is www.jan.wvu.edu.

For the most part the accommodations are easy to implement. What is important is the communication and understanding between the employer and potential or current employee. For those of you who want to learn more about learning disabilities and the workplace I am listing several internet sites to get started with:

Sources:
Gerber, P.J. (2008). “Understanding adults with learning disabilities: as more young adults who received school-based accommodations for their learning disabilities enter the workforce, employers need to understand how they are faring in employment settings.” The Journal of Employee Assistance. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-35941164_ITM

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2009). NINDS learning disabilities information page. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/learningdisabilities/learningdisabilities.htm

Ask the ADA Experts


Ask your ADA Questions.Question:One of my employees recently developed a medical condition for which she was briefly off of work. Upon her return, she mentioned that she needed a few accommodations, including a reduced schedule and a different office location. Does she need to put these accommodation requests in writing? Should I request a note from her doctor? What is the “right” procedure for dealing with accommodation requests?

Answer: The ADA prohibits a covered employer from discriminating on the basis of disability in all employment practices.  The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees.  A covered employer may choose to hire, fire or promote the most qualified individual that he/she wants.  The ADA prohibits an employer from making that decision on the basis of disability.

The ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities.  An individual must be qualified to do the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.  A disability is defined as:

When an employee requests an accommodation you may request documentation on the disability when the disability or the need for the accommodation is not apparent.  You only have the right to receive documentation that demonstrates that the individual has a covered disability.  An employee may use simple language to request a reasonable accommodation and does not necessarily need to put the request in writing. 

You may create a policy that requires employees to make a request for reasonable accommodation through a formal procedure such as filling out a particular form and submitting it to the human resources department.  You would need to educate current employees and new hires about this process.  Additionally, you would need to train supervisors and managers to direct employees to this process when an employee makes a verbal request for an accommodation.

Once an employee has made a request you should be in discussion with the employee in order to determine what accommodations may be necessary.  An employer has an obligation under the ADA to provide a reasonable accommodation if needed to provide equal access to the application process, allow a qualified employee to perform the essential functions of the position, or to provide equal access to any benefit associated with the job.

You are not required to provide any accommodation that would pose an undue hardship.  An undue hardship is defined as something requiring significant expense or difficulty.  If you determine that a particular accommodation would pose an undue hardship you should look at other effective accommodations that would not pose an undue hardship.  In addition, an employer is not required to provide the specific accommodation requested by an employee.  You may choose to provide an alternative accommodation as long as it is effective.

The important thing to keep in mind is that when an employee indicates that he/she is having difficulty performing the job because of a medical condition that supervisors and managers take appropriate steps to follow up with the employee.  An employer may run afoul of the law if a request for a reasonable accommodation is ignored.  Training staff on responding appropriately to requests is very important.

Do you have a question about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Accessible Information Technology (AIT)? The DBTAC: Great Lakes ADA Center can answer most questions you have immediately and will research and return your call on complex questions if necessary. They may also be able to provide you with expert referrals for disability issues, which are not addressed by the ADA.

Technical Assistance is available from the DBTAC: Great Lakes ADA Center Monday through Friday, from 8:00am to 4:30pm Central Time at 800-949-4232 (V/TTY), or you may submit your comments, questions, and requests online and you will receive a response within 3 business days.

ADA in the News

Following are resources for employers focusing on employing people with disabilities.

ADA Notification Act of 2009 (H.R. 2397)

Core Provisions: The bill would amend the enforcement section of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, by adding a procedure that allows covered entities the opportunity to correct an alleged violation prior to the initiation of a plaintiff's lawsuit under the ADA or a related state statute. Title III covers places of public accommodation; commercial facilities; and private entities that offer certain examinations and courses related educational and occupational certification.

Under the proposed legislation, before filing a complaint in federal or state court alleging a violation of the ADA or a state law that conditions a violation of its provisions based on a violation of the ADA, a plaintiff would be required to provide the covered entity with written notice of the alleged violation and an opportunity to remedy the alleged violation. The written notice would need to (1) identify the facts that constitute the alleged violation, including the location of the alleged violation and the date on which the alleged violation occurred; and (2) contain a statement indicating that the plaintiff is barred from filing a complaint until the end of a 90-day remedial period. Covered entities would have 90 days to correct an alleged violation following receipt of the written notice. If a plaintiff ultimately files a complaint under the ADA or a related state statute, the complaint would be required to state that as of the date of the filing, the defendant had not corrected the alleged violation. The bill would permit a court to extend the 90-day remedial period one time by a period not to exceed 30 days if the defendant applies for an extension.

Status: On May 13, 2009, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) introduced H.R. 2397. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary following its introduction. Source: http://washlaborwire.com/2009/05/14/ada-notification-act-of-2009-hr-2397

Planning Accessible Meetings

The US Department of Justice has issued a new publication in their “Expanding Your Market” series titled: "Accessible Information Exchange: Meeting on a Level Playing Field". This publication focuses on planning and conducting meetings and events that are accessible to people with disabilities. This publication is available on-line at: http://www.ada.gov/business/accessiblemtg.htm

 


2009 Training & Education Events


WorkSource Wisconsin Employer Trainings and Events

WorkSource WisconsinWorkSource Wisconsin was developed as a resource for employers by employers to provide easy access to the information necessary to actively recruit, hire, and retain employees with disabilities. WorkSource Wisconsin offers free or low cost statewide trainings in a variety of employment-related topics.

Coming up!

June 18th, 2009

Sponsoring Agency: WorkSource Wisconsin “The Employers Guide on Disability and Employment”
Topics:

-   Legal Issues Pertaining to Disability
-   ADAAA (Amendment Act) and Job Accommodations
-   Mental Health in the Workplace

Date & Time: June 18th, 2009 - 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Location: Stoney Creek Inn
1100 Imperial Avenue
Rothschild, WI 54455
Cost: Free
Contact: Charlie George
WorkSource Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin-Stout
1-866-460-9602
Registration: REGISTER HERE
Link: http://worksourcewi.com/

Check out their 2009 Training and Events Calendar.


Great Lakes ADA Center

ADA Audio Conference Series

The ADA Audio Conference Series provides in-depth information on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Accessible Information Technology and other related topics. This program is designed as a springboard to enhance an individual's existing knowledge base or facilitate continued learning regarding regulations and trends under the ADA. Get more information at ADA Audio Conference Series.


Legal Issues Webinar Series: Employment and the ADA

This program is designed for individuals who have a working knowledge of the ADA and are familiar with its basic elements. Sessions are intended to support continued learning and focus on the knowledge that has been gained since the implementation of the law in terms of how the federal agencies and the courts are interpreting the law and subsequent regulations. To learn more and to register visit: Legal Issues Webinar Series.


Disability Law Lowdown Podcasts

The Disability Law Lowdown podcasts will deliver the latest in disability law information every other week. Listeners can subscribe to the podcasts to have shows automatically delivered to them. Access these very informative podcasts at Disability Law Podcasts.


Accessible Technology Webinar Series

The goal of the series is to increase awareness on technology accessibility for people with disabilities. To learn more visit: Accessible Technology Webinar Series.


ADA Basic Building Blocks

The ADA Basic Building Blocks is an introductory web course that explores the legal requirements and the spirit of the ADA. The course content is self-paced and organized into 12 topics that have been designed to be studied in order. It covers the basic principles and core concepts contained in the ADA. Register for the ADA Building Blocks Course.


ADA Title II Tutorial

This free tutorial available at www.adacourse.org/title2 was developed by the DBTAC National Network of ADA Centers to provide education and resources on the requirements applicable to State and Local government under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Approved for 0.3 CEU and 3 CRCC clock hours. For more information, visit ADA Title II Tutorial.



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More Information:

ADA Wisconsin PartnershipThe ADA Wisconsin Partnership provides information, materials, technical assistance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This newsletter will address inclusionary work practices, non-discrimination provisions in employment, the obligations of state and local governments and business to ensure that programs, services, and activities are readily accessible to and useable by people with disabilities.

The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is not responsible for the enforcement of the ADA. The information, materials, and technical assistance, including information contained in this newsletter, are intended solely as informational guidance and are neither a determination of your legal rights or responsibilities under the Act, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA.

Send your questions, comments, or suggestions to ada@eri-wi.org. Or Join Our Mailing List.

ADA Wisconsin Partners:  Employment Resources, Inc., WorkSource Wisconsin, and Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center: Great Lakes ADA Center





The ADA Wisconsin Partnership is a coalition of people with disabilities, businesses, and government entities supported by Great Lakes Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (GLDBTAC), WorkSource Wisconsin, and Employment Resources, Inc.