September 8, 2017 By Peter Fay 3 min read

At the recent USBLN Conference in Orlando, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offered two half-day workshops focused on disability in the workplace.

Led by Lou Orslene, the co-director of JAN, the workshops offered participants the opportunity to learn from JAN’s experience as the leading national source of expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Lou spent the first half of the workshop sharing the latest best practices developed by JAN in collaboration with many of JAN’s larger employer customers. These practices have been proven effective in accommodating a person’s disability so they attain maximum productivity at work.

For example: develop an integrated or harmonized model, including a single point of contact for leave and accommodation along with a centralized funding stream.

JAN also offered emerging practices for accommodating a person who is returning to work after an injury. Innovative employers develop a “task bank” of jobs that an employee with a disability or injury can perform when returning work to keep them engaged in the workplace even though they may not be able to perform all the essential functions of their job.

For more details on the reasonable accommodation process, checkout the JAN Workplace Accommodation Toolkit.


Left to right: John Macko, Lou Orslene, Jennifer White, Peter Fay and Ryan Jones.

Lou also invited four partners to share how assistive technologies can help disabled workers achieve their full potential in the workplace:

  • Ryan Jones from the VFO Group demonstrated how the JAWS screen reader uses text-to-speech technology to read MS Word documents to blind users.
  • John Macko from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology demonstrated how deaf users use a video relay service to communicate with a sign language interpreter who interprets spoken text to American Sign Language.
  • Jennifer White from Able Opportunities, Inc. demonstrated the mobile Work Autonomy app that assist employees with intellectual disabilities to complete their assigned duties according to a prescribed work flow.
  • Peter Fay from IBM Accessibility Research demonstrated the Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) which is a joint research project with JAN and the Center for Disability Inclusion at West Virginia University (WVU).

Accommodations in the Workplace

Back in 2016, WVU and IBM were awarded a three-year federal research grant by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to develop the Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS).

The MAS app is a mobile case management tool to help employers, service providers, and individuals effectively address accommodation requests in the workplace. Collaborators for this project include JAN, the US Business leadership Network, the National Business and Disability Council, the Disability Management Employers Coalition, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

It is designed to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and streamline the disability accommodation process at various phases of the employment cycle. It will support talent management, human resources, and/or accommodation staff to create inclusive workplaces by facilitating the process of accommodating applicants, candidates, and employees.

The app will also enable service providers by helping people with disabilities to better manage the accommodation process.

It is expected to be available from the iOS app store in Q4 of 2017 and the Google Play store in Q1 2018.

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