Workplace Accommodations R&D Digest - May / June 2011

Volume 8, 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 http://www.workplacererc.org/


CAPS: Context Aware Prompting System for Persons with Cognitive Disabilities

By Michael G. Melonis

As part of the Work RERC, the engineering team at Assistive Technology Partners, University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, has been exploring the use of task-prompting systems that could aid an individual with a disability to successfully perform assembly line work. A linear and a non-linear prompting system are being compared to determine if one is more effective than the other. In both systems, there is a sequence of tasks that need to be performed. In the linear prompting system, the individual must determine if the task has been performed and then hit a button to check it off the list and proceed to the next task. In the non-linear system, we have developed a tool that automatically determines if the task has been performed. The tool uses environmental sensors to know what steps have been completed. If the task has been completed, the next step is automatically presented. In addition to task advancement, the automated prompting systems can recognize basic error scenarios.

The job that was chosen to test the prompting system involves packaging novelty Chocolate First Aid Kits. The assembly process consists of two jobs. The first job is to construct a box filled with four different kinds of chocolate bars. The second job involves placing two of the candy bar boxes, plus two bottles of chocolates, in a case that resembles a first aid kit. The position of the bottles and boxes are critical in the final assembly. Once the contents have been correctly placed, the lid is snapped shut and is sent off to be shipped.

Final Assembly Workstation A Sample of the Final Assembly Images

Our hypothesis is that the non-linear system will enable persons with cognitive disabilities to perform more effectively (fewer errors) and more efficiently (decreased time to complete a task). To date, 25 of 40 participants have completed the research protocol. Preliminary results suggest:


Data Analysis Continues for our Survey of Accommodation Use

The Work RERC would again like to thank all of you who participated in our survey on the use of workplace accommodations. Data analysis is underway, and we are beginning to release some of our preliminary findings.

In April, data was presented at the NARRTC Conference focusing on the use of workplace accommodations by people with cognitive impairments. Preliminary findings include:

In June, data from people with motor impairments was presented at the annual RESNA conference. Preliminary findings include:

To view the presentation slides, visit:


State of the Science Conference: The Potential of Emerging Technologies to Increase the Participation of Employees with Disabilities in the Workplace

The Work RERC held its State of the Science Conference in April in Washington, DC. Approximately 65 technology developers, researchers, and rehabilitation experts came together to share knowledge about the current state and future directions of workplace accommodations.

The theme of our conference was the potential of emerging technologies to increase the participation of employees with disabilities in the workplace. The conference focused on emerging workplace technologies -- including technologies that are in development, new to the market and have not typically been applied as workplace accommodations. Conference participants discussed the presented technologies to identify potential applications of these technologies to assist employees with disabilities and produce recommendations for R&D that would be necessary to utilize these technologies as effective workplace accommodations in the future. Our intention is to use this discussion to develop an agenda for future directions in research, service delivery, and product development.

Abstracts and slides from the technology presentations can be viewed on our website

In addition, although the conference is over, we invite you to continue discussion of these topics on the Work RERC's new Facebook page.


Recent Presentations

Researchers from the Work RERC recently made several presentations at the NARRTC 2011 Annual Conference and RESNA 2011 Conference. If you missed them, several of these have been made available online.


Participate in Our Survey on Successful Aging in the Workplace

Do you work in an office? Want to share your experiences with using a computer? We are currently distributing an online survey to learn about the difficulties individuals may encounter while using a personal computer at work and about the ways they handle these difficulties in order to complete their job tasks. We are specifically interested in older individuals with disabilities or individuals who have experienced any loss in functioning. The online survey should take 15-30 minutes to complete. Contact Daniela Jopp for more information about this study.


Professional Education

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

Universal and Accessible Design for Public Spaces (ARC 1024P)
This course will introduce the concept and history of universal design (UD), and will discuss similarities and differences between UD and specialized design. The Principles of Universal Design will be introduced. The course will provide information regarding universal and accessible design for use of, and interpretive interaction in, a variety of public spaces, including recreational, entertainment, cultural, healthcare, and interactive venues.
Online webcasts: July 11, 13 and 15, 2011 - Noon-2pm (Eastern)
Please register by July 10

For further information and to register for courses, visit www.catea.gatech.edu/courses.php .


Other Upcoming Events


Disability and Employment Updates

Report: The Failure of the Disability Service System to Provide Quality Work

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) has published a report that highlights the problems of segregated work and sheltered environments, including low wages and a lack of quality work. It shows a systemic failure that keeps young people with disabilities trapped in a sheltered workshop instead of transitioning into traditional work. The report calls for an end of segregated employment and subminimum wage and for new tax incentives for employers to hire people with disabiliites in integrated workplaces. Download the 60 page document (502 KB).

Worker ReEmployment Website Expanded

New information for workers who have been laid off has been added to the Worker ReEmployment website, part of the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop resource. In addition to providing information about career and job searches, the site now offers a single source for information on unemployment benefits and assistance with necessities such as food, housing, health care and utility payments. Visit the site at: http://www.careeronestop.org/ReEmployment/.

JAN Provides Accommodation Process Forms

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has made available a series of forms that guide employers and employees with the process of requesting and approving accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require that accommodation requests be put in writing. However, it has long been recommended that employees and employers document requests and the steps taken to review them. The available resources include:

To download the documents, visit: http://askjan.org/topics/forms.htm.

Microsoft Accessibility Tools & Training Help Developers Make Their Products Accessible

Developers of technology products, services and websites can now use Microsoft's Accessibility Tools & Training to help them address accessibility concerns. The package of online accessibility training courses, tools and other resources were originally developed to increase accessibility awareness among Microsoft's own developer groups. Microsoft recently decided to make them available, free of charge, to corporations and governments around the world that want to make technology more accessible. The resources are also designed to help business leaders make more informed decisions about improving the accessibility of their technology products and to convey the importance of building accessibility into systems from the start of the development cycle. To download the resources, visit the Microsoft Developer Center website at http://msdn.microsoft.com/accessibility.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) Regulations Issued

Back in November, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final regulations implementing the employment provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). This law prohibits use of genetic information to make decisions about employment or health insurance. GINA was enacted in response to concerns that individuals would avoid genetic testing due to possible employment and insurance-related repercussions if adverse information was released. The EEOC has issued several documents to address common questions about the law. For more information, visit http://eeoc.gov/laws/types/genetic.cfm.


Featured Accommodation: EyeNote App

EyeNote is a free downloadable application (app) developed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to help persons who are blind or visually impaired determine the value of their US paper currency. The app uses image recognition of part of either the front or back of the bill to determine its denomination. It then provides either an audible or vibrating response (e.g., one pulse for one dollar, four pulses for twenty dollars). EyeNote is available for more recent versions of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad2 and is available through the Apple iTunes App Store. The software will be updated whenever new US currency designs are introduced. This app has the potential of assisting people not only with their shopping, but with employment situations that involve handling currency. For more information, visit: http://www.eyenote.gov.


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