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Episode Flyer for #98: Increasing the Employability of Persons with Disabilities
Episode Flyer for #98: Increasing the Employability of Persons with Disabilities

Guest: Lou Orslene          Date: March 7, 2018

Guest Title: Co-Director          Guest Company: Job Accommodation Network (JAN)              


[Intro music]


Debra Ruh:                  Hello everyone, this is Debra Ruh and you’re watching or listening to Human Potential at Work. And I have a guest today that has been a friend of mine for a long time and I’m extremely fond of him. His name is Lou Orslene and he’s with the Job Accommodation Network and we’re going to be talking about this conversation accommodating individuals with disabilities from a US perspective but also global perspective. Because the Job Accommodation Network has actually inspired many other entities throughout the world including one in Australia. So, they were very wonderful organization making a real difference in our world. So, Lou, thank you for joining the program today.

Lou Orslene:                Thanks very much for the opportunity Debra; always good to see you.

Debra:                         Yes. I remember when we got to both speak in Hawaii together. That was quite a treat whatnot.

Lou:                             Yes. It certainly was. Yes. It’s a wonderful place for work.

Debra:                         I agree. I agree. So, Lou, tell the audience a little bit about you first and then we’ll talk a little bit more about Job Accommodations Network.

Lou:                             Sure. Sure. I’m one of the codirectors of the Job Accommodation Network. And the Job Accommodation Network of course is a consulting service through the office of disability employment policy at department of labor. I’ll talk a little bit more about that a minute but just to tell you sort of how I arrived on the door step and how I then took a leadership position at JAN.


                                    I’ve always had a deep interest in not only understanding the needs of employers and what they needed in order to be successful but I was always had a deep interest too in individuals with disability either returning to work or really getting into the workforce and sort of the nexus between them. What really needs to happen in order for that dynamic to be successful.


                                    I have an undergraduate degree in human resource management, a number of certificates to disability management and non-profit management as well. For a time administrated a couple of social service agencies. My real start in the business though let’s say is has happened with my father.


                                    My father was blinded when I was five years old. Had an excellent rehabilitation counselor who assisted him. You know, thinking of the situation at that time, I had four brothers and sisters; one of them was just 13 months. He was a coal miner, blinded in an industrial accident. and my mother and father just pitched in, luckily got a great rehab counselor, found a great university near us that were willing to accommodate him and provide him with the reader and such even though it wasn’t required at the time and my father was truly a success story.


                                    I mean, he went on to got his first degree, his second degree which he said that being blind was an opportunity because he grew up in the coal fields of south western Pennsylvania. His parents didn’t have the money to put him through college. So, my father just being an incredible optimist; an incredible positive person just decided this was an opportunity, he was going to go back to school, he was going to work on his masters, he was just going to move forward in his life and then ended up being the director of organizing for the united mine workers of America and worked in DC when he retired.


                                    So, I’ve seen success and I think that that really showed me that it can work and how it can work. Really getting everyone together to collaborate.

Debra:                         What a powerful story. So your father took this event that many people might not be able to get over and he changed his life and those around him. He really did look at it as an opportunity that’s probably why he has such an amazing son that’s such layer too.

Lou:                             You’re very kind.

Debra:                         And I know you’re very… you will not brag about yourself but that is very interesting. I did not… I don’t think I ever heard that story Lou, how interesting. So, you referred to Job Accommodations Network as JAN.

Lou:                             Right. That’s right.

Debra:                         As a matter of fact, some of your social media handles are “ask JAN” JAN standing for Job Accommodation Network. I know that when I speak or often ask audiences if they know about JAN or they know about the Job Accommodation Network and more and more I’m finding that you do have a good name recognition especially in the United States but I’m seeing it globally as well. And I believe in my humble opinion that the Job Accommodation Network is something we should be very proud of in the United States.


                                    It dares open so many successes and the numbers of people that you help, it just is staggering. And I don’t know if this is a problem anymore but I do remember years ago, some employers were hesitant to use JAN, Job Accommodations Network because JAN is tied to… JAN lives in the West Virginia University…

Lou:                             Yes.

Debra:                         But it is funded by our department of labor ODEP which is Office of Discipline and Employment Policy and it is a program they’re very proud of and they should be but sometimes I had employers tell me they were worried that since they were funded by the government that maybe it wasn’t confidential. But I don’t hear those unnecessary fears anymore because of course everything is treated confidentially that you do.

Lou:                             Absolutely. Absolutely.

Debra:                         Yes. But, tell us more about what JAN is.  Which of the job…

Lou:                             Sure. So, what we do is we provide consultation on workplace accommodations. The ADA and other disability related issues for instance self-employment; we have a self-employment team. So, in conducting those consultations, we have a sensory team, a cognitive team, a psychiatric and a motor team. All of the consultants on our various teams in terms of their education or masters level or phd level and if they have experience in various fields as well. We also have a lawyer and attorney on staff.


                                    So, with it is team base approach and knowing all of these specialties and having subject matter experts; what we’re able to do is to really coach employers  primarily employers being our largest customer. About 60 percent of our consultations are with employers; about 30 percent are with individuals with disabilities and then just a smattering of service providers and advocates and such otherwise. But say for instance if you’re an employer, you have somebody… one of your supervisors gets approached and somebody says, “I have Multiple Sclerosis and I need an accommodation.” Then what does that person do? They can call us at our 800 number, they can chat with us online, they can text us, they can go to our virtual office in Second Life, they can Skype us, there’s so many different ways to contact our consultants.


                                    They’re triage at first; ask what kind of disability impairment or health condition they’re dealing with and then they go to one of our subject matter experts who really coaches them through the process. Triage is then very quickly to understand where they are in the process and then take them carry them along. And people can call back multiple times so that supervisor… what we find is that… so that supervisor asks, “first of all, what’s reasonable? What kind of accommodations can I offer?” And then they’ll go back to the employee and propose those and they’ll say, “well, okay, that’s not working; what will work?”


                                    So, often times, we find ourselves coaching people through the process time and time again until there’s a success outcome. We also have… we also do free webcast. We have an extensive website; a very comprehensive website. An accommodation search that one confined information on their own; everything from disabilities from arthritis to wheelchair user, visual impairments, that’s all through our website into our search portal. And we also have more… recently, we found that employers really needed help refreshing their accommodation infrastructure so we develop the accommodation toolkit and that has a number of tools in it.


                                    So, a myriad of tools, products and services but primarily focused ADA work side accommodations, self-employment and generally disability employment.

Debra:                         And I know that employers, sometimes they just don’t know what to do. They have an employee that maybe has become disabled because you know, we become disabled as we’re living our lives and often, they don’t even know where to begin. And so I tell people all the time, “go to” because as Lou just said, they have it alphabetically so you can go in there and you can look at Down syndrome or autism or diabetes. It’s amazing the content that is out there and it’s all free. All these content is free. And also, all of the consulting that they do, a lot of these consulting that Lou is talking about is also free to employers. Is that correct?

Lou:                             Absolutely.

Debra:                         Yes.

Lou:                             You know, funded by the US department of labor, all of our services, everything that we produce is free. Including a new mobile accommodation solution app that we’re rolling out over the next year. So that’s part of the employer’s infrastructure. It’s very exciting because as we find ourselves in more of a mobile kind of work situation; you never know where someone’s going to request an accommodation and how do I document that interactive process? First of all to be successful in the accommodation but second of all in terms of compliance. Right? We do really documentation. So yes, so very excited…

Debra:                         And they also help people that are temporarily disabled. So you know, I had an employee that really hurt her shoulder very bad in a car accident and at the time could only use one hand. So I went to Lou and said, “What should I do?” and he gave me some ideas. So, this is an invaluable tool and they got so popular. They used to actually provide global support and really helped as I said different countries set up a similar program but they got so popular that the department of labor said, “You really need to stick here to the US.” I don’t know if that’s still the case but they just got so busy and the numbers are staggering. Lou, will you talk about some of the numbers?

Lou:                             Right.

Debra:                         The people that you help every year; it’s amazing. What’s happening there?

Lou:                             It really is. We have a team of 14 consultants and last year, we did 48,000 consultations. Our biggest year is 58,000 consultations. It is an extraordinary and growing number of consultations which really makes us feel good about our work. Not only the feedbacks that you spoke of earlier. When people get back with you and then… I can’t tell you how many emails and letters that we get back from people and they say, “You know you saved my job. My supervisor had no idea that they had this responsibility and now they’re grateful to know that all the money that’s invested in me is going to keep me at work.” Because that’s primarily what we’re dealing with these days; it’s really stay or return to work, it’s baby boomers with chronic health conditions. That’s really within those employer customers. That’s really the base there in terms of who is being supported and who’s being accommodated. And that’s going to continue for another decade really. So, we should only extend this to…

Debra:                         So, 72 million baby boomers. 72 million baby boomers.

Lou:                             It’s a lot of…

Debra:                         And all over the age of 55 and many are still on the workforce so…

Lou:                             And we’re not going to stop deb, are we?

Debra:                         No we’re not.

Lou:                             Just because we’re…

Debra:                         No. we learn from the generations before us that when you stop working and you stop contributing; sometimes, people give up on life. So it’s…

Lou:                             Right.

Debra:                         You know a lot of us don’t want to stop because of we know that we’re making a difference but…

Lou:                             And even with… I’m sorry to interrupt. But even with return to work… I mean, when you look at our return to work issues, we know that the best therapy for return to work is to be engaged with coworkers that you are used to on site. So, if you’re trying to return to work, even if they can’t return with accommodations to the position that they held previously, bringing them back, not charging them off to short-term disability then long-term disability and going through that whole system. If you just keep them engaged in the workplace even if it’s a part time position, it’s positive for the company, it’s a great investment for the company and of course it keeps that person vital and engaged.


Debra:                         I agree. And Lou, this has to tie into the future of work conversations.

Lou:                             Right.

Debra:                         Because what does the future of work look like? I know this… I’m following and tracking and engaged in a lot of these conversations but I think that this is the future of work, right?

Lou:                             Right. I think it is. I think it really is. It’s going to be much more decentralized than it has been in the past. I think that’s just what the future is. And so customizing jobs for specific people for their skill sets. You know if you talk to Frances West, formerly the global diversity or accessibility officer at IBM, she’s been preaching this for a long time. The gig economy is here and we really need to understand that and understand what the implications are. And again, keeping people productive, keeping them engaged, that’s creates success for business.

Debra:                         And you know, these people especially people acquiring disabilities, they don’t want that to be all that you see, they still want to contribute. They want to be engaged, they want to work, they don’t want to just you know, for somebody to decide that they no longer add any value, that’s not true. We can accommodate them.


                                    And another point I want to make is sometimes you’ve got all the accommodations figured out for an employee and then something happens and that accommodation isn’t working anymore. There’s a new system, there’s all kind of things that can disrupt it and somebody that was really stable with your accommodations everything was working fine is not working anymore. And knowing that you have a resource like Ask JAN to go to as an employer is so valuable.


                                    I’m on that ask JAN website all the time. It is such a wealth of information. I’ve done the webinars, you’re at conferences. It’s sort of amazing what you have accomplished with your team. I can’t believe you don’t have a hundred people working for you because it’s really amazing what you’re accomplishing.

Lou:                             Thank you Deb. And you’re absolutely right. That’s one of the… one of the steps in the accommodation process, the interactive process that we suggest for employers and for employees as well and that’s what we tend to see the least recognition of responsibility there which is sort of monitoring accommodations. And even sometimes what we find is that people were in situations where they’re in performance…they’re sort of in counselling in terms of their performance and instead it should really be a discussion of accommodations. This accommodation, is it working?


                                    I mean, great examples of that particularly in our technological sort of milieu or workplace milieus that we are all engaged in is that somebody has a legacy information system and they decide to update their legacy information system. Unfortunately, they haven’t imbedded a accessibility subject matter expert. You know somebody like for instance that belongs to IAAP, the International Association of Accessibility Professionals. You should have somebody imbedded in all of your processes that is a subject matter expert.


                                    If you don’t have that expertise, then you go from a legacy system to a new system. Low and behold, if you don’t have a good tracking system and you’re not watching the accommodations that people have, for instance the screen reader, then maybe may not be interoperable with your new system if it is designed. I mean, that’s your baby right, Deb? I mean, you know this technology and you hear this all the time so…

Debra:                         Yes, all the time.

Lou:                             Not reaching to you but that interoperability issues continues to be such an issue. So we really have to… accommodations are very important… I have this formula in my head all the time, it’s accommodations equals equal employment equals inclusion. Because I think if you really explore accommodations well and you’re affective at doing that, then I think you’re sensitized to all of these various issues and then your workplace becomes more universally accessible.


                                    The more access for all that your workplace becomes, the less that you have to negotiate those one on one accommodations. So, it’s a little bit of an investment up front but I think it has a great benefit as you move along on that inclusion continuum that I so often speak of.

Debra:                         And so Lou, if I was an employer, especially if I’m a big brand and we haven’t really figured out the accommodation process, is there a way that Ask JAN can help us or the JOB Accommodation Network? Certain way you could help me sort of put a program in place and figure out what I should be doing? Do you offer consulting like that?

Lou:                             We do. We do. We have a number of corporations approaching us these days. And the question is usually as simple as this, “I want to get into this space. I want to get into the disability space.” So then we talk about… you know, I talk often the five ways that you show your doors open to people with disabilities and that’s through physical side in your technology, in your marketing, your policies and procedures, your technology, right? So all of those very ways, that’s how you show that you’re open for business for people with disabilities. And then we will talk about… you know flush that out a bit and where are you? Because often times… during this discovery period, a lot of corporations find out that they really have many pieces, you know?


                                    For instance, we’re working with a large corporation and what we really started to talk about is the return to work program. Their return to work program was very successful. Very successful on it was a real… it saved them a considerable amount of money. So, what we first talked about is finding an executive sponsor; a business sponsor, a partner within the company first to provide leadership on it then develop the internal business case.


                                    We all know the global business case; it’s very convincing and has been for a decade or more. But developing that internal business case is really essential if you’re going to convince people in the VP and the CEO suite that this is what you should be investing in. so creating that business case is really important. So with some companies, if you have an effective return to work program; they understand accommodations, they understand human capital, the value with keeping people and investing in people. Build it out from there.


                                    So sometimes it’s a matter of us really just sort of taking apart the corporation, looking what the pieces they have existing and then building from there. We do that kind of consultation but again, I’ll mention our workplace accommodation toolkit, we built that. We did focus scripts and then we built that with companies like the JPMorgan Chase and Boston Scientific and many of the corporations that have really shown success in hiring people with disabilities and retaining them and we looked at their policies and procedures.


                                    So within that toolkit, you’ll not only find sample policies and procedures that we’ve developed in recognition of all the best practices that exist but you’ll find those sample policies of those corporations. They lent us… you’ll see and you can benchmark it against them. And that’s what in the toolkit as well; there’s metrics that you could benchmark. There’s descriptions of the metrics. The metrics are kind of still very hard to come by.


                                    Corporations, even though they’re very generous and engaging with us on helping us to build the toolkit and in helping us to build out the mobile accommodation solution app, still that information is proprietary because they really do see that whole inclusion process as being proprietary. It’s a big investment and it gives them competitive advantage…

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             So a lot of times they’re not going to share their internal business case with us but that’s okay. They collaborate and getting us the resources so then we can push them out and other corporations can begin benchmarking.

Debra:                         And that they’re employers of people with disabilities and retaining people that acquire disabilities so we’re not going to fuss about it; we appreciate what they’re doing.

Lou:                             Yes. Absolutely.

Debra:                         Lou, for anyone that’s new to this topic; do you mind just giving a few examples of some accommodations that you have recommended over the years?

Lou:                             Sure.

Debra:                         They’re so many but you know, examples…

Lou:                             Just to give you some examples… right, okay. So, you have somebody, an employee and they have a mental health condition, okay? Now, we see in their productivity and they have a sense for some decompensation, they’re not doing so well with their condition and it’s becoming unstable. So then… you know, a lot of times we look at something like first of all, once they disclosed of course, because me as an employer, I don’t have the responsibility nor really I don’t want to take the right off of somebody to disclose. That is the individual, the employee’s responsibility as well as that’s part of any independent person any independent human beings that’s on them really to disclose. That’s a really personal thing. But once this person comes forward and discloses, then I can engage in like, what’s the plan of action? We’re starting to see that the stress is getting too at work and then meetings are becoming uneasy and sometimes the behavior is a little… just a little harsh, so what are we going to do? What’s our plan for this?


                                    Okay. Maybe what it is is we give that permission to the person that if they get really stressed in the meeting, instead of acting up, behave in some sort of harsh behavior that others may get a really bad reaction or it’s against the code of conduct for corporation, then they have the right to get up and leave a meeting. Or perhaps what that means is somebody with a mental health condition, they’re changing medications.


                                    As we know, psychotropics take some time to get fully into people’s systems. Maybe that means they need a leave of absents during that transition or period to that medication. Maybe what that means is more flexible schedule. Maybe what that means is that whenever they’re starting to become stress and upset, they have the opportunity to go to their office, close the door and call their counselor. So, those were some of the accommodations.


                                    For somebody who has developmental disability. It may be something like tactile or photographic instructions instead of text-based instructions. It might be as simple as that. You know, we see that amazingly enough at WALGREENS distribution centers. When you go there, there’s sort of like this communication board of various ways that employees can understand how the task is done. That’s universal design access for all and it’s best. It really is. So that anyone functioning in various levels can really understand how to get the job done.


                                    So that’s a couple of examples there. You know it might be… I was talking about my dad earlier on being blind, well, there’s so much technology out there these days. I mean, sometimes, someone a reader is the best. If someone is taking a test and they’re blind, reading may be the best way. Or if it’s an online test, what needs to happen is what we find is that there are timing mechanisms built in into test and people get timed out time and time again…

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             So if it’s somebody with the cognitive disability; somebody who has blindness, somebody even in terms of agility, in terms of them typing if it takes them a bit longer, then you really want to push back to maybe the vendor that you bought that prehire test off of and you want to say, “Hey. How do I change the timing mechanism?” or, is the timing mechanism for what we’re testing for? Is that really even valid in this circumstance? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. So, those are few examples there.

Debra:                         Yes. I remember an example you gave me where the person had circulation problems but they were customer service representative and so the solution you came up with was one of those little bike peddling, I don’t know what they’re called, and they could actually pedal while working to keep their circulation…

Lou:                             Yes.

Debra:                         So, very simple. And let’s talk about price of accommodation. You know, we love this one.

Lou:                             Sure.

Debra:                         So how many employers assume it’s very very expensive to accommodate an employee?

Lou:                             Right.

Debra:                         Let’s talk about that.

Lou:                             Sure. So what we do is in addition to our service, what we do is we’d like to go back to our customers, our employer customers, go back with all of them but we’ll talk about our employee customers because that’s where we really get these statistics. So we go back to them and we ask them, did they put the accommodation in place after they spoke with us? What was the cost of accommodation? Why is it effective? And then, why was it effective? And what are some of the direct benefits and indirect benefits?


                                    We publish that annually in a publication called low cost high impact and we release it every September, results of that previous year and our findings for last year for instance are. A lot of people talk about that number that’s very stable; that accommodations, the typical cost of accommodation where the average cost is $500.

Debra:                         $500, right.

Lou:                             Yes. And that’s the most stable; $500 or $600. But you know, the number that I really like to talk about more is 59 percent of accommodations are provided at no cost at all.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             So that’s really important. A flexible schedule or somebody again with diabetes who is working in a call center and the policy is that you can’t have any food at your desk but this person needs every two hours needs to eat. So then, one of those compact refrigerators that they can provide or the employer can provide. Or even just having something there that they’d don’t even need a refrigerator for but the policy is modified. So there’s no cost to modifying that policy. There’s no cost to having that person have a bit of candy on their desk that they can munch on every couple of hours to make sure that they keep their diabetes stable, right? There’s no cost there.


                                    A flexible schedule. You know, the workplaces these days you know seven to three, eight to four, nine to five, 10 to six. That happen so often. You know giving somebody a shift that’s specific so to ensure that they can function at their best. Say if it is that someone with a mental health condition and they take their psychotropic; they take their medication. I’m not saying that everybody with the mental health condition takes medication but just…

Debra:                         Right. Just in these examples.

Lou:                             Example to illustrate. You know you take your medication at seven in the morning and then it has an effect, you know, has a really strong effect for the next hour or so. So, getting up and getting ready might be challenging. So it’s 10 to six schedule which you provide everybody else and give that option to everybody else. So, that’s a flexible schedule for them, okay.


                                    So, again, no cost. But I think that’s the more exciting statistic when I talk to people often times. 59 percent of accommodations; no cost at all.

Debra:                         Right. And accommodations is about productivity and allowing an employee to be their best in their most innovative self. And you know Lou; I have a question that you made me think of. Does the… to get support from Job Accommodation Network as an employer, do I have to have the employee self-identify as having a disability? Or can I call you up and say, “I’m not exactly sure what’s happening; I’ve worked with you in the past, I know what you all do. So, I’m having this situation with an employee. Any suggestions?” I mean, are there any restrictions like that? I don’t know that. I’ve never asked you that.

Lou:                             I think that’s a really good point because you know, I think… as a supervisor, as an accommodations person, as an HR person, you know, it maybe the employee citizens program. If we see somebody’s productivity suffering or we see a dramatic change in behavior…

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             I mean, all we have to do is open a conversation with, “how could I support you?”

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             I’ve noticed this… you know, “what’s going on? How could I help you?” that opens the conversation up for somebody then to disclose and let you know that, “I have a disability and this is how it’s affecting me at work and what can we do.” Right? I mean, we don’t ever want to wait until it comes up in a performance appraisal situation.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             And that’s a good advice for the employee as well as for the supervisor, whomever is taking care of the performance reviews. Then it becomes all muddled. You know. Are you [indiscernible 0:32:21.2]…

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             that you’re using because you’re going to get a bad performance review or… so you really want to… so that’s really good advice either from the view point… from the perspective of I’m an individual with disability and I really need to disclose and really, I would disclose before I would get into that performance review or counseling kind of situation and the same way with the supervisor. And really just open that up, you know, just say, “how can I support you?”

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             But you have to be careful because again, it’s my responsibility as an individual with disability as an employee to come forward and to disclose to you. That’s my right to disclose to you.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             You can’t just push accommodations on me when I haven’t disclosed to you.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             As a matter of fact, that’s pretty… in terms of the law, that can really create some risk internally and your lawyers will absolutely freak out.

Debra:                         Yes yes yes, they will. That’s the wrong way to do it.

Lou:                             Exactly. But there’s nothing that stops any supervisor from saying, “Hey. I noticed your productivity is dropping. During meetings, you’re getting really stressed; you’re throwing papers down or something. This is different for you. How can I support you?” So that…

Debra:                         Right. I agree.

Lou:                             That’s how to engage.

Debra:                         And you know Lou…

Lou:                             It’s a very… it’s a very human process. You know we just have…

Debra:                         I agree.

Lou:                             To bring out our humanity, right? You know, sometimes we move fast, we move furious, we forget, you know, we lose ourselves a little bit. This is an opportunity really for you to show your best and for you to be your most human and compassionate you know.

Debra:                         And those employees almost always were the ones that turn around and they’re amazing. I had an employee that had a disability and I talk about this sometimes when I’m speaking but he started really acting out at work. He was creating… because of the things he was saying, he was creating a hostile work environment. He was sexually harassing one of the women in the office and it became a really bad situation very very quickly.


                                    Within hours, it was like I had a stable employee and then I didn’t and now I had a hostile situation and I didn’t know what to do. And I knew there was a problem and I tried talking to the employee without a lot of success and so I came and I got support and it turns out that he decided to stop taking his medication and his room mate had said, “don’t do it man, it will make you feel fuzzy.” And so we were able to get him back on track and he continue to be a very successful employee. But at the time that it was happening; from the employer’s perspective especially from a small business, it was very disruptive.


                                    You know I had a situation I had to deal with because I had multiple employees involved. And so it was so nice to be able to reach out and get support and know that nobody’s going to judge me as an employer because I did or did not create the situation. Nobody was really judging this employee either or the other employees.


                                    So, sometimes we need professional help and to know that Job Accommodation Network is there for us and it’s confidential, nothing is going to be shared with what we’re talking about. I think it’s a gift to employers of all sizes because one or two employees, there’s no cut off, we all can come. And like I say, I’m often out there doing research information. I have quoted the Job Accommodation Network in all my books, in a lot of my blogs and it is an example of a program that is really really working well. I really applaud…

Lou:                             Thank you.

Debra:                         The department of labor and ODEP for funding…

Lou:                             And we have great staff; great passionate staff I tell you. So that makes all the difference in the world. A great team that’s really committed. Really committed.

Debra:                         I really want to… that’s right.

Lou:                             Yes. Absolutely. And to figure it out, to solve it, you know.

Debra:                         Yes.

Lou:                             And that’s why I find myself… it’s just wonderful how it’s happened that I’ve ended up at the Job Accommodation Network because that’s the nexus I’m always interested in. you know, what is that inner change between people, between employees and the employer and how can we solve these little issues that come up. I want to go back for one second…

Debra:                         And for an employee to be productive. Productive and have…

Lou:                             Absolutely.

Debra:                         Yes. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Lou:                             Which is what we all want to be. Right?

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             But I just want to go back to… one of the hallmarks and you really hit it a couple of minutes ago of the Job Accommodation Network and has always been way before my time is that we meet the customer where they are. And we are not judging, we just… everybody as I always say is somewhere different on that inclusion continuum, you know. And sometimes it could be perceived as condescending but I say you know, “let’s talk and then…

Debra:                         That’s true.

Lou:                             We can take you to that better place.” You know what I mean?

Debra:                         Yes. It’s true. We’re human beings.

Lou:                             And it’s more productive for everybody.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             Yes.

Debra:                         We are human beings. And we are in these fragile bodies and sometimes our bodies work differently day-to-day. I came home from an exercise program last night and realized that I’ve hurt my back and I’m like, “wo. Oh. Oh.” You know. And so…

Lou:                             Right.

Debra:                         It’s about being a human being. But I want to talk just for a minute; I want to go global now because…

Lou:                             Sure.

Debra:                         I know you Lou, I know that you’ve been all over the world talking about this and as I mentioned, they even very supportive in Australia for example as they created their own. But, will you just talk about ways that the Job Accommodation Network has supported other countries?

Lou:                             Sure. Sure. Well, I’m just really privileged that I really do provide leadership at the Job Accommodation Network. Because it’s really enabled us to share our best practices and share our model with the world. And so, a few minutes ago you were talking about Australia and their job access program. And Job Access, they really replicated most of the elements of the Job Accommodation Network and it’s very successful in Australia. And I serve on one of their advisory panels as well so that we can continue that and continue to share. So they have the… most of the resources that we have now, so, you know, they’re doing some innovative things we’re doing so we make sure that we keep that conversation going.


                                    In other places like Taiwan, they simply wanted to translate and replicate our publications. In Japan, it was our searchable online accommodation tool; they wanted to replicate that so they replicated that. All of our materials are free and not copyrighted. So any support that we can provide to anyone of course were there. We’re very passionate about our mission.


                                    In India, it was a blue-ribbon panel. They had a finite amount of resources and they wanted to build out their programs. In particular, they had a number of global companies that had relocated to Bangalore and they wanted to make sure that they had a good pipeline of employees; disabled, non-disabled, whomever. So they really wanted to understand on how they can build that pipeline from various pipelines to keep those global companies in Bangalore. So we helped them developed a strategic plan around that. Both around accommodations as well as developing a group like the United States Business Leadership Network. Right?


                                    I mean, you want those practitioners; those companies that are very far along. You know, EY. I mean, the pinnacle of inclusion there. You want those companies always talking and always willing to mentor other corporations and willing to share their best practices. And then also, that gives you companies to benchmark against.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             So in India, they wanted to start such an organization. So, as they say, there’s a number of countries that we’ve engaged with and have provided any level of support. Again, our hallmark, meeting you where you are.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             So. No, it’s not… the whole model often times like you know Australia, it’s bits and pieces of the model. Whatever works in that geographic area, in that culture. But, at some point we’d love if somebody made an investment in a global JAN. So, we’ve been gearing for that for years but as we get busier and busier and busier, we’re just incredibly stretched. But for a while we were just kind of exploring what we could do with the ILO at the UN and just seeing if there’s some way that really we could make this global because it’s really needed global. There’s just no doubt about it.


                                    You know, as we see many of the developing countries now have many of the industries. The textile industries that we had you know 50 70 years ago. So the accommodations that worked here years ago now works in that country and now we have the more technologically advance jobs and there’s other accommodations for that type of job. But accommodations are accommodations. It really doesn’t matter what culture you’re in, what geographic you’re in, accommodation is accommodation. You know, it’s a problem solving process by which we really want to keep everyone engaged and then ensure productivity and success for both the individual as well as the business. So.

Debra:                         That’s right. That’s right. And I know that in some countries, we don’t call them accommodations. Some countries like in the UK, they call them adjustments.

Lou:                             Right. That’s right.

Debra:                         And so we’re still talking about the same thing; making sure the employees have what they need to bring their best self to work and it’s a win for the employee and the employer.

Lou:                             Right.

Debra:                         And I’m engaged with UN’s international labor organization, the Global Business Disability Network and…

Lou:                             Yes.

Debra:                         We should all facilitate some conversations because they have 22 multinational corporations at there committed to this. And so, I think a lot of employers are very confused on how to really accommodate individuals. Especially when the individuals become disabled as they’re working for them. So, I just really appreciate your work. So, the last question I’ll ask you Lou is, how can people find out more about the Job Accommodation Network? Your websites, your social media.

Lou:                   , you can go to our website. jan@jan in terms of Twitter and also our email. You can also call 800-526-7234 at nine to five Monday through Friday. And you can get program assistant to ask you what kind of issue that you’re dealing with and then you go to our special teams.


                                    It’s the same process if you use Skype, text, online chat.  All comes through a central group of program assistants who then send it out to our specialty teams. So, all of those various ways and all that contact information too is right on the front page of And also, just to know, in that connect box where you see all of the ways that you can connect with us, that too, there’s a link there to our accommodation toolkit.


                                    So if you’re one of those employers that doesn’t have a good infrastructure accommodation infrastructure in place and you want to start looking just to get your feet wet a little bit maybe before you even talk to us. Or, you’re one of these companies, a very large company, you’ve had a good process in place for decade or more 20 years and you’re refreshing your process and you wanted to make sure that you’re embracing all the best practices. And I’d encourage you to go to; go on to the right hand side of the site towards the top, you see connect with JAN and go to the toolkit.


                                    Just explore the toolkit a little bit. Three drawers; one for recruiters and supervisors and the tools that they need to do their job and then there’s one for subject matter experts or diversity and inclusion people to give them the resources they need and then there’s a drawer for individuals with disabilities and employees with disabilities and allies of individuals with disabilities so you’ll find a lot of tools there. All developed in collaboration with our larger customers.

Debra:                         Right.

Lou:                             And one thing that I want to mention there too if we have a minute is we’ve been producing training videos on some of the most challenging situations that come up during the interactive process.

Debra:                         Wow.

Lou:                             And we’ve produce six of the training videos now. Deborah Dagit Diversity, Deb Dagit has been assisting with us, consulting with us, just absolutely top rate…

Debra:                         Brilliant brilliant diversity.

Lou:                             Absolutely. She used to be the chief diversity officer at Merck. [Andy Houghton] [PH 0:46:18.4] is doing the video. And then what we’ve done is they’re going… many of the employers from the Going for the Gold program that’s been so successful from the USBLN, they’re willing to engage with us. So, they really look at the… they really look at the scripts and they make sure that they’re authentic.


                                    Two hallmarks of the training videos; one authenticity to the workplace and really what we hear about are the issues in the workplace and they check at those who first check it and then always we engage a number of individuals with disabilities that are in the training videos. And we make sure that everything are very respectful. Of course they’re audio described, captioned so fully accessible for everyone.

Debra:                         Right. Always fully accessible.

Lou:                             Always.

Debra:                         Deb Dagit. Deb Dagit was a former guest on the program.

Lou:                             Oh. Okay.

Debra:                         I recommend people go and watch the episode because she is brilliant. And [Andy Houghton] [PH 0:47:18.8], he’s a very very very talented documenter and he is a marketing company and very talented and been a leader in our field for a long time so that’s really really interesting. So, Lou, thank you so much for being on the program. I know you’re dad and your mom, they have to been so proud of you. I know I’m proud of you. So, thank you thank you for everything you do.

Lou:                             I appreciate our friendship. Thanks very much for inviting me. Great opportunity. Thank you.

Debra:                         Thank you so much Lou.

Lou:                             Alright.

Debra:                         Okay.

Lou:                             Buh-bye now.

Debra:                         Bye everyone.

[outro music]


You’ve been listening to Human Potential at Work with Debra Ruh. To learn more about Debra and how she can help your organization visit If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and you want to make sure that you don’t miss any future epsiodes, go to itunes and subscribe to Human Potential at Work. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll be back next week with a new episode.