U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy Signs Alliance Agreement with National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities

News Release
ODEP News Release: [05/07/2012]
Contact Name: Bennett Gamble
Phone Number: (202) 693-4661
Release Number: 12-0889-NAT

Agreement supports increased hiring of individuals with disabilities in health care industry

WASHINGTON — Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathleen Martinez and National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities President Beth Marks have signed an alliance agreement during National Nurses Week to promote the employment of individuals with disabilities in the health care industry.

Working as a Nurse With a Disability

Working as a Nurse With a Disability
by Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson

What are your options if you aspire to be a nurse and are disabled? What would you do if you were already working as a nurse and became disabled? Whether you are living with obvious disabilities such as limb differences or paralysis, or less visible ones such as a chronic illness, sensory impairment or post-traumatic stress disorder, there are few reasons that would prevent you from successfully completing a nursing program, or continuing your career. The field is diverse and there is a place for nearly everyone.

Accommodating the Communication Needs of Deaf-Blind Employees

Accommodating the Communication Needs of Deaf-Blind Employees

by Teresa Goddard and Elisabeth Simpson, Job Accommodation Network, Volume 10, Issue 2, Second Quarter, 2012

When you think of an individual who is deaf-blind (also known as deaf-blindness, blind-deaf, dual sensory impaired, or combined vision and hearing loss), do you think of someone who is fully deaf and fully blind? Helen Keller might be an important historical figure that comes to mind. In reality, while there are individuals who are fully deaf and fully blind, many people who are deaf-blind have some usable vision and hearing. For example, some individuals may have grown up with some degree of vision loss and experienced a change in their hearing later in life, or vice versa. Other individuals may have been born with mild to moderate deficits in both vision and hearing. Others may have experienced trauma or illness at some point in their lives that resulted in both vision and hearing loss while older adults are likely to experience age-related vision and hearing impairments.

Workplace accommodation needs for deaf-blind employees will depend on the setting in which individuals will be working, their specific job tasks, and their unique hearing and vision needs. Typical concerns may include: equal access to information presented in meetings and trainings, effective workplace communication, access to printed materials, computer access, and emergency preparedness. For instance, the following accommodation scenarios involving workers who are deaf-blind show how reasonable accommodations can support effective communication in the workplace and allow equal access to employment opportunities.

  • Providing Equal Access to an Interview: A federal employer provided an interpreter who specialized in interpreting for individuals who are deaf-blind to accommodate a candidate who needed an interpreter to participate in a job interview.
  • Accommodating a Presenter who is Deaf-Blind: A research scientist had profound deafness and low vision. He needed to present research findings at a meeting. The employee created slides using a large font size and a high contrast theme. The employer provided an interpreter who used techniques for interpreting for Deaf-Blind individuals including standing within four feet of the individual to communicate questions and comments from the audience. A second interpreter voiced the employee’s signs for the hearing attendees.
  • Communicating with Coworkers: A student employee at a federal agency needed to interact with her team to plan and implement projects, but face-to-face communication was difficult for her and she had difficulty hearing on the telephone. Her most reliable method of communication was instant messaging (IM). The employer set up a secure IM client so that all team members could discuss projects via chat. The intern successfully exchanged ideas about team projects with team members who also found the chat logs useful.
  • Communicating with Clients: A consultant usually used email and IM to interact with clients remotely, but used a Deaf-Blind Communicator (DBC), a device which allows a Braille user to exchange messages with a sighted communication partner, to facilitate communication during face to face meetings when an appropriate interpreter was not available. He also used the device to interact with staff at restaurants when entertaining clients at lunch meetings.
  • Communicating with Public: An employee at a doctor’s office needed to ask intake questions at a check in counter. The employee had progressive hearing loss and was a Braille user. A JAN consultant suggested exploring use of devices that would allow the employee to type her responses on a keyboard or Braille keyboard and receive replies via Braille. Some examples of such products include the DBC, an Interpretype with a Braille display, or other interactive communication system.

Job seekers and employees who are deaf-blind are likely to be very knowledgeable about their accommodation needs, especially equipment and techniques that have served them well in other settings. Employers should be prepared to work with the individual, and likewise, individuals should be open to discussing their own ideas as well as effective alternatives. Remember that accommodations may be needed to allow effective communication during this process. Many helpful resources are available to assist in determining effective accommodation including: medical providers, vocational rehabilitation and other state agencies, assistive technology projects, and of course JAN.

For more JAN resources, visit JAN’s A to Z for:

You can also contact a JAN consultant to discuss accommodation ideas and get targeted suggestions. Additional resources include:

– Teresa Goddard, MS, Senior Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

– Elisabeth Simpson, MS, Senior Consultant, Motor / Sensory Team

JAN Accommodation and Compliance Series: Nurses with Disabilities

Occupation and Industry Series:
Accommodating Nurses with Disabilities

JAN’s Occupation and Industry Series is designed to help employers determine effective accommodations for their employees with disabilities and comply with title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each publication in the series addresses a specific occupation or industry and provides information about that occupation or industry, ADA issues, accommodation ideas, and resources for additional information.

A Chance to See Disabilities as Assets

A Chance to See Disabilities as Assets
New York Times
Published: February 4, 2012

MANY people know of Berkeley, Calif., as the birthplace, in the 1960’s, of the Free Speech Movement. Fewer people know that Berkeley also played a major role in the disability rights movement. It was here, also in the ’60s, that Ed Roberts — a student with quadriplegia — became an outspoken advocate of the cause.

Nurses With Disabilities: Another Minority Group

by Ruth Carol
People with disabilities are one of the most underrepresented voices in nursing. But like nurses of color, they have a lot to say about overcoming discrimination and barriers to take their rightful place in the profession.

Some people who dream of nursing careers are told they will never make it through nursing school. Some nurses who hear about a potential dream job are told they won’t even be considered a candidate for the position. Some are even told they have no business pursuing or continuing a career in health care altogether.

Although many of these nurses are not members of racial or ethnic minority groups, they are still a minority within the nursing profession. They are nurses with disabilities.

Geriatric Nurse, Senior Day Health Program

Geriatric Nurse, Senior Day Health Program

Luckily, as a result of being refused entrance to a hospital school of nursing at seventeen, I later graduated from the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) with a BSN, RN, and Public Health Nursing certificate. This story is a description of my 10 years as Director of Medical Services (think Head Nurse) at a community-based, free-standing, day program for the “less-than-independent” elderly. These years (1986-96) happened to coincide with my vision loss due to low tension glaucoma, its treatment, and Sjogren’s syndrome.

The Story:

Nurses with Disabilities Find On-the-Job Support

by Linda Childers
While working as a nurse in today’s healthcare world can be stressful enough, nurses with disabilities can face additional on-the-job challenges, including colleagues who may not feel they are capable of doing the work and needing assistance in a job that often requires strength and stamina. However, by making some adjustments, nurses with disabilities can continue to practice their profession.

Labor & Delivery Nurse

Labor & Delivery Nurse
by Leora Heifetz

My name is Leora Heifetz and I have had a visual disability since birth. I work as a registered nurse (RN) on a labor and delivery unit in a level three hospital in the Chicago Metropolitan area and on a daily basis I am engaged in directly caring for patients. My job requires me to monitor women during labor and the delivery of their newborn baby. Upon delivery, I am involved with caring for both mother and child, until they are considered to be stable and are transferred to another unit in the hospital for the remainder of their stay.