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August conference call covers employment accommodations

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Participants in the MSplus August conference call received a treasure trove of information from Melanie Whetzel, Job Accommodation Network (JAN) consultant.

JAN, a service of The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, describes itself as: Your Resource for Workplace Productivity Enhancements and Reasonable Accommodation Solutions. The agency offers free consulting services for people with physical or intellectual limitations that affect employment.

And indeed it is a most valuable resource for both employees and employers. JAN offers one-on-one consultation about job accommodations and information about a person's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related laws. As stated on their Web site (, JAN's mission is to facilitate the employment and retention of workers with disabilities by providing employers, employment providers, people with disabilities, their family members and other interested parties with information on job accommodations, entrepreneurship and related subjects.

During the conference call, Whetzel described the agency's services, which are outlined on their Web site. You can request information from JAN through the Web site (, by email ( or by telephone (800.526.7234). Another contact option is JAN on Demand, an online form on their Web site. Many articles on the Web site are in Spanish.

The JAN Web site lists disabilities from A to Z and by topic. For people with MS and cancer, they can research accommodations under both health issues. Medical issues such as fatigue or depression experienced by persons with cancer and MS may lead to asking for accommodations.

Whetzel gave examples of what kind of accommodations may be appropriate for people with MS and cancer:
• A more flexible schedule
• Longer breaks
• Reduced work-site temperature.
• Eliminating or reducing physical stress.
• Relocation of a workstation so as to not walk as far
• Labor saving techniques

Whetzel discussed how cognitive issues could be accommodated for people with MS and cancer:
• Needing written job instruction because of memory problems
• Prioritization of job assignments
• Memory aids and to do lists •
 Minimizing distractions with own office or cubicle

Whetzel covered issues involved with disclosures at the work place. "You can simply tell your supervisor that you have a disability. You don't have to put it on an employment application or disclose it in an interview. It doesn't matter if the onset is three months or three years after you were employed. If your condition has progressed, you may need accommodations."

Whetzel gave examples as to why you may need to disclose your condition to your employer:
• If the cafeteria is on the second floor and there is no elevator. You need somewhere where you can eat your lunch.
• Training sessions must be accessible.
• You are having a period of relapse, and your medical condition is affected.

Whetzel said, "Starting a conversation with your supervisor may be difficult but you may need to have one. Your disclosure can be as simple a statement as: 'I have having trouble getting to work on time because of a medical condition, and I need to talk to you about that.'"

She suggested that before you approach your employer about accommodations, provide your doctor with a copy of your job description so he or she can check off what you can or cannot do.

Once you make your disclosure, your employer should discuss with you the accommodations, what you need and how they can help you.

Referring to the JAN Web site, Whetzel said the topic section contains information on insurance, employee benefits and other issues. If a business has15 or more employees, they must comply with ADA.
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