Are you an employer who has ever wondered how you can possibly accommodate a particular disability of an employee?  The disability is just so severe or unusual (or a "mental disability" is involved) that you can think of no way to accommodate it.   Never fear–at least not yet.  Try calling the Job Accommodation Network ("JAN") at 800-526-7234.  As an attorney counseling management, I have often called the JAN myself and been surprised at the possible solutions they have suggested to accommodate an employee’s disability. It’s always worth at least the free phone call.  

You should also know that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy ("ODEP") has awarded a cooperative agreement to Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, School of Industrial and Labor Relations in Ithaca, N.Y., to establish a national technical assistance center for employers on employment of people with disabilities.  The purpose of the center will be to conduct innovative research, assist ODEP in developing demand-side policy, and share best practices with employers on the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of people with disabilities.

"Employers must create workplace cultures in which employees with disabilities are as fully integrated and valued as those without disabilities," said Assistant Secretary for Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez.  "The national technical assistance center will be designed to identify how employers can change expectations and open the path to good jobs for people with disabilities."

Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, School of Industrial and Labor Relations will receive $1.6 million to lead a consortium for the center, which will include the AFL-CIO Center for Green Jobs, the Altarum Institute, the Conference Board, the Institute of Educational Leadership, the National Business and Disability Council, Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center and the U.S. Business Leadership Network.  A 12-month period of performance is in effect on this cooperative agreement.  It is not clear when they will be handling employer requests or what the procedure will be.  We’ll stay tuned.

Currently, employers can also obtain ADA Technical Assistance from the National Network of ADA Centers at  800-949-4232, or from Cornell’s "Employment and Disability Institute".  California employers can also obtain free "accommodation" advice from the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (Pacific ADA Center) based in Oakland, CA, online or at 800-949-4232.