April 2019, Vol. 5, No. 3
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers
Hand graphic composed of a word cloud about employment safety
Just how safe is your workplace? In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act to keep American workers safe. In spite of efforts to reduce work-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities, employees are still getting hurt. In 2014, nearly 5,000 workers were killed on the job, and more than 3.7 million were injured or became ill; and the rate of workplace injury among employees in vocational rehabilitation programs is 60% higher than that of injured workers as a whole.

Work place safety includes:

  • Physical safety
  • Emotional safety
  • Emergency preparedness
If you see a sharp box cutter, a chemical spill, or a tall ladder, you know the situation could be dangerous. But what happens when the unsafe condition is hard to spot?

What happens when the unsafe condition is bullying?

Thirty five percent (35%) of employees report workplace bullying. Bullying on the job can make a workplace unsafe; it can cause depression, anxiety, stress, and physical harm.

This video from the American Psychological Association describes how to spot and manage a bully at work.

Circle icon with wrench and screwdriver graphic
Emergency Plans at Work

All employees should feel safe at work. Too often, however, the needs of people with disabilities are not considered in emergency planning.

To help address this problem, the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the US Department of Labor (ODEP), has developed resources to help individuals, organizations, and employers create emergency preparedness plans that take the needs of people with disabilities into account.
Evacuation plan graphic maze with entrance and exit
Here are some general considerations:

  • Ensure that all phases of emergency management consider the needs of people with varying disabilities (e.g. vision, mobility, developmental, psychiatric, hearing).
  • Obtain support and commitment from senior-level management.
  • Involve building managers, safety and security personnel, first responders, managers, and the disability community.
  • Work with adjacent businesses and agencies to avoid conflicts regarding evacuation routes and assembly areas.
  • Define, agree upon, and communicate the steps for evaluating an emergency and taking subsequent action.
  • Ensure that necessary procedures, equipment, signage, and supports are in place to safely evacuate (or get to safety) all employees. Consider the location of individuals with disabilities’ workspaces and the availability of accessible means of egress. Consider locating the workspaces of people with mobility or visual impairments on the first floor if possible.
  • Determine appropriate situations for elevator use in an emergency.
  • Develop a support network of several individuals without disabilities who are willing to assist employees with disabilities in an emergency.
  • Practice! Each drill should be conducted as seriously as an actual emergency. Practice provides the opportunity to determine what works and what does not.
  • Planning is an ongoing effort, and plans and associated documents should never be regarded as final or complete. They must be evaluated and updated on a regular basis.
  • Want more? Read all the recommendations here.

Personal Emergency Plans

It is not enough to count on your employer to be ready to provide assistance in an emergency. Employees themselves must be ready. Here are some steps to help in the planning process:

  • Create a support network. Keep a contact list in a watertight container in your go bag or emergency kit.
  • Be ready to explain to first responders that you need to evacuate and choose to go to a shelter with your family, service animal, caregiver, personal assistant, and your assistive technology devices and supplies.
  • Plan ahead for accessible transportation that you may need for evacuation or getting to a medical clinic. Work with local services, public transportation or paratransit to identify your local or private accessible transportation options.
  • Inform your support network where you keep your emergency supplies; you may want to consider giving one member a key to your house or apartment.
  • Contact your city or county government’s emergency management agency or office. Many local offices keep lists of people with disabilities so they can be helped quickly in a sudden emergency.
  • If you are dependent on dialysis or other life-sustaining treatment, know the location and availability of more than one facility.
  • If you use medical equipment in your home that requires electricity, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you can prepare for its use during a power outage.
  • Wear medical alert tags or bracelets.
  • If you have a communication disability, make sure your emergency information notes the best way to communicate with you.
  • If you use an augmentative communications device or other assistive technologies, plan how you will evacuate with the devices or how you will replace equipment if lost or destroyed. Keep model information and note where the equipment came from (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance, etc.)
  • If you use assistive technology devices, such as white canes, CCTV, text-to-speech software, keep information about model numbers and where you purchased the equipment, etc.
  • Plan how you will communicate with others if your equipment is not working, including laminated cards with phrases, pictures or pictograms.
  • Keep Braille/text communication cards, if used, for 2-way communication.
  • Check out this resource for those with diabetes.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services online tool helps people locate and access their electronic health records from a variety of sources. Visit HHS's HealthIt.gov website to learn more.
  • Plan for children with disabilities and people who may have difficulty in unfamiliar or chaotic environments.
  • Read more about individual planning at the at Ready.gov.
Circle icon with maginfying glass graphic
Workplace Safety and the ADA

We love this resource from EARN, Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion. In this article, EARN outlines the interface between ADA and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules and regulations.

Did you know:

Some OSHA-required tests for pre-employment could result in the discovery of a previously undisclosed disability, or to a claim of discrimination from people who feel they were excluded from employment opportunities based on a disability. The ADA places restrictions on the types and timing of testing allowed, which should be considered when engaging in required OSHA testing.

Under the ADA:

  • Pre-employment medical testing is prohibited.
  • Post-offer testing is permissible, but only if the test is consistent with business necessity, and given to all employees in the same job category.
  • Periodic testing of employees is also permissible, when necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of employees or the general public.

push pin with talking face illustration
Communicating with Your Boss

From safe lifting techniques, to workplace bullying, to chemical exposure at work, to ergonomic considerations, and much more, staying safe takes skills. As part of transition planning, youth with disabilities need the skills to identify a problem or unsafe situation, know who to go to for help, and know how to communicate the problem in a way that invites action.

Raising a workplace safety concern with your boss might seem like a daunting prospect. Not doing so, however, can mean a dangerous incident goes unresolved, potentially injuring you or your workmates.

It could be something like a machine missing protective guards, poor housekeeping posing a trip hazard, or seeing someone being bullied. Or maybe you feel that your training for a particular task was inadequate, and that you need more help to do it safely.

Whatever the issue, it’s important to remember that every worker has a right to work in fair, just and safe workplaces. Your employer is obligated (as far as is reasonably practicable) to provide such an environment, but you still have to do your part and speak up before it’s too late.
Megaphone illustration with words Speak Up coming out.
In most workplaces, your first action should be telling a supervisor, health and safety officer, or union representative about your safety concern. You might feel intimidated or awkward, but the few minutes it takes to talk – and hopefully find a solution – is nothing compared to the impact of an injury.

We turned to Safeworkwrap.com for these 7 tips for talking to your boss about safety.

  1. Before anything goes wrong, ask how a health and safety issue should be raised. Your boss may have a hazard reporting procedure in place.
  2. Be positive and speak out of concern for you and your co-workers’ safety.
  3. Be polite, respectful and avoid confrontational words.
  4. Try not to put the boss on the spot.
  5. Don’t blame your co-workers.
  6. Keep your body language in check – for example, don’t cross your arms or point your finger.
  7. If possible, suggest a potential solution for the problem you have raised.

Remember it’s against the law to be fired for raising a work health and safety issue.

Your boss may end up thanking you, as a safer and healthier workplace is one that is more profitable through reduced absenteeism, productivity and compensation claims.

Staying Safe at Work Curriculum Cover page with collage of several pictures of individuals with disabilities at work.
Training Workers with Intellectual Disabilities about Health and Safety on the Job

We love this curriculum produced by University of California, Berkley and the Department of Health and Human Services designed to help workers with I/DD stay safe and healthy on the job. The six-lesson program is intended for supported employment agencies, community vocational rehabilitation programs, high-school transition programs, and other organizations that hire workers with disabilities. The curriculum can help teach the foundational job safety and health skills that all workers need. The curriculum uses highly interactive and fun learning activities to teach the following skills, which are general, transferable, and can apply across all jobs and industries.

Chapters include:

1.   Introduction to Workplace Safety
2.   Looking for Hazards on the Job
3.   Making the Job Safer
4.   Staying Safe in an Emergency at Work
5.   Your Rights and Responsibilities on the Job
6.   Speaking Up When There Is a Problem

The curriculum even includes workplace safety BINGO game boards to keep it fun.

Heather Tomko, RAISE Blog author of Taking Charge of Independence
Taking Charge of Independence

In March, RAISE blogger Heather Tomko writes about independence, and her experiences living in a college dorm, away from her parents for the first time. She learned a lot and is glad to have had the experience, but there were plenty of speed bumps along the way. Heather writes:

“After never having anyone else help me but my parents, I realized I had no idea how to explain to this new person everything that I needed done and the way that I wanted it done.”

Conferences and Webinars
April 10, 2019 @ 1PM
Think College presents a webinar:
Transition: Developing Effective College-based Transition Services.

May 6, 2019
RAISE Summit
Charlotte University Place, Charlottesville, NC
Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.
Executive Editor:
Peg Kinsell
Visit our Website:
RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.
US Department of Education official seal
RAISE is funded by the US Department of Education to provide technical assistance to, and coordination of, the 7 PTI centers (RSA-PTIs). It represents collaboration between the nation's two Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) and the seven Regional PTACs.