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Devin D. Thorpe

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IBM and West Virginia University’s Center for Disability Inclusion Unveil Mobile Workplace Accommodation Case Management App

The Center for Disability Inclusion and IBM to preview app at the 2017 M-Enabling Summit

The Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) app is designed to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and streamline the disability accommodation process at various phases of the employment cycle. (Credit: IBM and West Virginia University)

Press Release – Armonk, N.Y. and Morgantown, W.V. – 12 Jun 2017: IBM (NYSE: IBM) and West Virginia University’s Center for Disability Inclusion (CDI) today announced they are developing a first generation mobile workplace accommodation case management app to help U.S. businesses create inclusive workplaces for employees with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20.4 percent of people with disabilities were employed in March 2017, as opposed to 68.7 percent of people without disabilities. Therefore, creating better support for job applicants and employees is critical to creating a diverse pool of talent in the workplace, optimizing the productivity of every worker, and increasing job satisfaction.

The Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) app is being designed to help increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities and streamline the disability accommodation process at various phases of the employment cycle. It will support talent management, human resources, and/or accommodation staff to create inclusive workplaces by facilitating the process of accommodating applicants, candidates, and employees. The app will also enable service providers by helping people with disabilities to better manage the accommodation process.

Users of the MAS app will be able to manage requests for workplace accommodation in real time from iOS and Android tablets or smartphones. The app will provide users with a suite of fillable, accessible forms and the capability to store, print, and export records that can be imported into enterprise information systems. IBM AbilityLabÔ Mobile Accessibility Checker, an automated testing solution to help strengthen the accessibility features of mobile applications, is being used to help MAS conform to accessibility standards.

“With new technologies, such as cognitive computing, voice recognition, haptics, wearables, location-based services, and machine learning, businesses have more opportunities to help provide comprehensive and effective accommodations to allow employees with disabilities to achieve their full potential,” said Dr. Ruoyi Zhou, Director of IBM Accessibility Research. “Collaborating with the CDI on MAS will help employers create a more inclusive workplace that empowers and engages employees.”

“The MAS app will leverage the deep knowledge and tools of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a leading source of free and expert guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues that is managed by the CDI,” said Lou Orslene, MAS Project Manager and JAN Co-Director.

“With a solid business case, employers are increasingly seeking and retaining talented employees with disabilities,” said Dr. DJ Hendricks, Director of CDI. “The mobile accommodation solution will provide employers with the technology and tools needed to effectively hire and retain members of this still largely untapped talent pool.”

MAS can be used across the entire organization. For example, the Talent Acquisition staff can use the app to document and forward an accommodation request to employee relations; an employee can use the forms built into the app to initiate a request for an accommodation; or, the accommodation staff can provide case management and tracking capabilities while guiding an accommodation specialist through best practices for providing a specific accommodation.

MAS also provides users with information regarding emerging policies and best practices for workplace accommodation, developed from JAN’s vast knowledgebase. JAN’s guidance is built into the app to provide users with resources to help ensure the most inclusive accommodation process, while also providing the case management capability to capture any accommodation efforts being made. In addition, the app will provide functionality to contact JAN for coaching on the accommodation process or a specific accommodation solution.

MAS app availability

MAS will be previewed at the 2017 M-Enabling Summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.

An iOS version of the app is expected to be available through the App Store by late 2017; while an Android version is expected to be available in 2018.

Funding for MAS was provided by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). The MAS development process was informed by members of the U.S. Business Leadership Network, the National Business and Disability Council at the Viscardi Center, American Association of People with Disabilities, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Disability Management Employer Coalition.

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