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Curb Cuts in the Virtual Community Telework and Persons With Disabilities Hesse 1995

Curb Cuts in the Virtual Community Telework and Persons With Disabilities Hesse 1995

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Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 1995

Curb Cuts in the Virtual Community: Telework and Persons with Disabilities
Bradford W. Hesse, PhD American Institutes for Research
Curb cuts are the mmps set into sidewalks to make buildings more accessible to persons in wheelchairs. With fowthought, they are easy to install, they provide accessfor persons with physical impairmenti, and at the same time they may be used by able-bodiedpersons for pushing strollers, shopping carts, and the like. Just like curb cuts in the physical communily, telework in the virtual community may be used to break down barriers of access for persons with disabilities. This paper addresses how and why telework rnq be used as a work-place accommodation. It takes as a point of illustration a program initiated by the U.S. Department ofDefense to extend telecommuting arrangements to its employees with short- and long-term disabilities. Recommendations are given for how to represent the needs of persons with disabilities in the design of telework enabling technologies. who have physical disabilities, especially those who rely on wheelchairs to get around. The solution is to design our communities with features that are equally usable by people with a wide range of physical abilities, a principle referred to as “universal design” [ 141. Using the example of a curb, one of the most frequently cited illustrations of universal design is the “curb cut.” Curb cuts are the innocuous ramps set into the pathways outside of public buildings. These ramps not only make the buildings more accessible to people with wheelchairs but they can also be used by anyone pushing a stroller, a shopping cart, or a hand iruck, or anyonewho may simply want to avoid the strain of stepping up over curbs. The design solution is the perfect compromise. With forethought, curb cuts are easy to install and yet they are welcomed additions not just for people in wheelchairs but for all community members. The purpose of this paper is to consider similar adaptations -” curb cuts”if you will-in the virtual community. It begins by examining how telework itself may be considered a type of “curb cut” in the conventional organization; that is, how and why telework can be used as an adaptive tool to improve employment options for persons with disabilities. It follows by presenting a case history of how telework was used to improve the working conditions of civilian employees with disabilities working for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). It concludes with recommendations for fi.n?her adapting the practice of telework to meet the needs of persons with disabilities.

1 The Virtual


With the onset and progression of the information revolution, we are seeing the development of a new kind of work community. This is a community that spans time [8, lo] and geography [9], a community that supplements buildings and streets with personal computers and information superhighways [2]. This is the virtual community [22] enabled by technologiesdesigned to move information rather than goods and people [ 171. Life in this community is new, evolving, and relatively unfettered by previous history. Decisions that we make now, as charter members of that community, will leave a lasting impression on the norms, expectations, and mores that will govern its life for decades to come. At the dawn of the virtual work community, there are a number of questions we must ask ourselves. One of the first is: “How do we make this community equally accessible to all of its members’ In our physical environments we have ?” learned that the way we design our structures may inadvertently have an impact on who will use them. We have learned, for example, that something as simple as a curb, designed to keep water off yards and sidewalks, can pose insurmountableobstaclesto those of our community members

2 Telework

as a “Curb


In this paper, telework is defined as the overarching practice of substituting communications technology and/or computer technology for actual travel to work or a central office. The term encompasses the notion of telecommuting [18], home-based employment, flexiplace, work from community-based telework centers, remote work, and work conductedwhile traveling. There has been speculation among organizational researchers that, because of the nature of telework and teleworkenabling technologies, the practice may be used as an adaptationto accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. The argument begins with an examination of changes in the way people work.

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Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences -


2.1 The Changing Demands of Work
At the height of the industrial age, when the focus was on creating mass quantities of tangible products through industrial technology, workers by necessity were gathered into machine-intensive, collective environments. The machines that were introduced during the industrial age were designed to replace or augment physical labor. The workers who operated the machines were selected on the basis of their physical ability to meet the grueling demands of factory work or the assemblyline. Under these conditions, a person with a disability was o&n seen as a superfhrous drain on the economy: a ma&nctioning cog in the larger machinery of mass production. Changesin the market place, occuring simultaneously with changes in technology, transformed the nature of work. Oversaturated markets, increased competition, and a global economy were all pressures that favored a new organizational envimnment, an e&onrnent basedon information rather than capital [26]. The technologies introduced to support this new environment were different as well. They served not to replace physical labor, as was the case in the industrial revolution, but to empower users in processing information [28]. Under theseconditions a person with a disability whose intellect was sharp and intact would be in the perfect position to use the new technologiesto become an indispensable player in a new workforce.

technology led one commentator to predict that government support for telework among employees with disabilities would pay for itself dramatically by reducing money spent on disability benefits [27]. In the United States, the designers of a plan to make telecommuting arrangements available to all Federal employees suggested that telework could be used to get “injured employees back to work and to take them off of workers’ compensation roles” [20]. In the context of these justifications, at least two formal programs were introduced in the United States to give persons with disabilities more equitable access to employment opportunities. In 1990-9 1, the Tennessee Valley Authority instituted a program to support workers with spinal damage, paralysis,and other disabling conditions as they worked from home [25]. Around the same time, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., established a systematic program to support home work as part of a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation program. Both programs reported positive improvements in their abilities to meet the vocational rehabilitation needs of their constituencies. Encouraged by the promise of these programs and with effarts at the Federal level to establish flexible work arrangements as a work option for Federal employees, the DOD set out to establish flexiplace as a work option for its employees with disabilities in 1993. That program, and its implications for telework as an adaptive work practice, are described below.

2.2 Electronically Distributed Organizations
As organizationsconverted to an information age economy, they also decentralized their organizational power and authority. The move was to take out the inefficiency of making decisionshigh up the organizational hierarchy, away from real time market pressures, and to put decision making power as near the front line of operations as possible. This, coupled with advances in communications technologies, allowed organizationsto distribute themselves geographically [ 15, 161, What emerged was a new type of organization that must rely increasinglyon telework, in one form or another, to conduct its business [3,4]. This was the electronically distributed work community: the virtual community.

3 The DOD Flexiplace Project
On April 19,1993, the managerof the DOD’ Program for s People with Disabilities formally introduced flexiplace as work option for the civilian workforce under the auspices of the Department of Defense. The notion of flexiplace came out of etlbrts initiated by the U.S. Government’ Oflice of Persons nel Management and General Service Agency to make flexible workplace arrangements available to members of the Federal workforce. Flexiplace is similar to the notion of telecommuting, which allows employees to substitute work at home for work in the office, but the name was coined to imply that employees should be given the flexibility to choose between working away from or working in the office. The DOD program grew out of a larger effort to create new opportunities for personswith disabilities in the DOD civilian worktbme [7]. The goal was to create a diverse workforce in which at least 2% of all civilians employed would be employees with disabilities, Flexiplace was seen as a way of meeting that goal by offering an attractive work alternative to prospective employees. During the uncertain period of base closures, reductions in force, and changes in administration during the early 1990’ the DOD altered its goal from creating new s opportunities to enhancing current positions.

2.3 Telework as an Adaptive Strategy
With these concurrent developments-increasing value placed on knowledge workers irrespective of physical ability and an overall move to distributed operations-the time became right to suggest that telework could be offered as an adaptive work strategy for persons with disabilities. In the Netherlands,a rising number of older and disabled employees emerging at the same time as an increase in electronic network


Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 1995

3.1 The Flexiplace Steering Committee
To supervise introduction of the flexiplace program department wide, the DOD flexiplace coordinator formed a steering committee of Defense component representatives who would work from the top down to support flexiplace throughout each of their represented constituencies. The steeringcommittee was composed of representatives from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and each of 17 independent defense agencies. StatT from the American Institutes for Research, a not-for-profit behavioral science research institute, served as facilitators on the project and worked with the committee to oversee program implementation. The first goal of the project was to establish an informal demonstration program by which the committee could evaluate advantages of, and obstacles to, using telework as a workplace accommodation. During the demonstration phase, members of the flexiplace steering committee identified employees who either had already been benefitting &urn the use of flexible workplace arrangements to accommodate their disability or would be willing to begin using some form of telework on a trial basis. The flexiplace steering committee met monthly during the demonstration phase of the project. During that time it monitored the progress of participant identification, identified and provided solutions to problems in the program, and developed strategies for encouraging the program’ wider s dissemination. Guests were invited to attend meetings on an ad hoc basis as the occasion warranted. Guests included representativesfrom the Computer Electronics Accommodations Program, invited to help overcome the logistical problemswithcomputer acfzommcdationsin the home; representatives from the Department of Labor, called in to help identify potentially eligible participants from the worker’ compensas tion rolls; and guests from the Office of Personnel Management, invited to share results of the Federal flexiplace pilot project, In April 1994, work on the demonstration project ended and the program transitioned into an ongoing, supported, work option. Following are results of the demonstration project.

though, many participants worked as information systems specialistsand maintained modem links to their offices’ main tixme or Local Area Network. In all, 34 employees registered for inclusion in the demonstration project. To quality, employees needed only to obtain permission tiom their immediate supervisors after which they completed and submitted a participant inhormation form. Supetvisors were instructed to extend flexiplace privileges to employees who had obtained a performance review rating of “fully satisfactoty”or better, since poor employees at the office would make poor telecommuters. Participant information forms were submitted to the American Institutes for Research for tabulation and analysis. Participant characteristics as obtained from the form are depicted in Table 1. From Table 1, the 34 employees in the demonstration project appeared to be primarily female (74%), working principally under General Schedule (GS) pay plans, and with an average time on the job of 7.69 years. It is unclear at this time why a disproportionate number of females was in the group. One contributing factor was the high number of employeeson short-term disability who were working at home to accommodatecomplications in pregnancy. Approximately 24% of those in the project indicated that they had been receiving worker’ compensation before starting flexiplace, a s statistic with cost savings implications for DOD, and 6% (2 employees)indicated that they had been considering disability retirement. About one fifth of the workforce (2 1%) indicated that they needed special computer adaptations to make their home work station compatible with their office computers in

Table 1. Descriptive


of Pilot Group
26% 74% 76% 12% 12% 7.69 yra. 21% 26% 6% 0% 3% 0% 29% 3% 24% 41%

3.2 Participant Characteristics
To be identified as part of the demonstration project, employees needed to be working in (or be eligible for working in) a flexible workplace arrangement. Relevant flexible arrangements were those that were approved by a supervisor and in which some or all of the employee’ work s week was spent away from the primary duty station. Employees would quaI@ for inclusion if they worked from home, from a telework center, or from a nursing home or independent living center. Employees were not required to maintain specialized telecommunications technologies away from the office other than a standard telephone. Not surprisingly,

Gender Male Female Pay Plan General Schedule General Manager Other Time on Job Needs adaptive computer equipment Was on worker’ compensation s Considering disability retirement Type of Disability Deafness Blindness Missing Extremities Paralysis Mental Illness Short-term disability Other

Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences -


teims of eons for their disabilities (e.g., to include voice recognition soi?ware or specialized keyboards). The most commonly reported disabling condition in the project was paralysis; next was short-term disabilities. Both are logical. For participants with paralysis, flexiplace removes the burden imposed by having to negotiate specialized transportation needs. Moreover, persons with paralysis frequently employ personal assistants to help them in their work at home or in supported living arrangements. These ass&ants know the personal needs of the employee and have already developed a very effective working relationship with them. In some cases, personal assistants can be even more effective at helping the employee stay productive than office staffcan. Flexiplace allows employees with paralysis to make the most of their personal assistants along with specialized BccOmmOdatiollS the home while forgoing the daily burden in of commuting to work. Personswith short-term disabilities are also well suited for telework arrangements.As described by Hesse and Grantham [4], flexiplace does not always have to be considered a longterm arrangement to be highly effective. One of the great advantages of establishing a &commuting policy within an organization is being able to give employees the flexibility to cope with short-term life disruptions.

3.3 Qualitative Evaluations (Telephone Interviews)
To evaluatethe effectiveness of flexiplace, semi-structured interviews were conducted with all 34 participants in the demonstration project and when feasible with participants’ supervisors. Most interviews were conducted by telephone, but when pm&red by the respondent alternate means such as facsimile transmission or electronic mail were used. In each case, an interviewer followed an 1 l-page written protocol designed to elicit a full description of the telecommuting experience Interviewers were given the discretion to follow the protocol exactly or to paraphrase, given the distinctive demandsofeach session. Typical interviews lasted anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes and were audiotaped for later review. Following the interviews, interviewers took the time to summarize primary points and important quotes in a two- to three-pageindividual synopsis. The audiotapes and synopses were analyzed with respect to (a) reasons for accepting flexiplace as a work place alternative, (b) advantages of the practice, and (c) problems experienced. Each of these areas is described in greater breadth below.

conditions ranged Corn complicated pregnancies to injured limbs. In each case, working at the O&X while recovering from the disability was so prohibitive that working at home was the only alternative to not working at all. These people ch~fill-time telecommuting arrangements for a short-time duration. As hll time tel ecommuters, they might be expected to be prone to the negative side effects of staying away tiom the office for long periods of time: isolation, disent?anchisement ii-am the WC& c4nrimunity, or missed opportunities [2 11. To the contrary, employees with short-term disabilities reported being so grateful for not having to drain their sick leave accounts that they found the experience to be quite tolerable. For people with long-term disabilities, reasons for telecommuting were slightly different. These were people for whom innovative work strategies in the face. of personal obstacles had become a way of life. Working remotely away from the office had become a hard-won privilege bestowed through years of exemplary service and consistent negotiation. More often than not, these employees had created part-time telecommuting arrangements for a long-time duration; they would stay home as they needed to accommodate medical demands,to avoid dangerouscommuting conditions, or just to get more work done. For these people, telecommuting was an optimizing strategy to be used as occasion permitted to reassert personal control. Their biggest and unfortunately most consistent obstacles were in fighting perennial battles againstregressivemanagers who believed that work not done in the office was work not done well.

3.5 Advantages of Telework
The biggest advantage of flexiplace, both for persons with short-term and long-term disabilities, was a sense of control over adverse life events. Flexiplace, by its nature, incorporates the best of two alternative work strategies: telecommuting, where one is able to conduct work away Corn the office,‘ and flexitime, where one is able to control the hours during the day in which work is completed. Flexibility in work environment allows employees to minimize disruptions caused by lack of specialized transportation, needs for attendant care, need for medication, and so on. It also provides them with the ability to minimize distractions, as is the case when information workers need to get away from telephones to read, write, or concentrate in other ways. Flexibility in work schedule allows employees to work at the times of day in which they are most productive. This advantage was especially important for employees who, because of physical limitations or the side effects of medications, might feel fatigued after working long stretches. By working at home, these employees could work for a short stretch, rest, and then pick the work back up later in the day when they were feeling rejuvenated. Overwhelmingly, participants and supervisors noted that the increased control

3.4 Reasons for Going on Flexiplace
Reasons for negotiating flexiplace opportunities differed somewhat depending on whether the employee was dealing with a short-term or long-term disability. In the DOD demonstrationproject, 24% reported going on flexiplace work schedulestoaccommodate short-term disabilities. Short-term

Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on SystemSciences - 1995

participants had over their lives led to greater productivity, better health, and increased morale. Other advantages expressed by interviewees included: feeling more relaxed about getting dressed (a big concern for employees who were contin4 to bed part time or who found that BccoRlIILodating casts,prostheses, or braces was fatiguing and time consuming); decreased apprehension over self presentation (people expressed relief in dealing with remote colleagues in such a way that the disability was not a salient issue); sensing an enhanced feeling of independence; and experiencing a heightened sense of community. This last advantagemerits addedemphasis. Employees and supervisors felt that effective telework arrangements were not just the accomplishmentof one person but the result of an entire work unit striving to improve in communication skills, trust, and cooperation.

4 Implications for a Border-less Organization
Much enthusiasmis cutainly warranted about telework and about how the technologies that support it have the potential for breaking down geographic barriers in the global organizations of the 1990’ and beyond. But just as much enthusiasm s is warranted for how telework may have the capacity to bring down barriers of accessto persons of all nations with disabilities. From the Department of Defense pilot program, three implications metit emphasis.

4.1 Enhancing Personal Control
First, telework has the potential of enhancing personal control. When implemented as part of a work policy in organizations, telework frequently carries with it an element of flexibility. Teleworkers have control over where they work and when they work, so long as they manage by objective and goal rather than by process. It is this element of flexibility that is especially suited for many employees with disabilities. Employees with mobility and profound sensory impairments find that commuting to a central offrce can be an unnecessary burden, and a burden that is exacerbated by inclement weather, tratIic, or other obstacles. Telework gives employees the option of minimizing that burden associated with physical commuting when they perceive it as getting in the way of work or morale. Likewise, workers who suffer from a short-term disability or who have been injured on the job find that fulltime work at the office is prohibitively fatiguing and may be actually be forbidden by insurance or a physician. Temporary work at home is an option that allows the injured employee to work as long as they are able, then to rest and resume work as soon as they feel better. Even among nondisabled employees, many teleworkers have reported increased productivity by working during peak performance times [ 131. It should be noted that if a telework program is incorrectly administered it may serve to defeat an employee’ perception s of control and flexibility. Managers who made telecommuting compulsoiy in the 1980s as a way of saving office costs did so at the expense of employee morale and frequently incited the wrath of labor unions [ 193. Likewise, employees who feel compelled to work at home ml1 time without the option of coming into the office often report feeling isolated and excluded from promotional opportunities [23]. With respect to employees with disabilities, managers who insist on full time telecommuting as a way of avoiding workplace accommodation may be taking a social leap backwards from an era of “mainstreaming”to a time of isolation and separation [ 121. What appearsto be important is to provide employees with the flexibility of selecting their work environment, while encouraging a mixed strategyof spending some days in the office and some days at home. From the social psychological literature, flexibility and control have the driving value of enhancing

3.6 Problems with Telework
For most people, socialized by years of working on-site, flexible work arrangementsare still a novel concept that takes “getting used to” by employers and employees alike. Most of the participants in the flexiplace pilot project were early adopters of the practice. For these people, negotiating a working flexiplace arrangement was a struggle, and one that was usually won only with the help of a compassionate champion. Even once an employee had found a sympathetic ear, processing the request for off-site work could drag on as the anomalous request wound its way upward through layers of unsympathetic hierarchies. Another outcome of unfamiliarity is a generalized sense of worry on the part of the employee that the telework arrangement might be perceived by others as an excuse for malingering. As a result, flexiplace employees frequently reported ovmting. All too often they found themselves trying to prove themselves by working longer hours and producing more than their colleagues in the office. This tendency was exacerbated by the fact that in the home there were no clear demarcations between work time and personal time. If unattended, these unclear boundaries in conjunction with anxiety over personal acceptance could set employees up for exploitation and burn-out. Other problems included missed opportunities, lack of equipment and materials (especially over not having the simple supplies, forms, books, or other materials needed to complete work away f?om the office), and disruptions at home. As an illustration of this last point, one employee with hyperocusis (an extreme sensitivity to sounds) found that the noise of her refrigerator going on and off in her home was much more aversive than the din of office noise at work. In those cases where telecommuting arrangements didn’ work, t most employees either returned to the office full time or else mod&d therr arrangementsto include more time in the office than originally planned.

Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 199.5

resilience to aversive events and energizing self-determined behavior [ 11.

4.2 Improving Quality of Life
Second, for persons with disabilities, telework has the potential of improving quality of life. The disabilities community has been especially invested in the use of new technology for improving quality of life [ 111. Although new technologies are arcane and remote for some people, many people with disabilities are thoroughly accustomed to using them to communicatemore effectively with fiends and colleagues, to coordinate their work in groups, and to learn new skills. Because these employees are accustomed to using high technologies,and becausethe virtual community relies on high technologies to mediate communication, telework may have the particular benefit of enhancing personal outcomes for persons with disabilities above and beyond enhancements to other groups. This may especially be the casewhen employees communicate through computer-mediated technologies such as electronic mail and bulletin boards. Computer-mediated communications are text-based in nature. Persons who are deaf have been communicating textually through TDDs (Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf) for some time. As an organization moves internal discussions from the water cooler onto electronic networks, it levels the playing field for participants with hearing impairments. Electronic mail colloquializes the practice of communicating textually while it removes the difficulty deaf employees have had in locating TDD services and using them effectively with nonimpaired others. In some respects, similar benefits may accrue for persons with vision impairments. To read internally circulated materials, employees who are blind must rely on external reading devices to translate the printed word into synthesized voice. Although impressive advances have been made in Optical Character Recognition technology, the process is still cumbersome and prone to error. On the other hand, since electronic mail is text-based in nature and is already delivered in a machine-readable format it is, a relatively simple matter to convert incoming mail to synthesized speech. Putting company memorandaon-line has the advantageof speeding up the process by which persons with vision impairments translate written memoranda into interpretable communications. For employees who are home bound or who have mohility impairments, computer-mediated communications remove the barriers imposed by physical and temporal distance. In a study of electronic network usage in science, Hesse and his colleagues [5] found that increased network usage was associatedwith enhanced professional outcomes for scientists who were geographicallyisolated. In a study of network usage in a city government, Hti and his colleagues [lo] noted an increasein organizational commitment from shift workers who

used asynchronous communications to “talk” with colleagues in other time shifts. Olson [2 1] noted that telecommuters who used electronic mail felt less isolated working at home than those who relied only on the telephone. Generalizing from these observations, it should be plausible to predict that employees who are home-bound due to a short-term or longterm disability should benefit directly from being able to use computer-mediated communications for communicating with colleagues at work. Other advantages to using telework enabling technologies are more subtle in nature, but the effect may be just as pronounced. Because mediated communication is limited to the textual channel, it lacks the nonverbal and social context cues present in face-to-face interaction. As a result, computer-mediatedcommunication limits the impact of social statuscues,physical posturing, and verbal dominance cues in discussions [24]. Participants in these mediated interactions tend to contribute equally to discussions and decision-making. In a sense, the medium democratizes group discussions and will minimize the stigma associated with physical disabilities. Taken together,the implications are that telework enabling technologiesmay have the potential of breaking down barriers for some people with disabilities. Consider as an example the hearing-impaired employee who for the first time can participate in a discussion of offlce politics on an equal level with non-impaired coworkers because their communications are textual and not aural. Or consider the employee who has been ma& timid through years of self-consciousnessover a visually apparentdisability and who through electronic discussions can contribute to discussionswith confidence and impact. (Not all movement to computer-mediated communications is associated with positive outcomes. Consider the case of “flaming” where participants in a computer-mediated interchange exchange insults and aggressive jabs precisely because the inhibitory quality of nonverbal cues is missing [6,24].)

4.3 Recommendations for Design
Third, as telework becomes a more accepted business practice and more people participate in the virtual community, care must be taken to ensure that the needs of individuals with disabilities are included in the design of telework technologies. We, as managers and engineers of information systems, must take care to build our own curb cuts into the world we create. Something as simple as a move toward graphical user interfaces in the design of front-end computer applications may serve to exclude persons with blindness if thought is not given to how to provide access through voice synthesis or tactile transduction. Following are recommendations for using the promise of telework to fulfill the vision of a fully inclusive and adapted community on-line. 0 Design accessible on-ramps and off-ramps to the information highway. Designers should work closely

Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences -


with human factors professionals to be sure that the technologies developed for the electronic organization are compatible with the needs and limitations of persons with disabilities. This is the notion of universal design [ 141,which suggeststhat information technology should be designed t?om the start to be compatible with a full spectrum of physical and cognitive abilities. l Develop applications that help specially challenged individuals transcend their disabilities. Adaptive technologieshold great promise for helping individuals overcome the limitations of their disabilities. The image of how the world has recovered through technology the thoughts and contributions of such talented individuals as Stephen Hawking is a motivating infiuence on engineers and developers. As discussed in this paper, telework itself is an adaptation that can be used to help individuals overcome the physical and social limitations of their disabilities. 0 Implement the organizational infrastructure to support a productive use of telewonk. Obstacles to the use of telework by employees with disabilities are frequently managerial rather than technological. Recent efforts in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Western Europe have begun to wear away at industrial age managerial philosophies and for the first time are opening telework as an option to a good number of employees with disabilities. These efforts should be continued. l Support continuous learning with on-line resources. Just as world libraries have been the keystone to enlightened changein previous eras,information on-line can be the keystone to empowerment in the information age. Examples of current and proposed resources for the disabilities community include: (a) adaptive technologies information for persons with disabilities and their care providers, (b) instructional information on accessibility for teachers and employers; (c) employment opportunities; (d) legislative and policy information; (e) educational information including adapted coursework on-line; (r) medical information; and (g) professional and popular journals, texts, and magazines. l Bolster community building through dedicated and inclusive discussion groups on-line. Electronic discussion groups can overcome boundaries by connecting community members through conversation, inquiry, and exploration irmspective of geography or time. Supporting electronic discussion groups for employees with disabilities will provide immediate access to the community’ knowledge and personal relationships. s l Move toward international standards. As emphasized by the World Institute on Disability [ 141, standards need to be developed to assure that persons with disabilities have universal accessto telecommunications and on-line information regardlessof where they live or the products

they use. Although some progress has been made on this front nationally, efforts should continue to work on negotiating telecommunications and information systems standards for persons with disabilities internationally.

5 Conclusion
Early formative feedback from the DOD flexiplace project for persons with disabilities suggests that telework can be useful for persons with disabilities across a wide range of practice. Successml telework can range from short-term solutions, in which employees spend full time at home for a short duration, to long-term solutions, in which employees balance work at home with work in the office. In fact, just having a flexiplace policy within an organization-just like having a short- or long-term sick policy-should serve as its own employee benefit. Whether employees are rebounding from earthquakes in California or recovering from broken ankles in the DOD, flexiplace takes the stress out of their personal emergencies. As organizations distribute themselves and improvements are made in telecommunications technologies, telework is inevitable. As we move into a global, virtual community we must take stock of how accessible we have made that community to persons with disabilities. Now, as we plan for the borderless organization, is the time to consider making adaptations-“curb cuts”-for persons with disabilities in the virtual community.

The author gratefully acknowledges Judith Gilliom, Robert Weisgerber, Natalie Broomhall, Lea Stublarec, and Charles Grantham for their collaboration on the Department of Defense Flexiplace project and Deborah Kaplan who helped popularize the analogy of “curb cuts” as universal adaptations.

1. Bmhm, S. S., & Brehm, J. W. (198 1). Psychological reactance: A theory offreedom and control. New York: Academic Press. 2. Gore,A. (1991, September).Infrastructure for the Global Village. Scientific American, 150-153. 3. Grantham, C. E. & Nichols, L. D. (1993). The digitui workplace: Designing groupware platjbrms. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 4. Hesse, B. W., & Grantham, C. E. (1991). The emergenceof electronically distributed work communities: Implications for research on telework. Electronic networks: Researchapplications, andpolicy, l(I), 4-17. 5. Hesse,B. W., Sproull, L.S., Kiesler, S.B., & Walsh, J. P. (1993). Returns to science: Computer networks in oceanography. Communicationsof the ACM, 36 (S), 90-101.

Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 1995 6. Hesse, B. W., L Turner, C. W. (1991). The role of causal attributions in attenuating aggressive behavior within a computer medium. Manuscript accepted for publication (Computers in Human Behavior). 7. Hesse, B. W., L Weisgerber, R. A. (1994). The Department of Defense jlexiplace pilot program: Final report (Report Number AIR-32301!94-FR). Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research. 8. Hesse,B., Wemer, C., & Altman, I. (1988). Temporal aspectsof computer-mediated communication. Computers in Human Behavior, 4, l-l!). 9. Hiliz, S. R., & Turoff, M. (1978). The networknation: Human communication via computer. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. 10. Huff, C., Sproull, L., t Kiesler, S. (1989). Computer communication and organizational commitment: Tracing the relationship in a city government. Journal of Applied Psychology, 19, 1371-1391. 11. Hunt, H. A., & J3erkowit~, (1992). New technologies and the M. employtent of disabled persons. Geneva: International Labour OffICe. 12. Joice,W. (1991). Home based employment: A consideration for public personnel management. Public Personnel Management, 20,49-a. 13. Joice, W. (1993). The Federaljlexible workplacepilotproject: Work-at-home component. (Report Number PRD 92-15). Washington, D.C.: The OffIce of Personnel Management. 14. Kaplan, D., & De Witt, J. (1994). Telecommunications and persons with disabilities: Building thefiamework. The second report of the blue ribbon panel on national telecommunications policy. Oakland, CA: World Institute on Disability. 15. Kling, R. (1987). Defining the boundaries of computing across complex organizations. In Boland & Hirscheim (Eds.), Critical issuesin information systemsresearch (pp. 307-362). London: John Wiley and Sons. 16. Kling, R., & Sacchi, W. (1982). The web of computing: Computer technologyas social organization. Advances in Computers, 2J. New York: Academic Press. 17. Mokhtarian, P. L. (1990). A typology of relationships between telecommunications transportation.Transportation Research and 24A (3), 231-242. 18. Nilles, J. (1975). Telecommunications and organizational decentralization. IEEE Transactions on Communications, 10, 1142-l 147. 19. Office of Technology Assessment (1985). Automation of America’ ofice& J9&L2000 (OTA-CIT-287). Washington, DC: s U.S. Government Printing Office. 20. Office of Personnel Management, (1990). Guidelinesforpilot flexible workplace arrangements, Sponsored by President’ s Council on Management Improvement, Human Resources Committee. 2l.Olson,M. H. (1987). Telework: Practical experience and future prospects. R. E. Kraut (Ed.), Technology and the transfonnaIn tion of white-colfar work (pp.135-152). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawerence Earlbaum. 22. Rheingold, H. (1993). The virtual community: Homesteading on the eIectronicfiontier. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. 23. Shellenbarger, S. (December 14, 1993). Some thrive, but many wilt working at home. The WaN Street Journal, 131. 24. Sproull, L. & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections: New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 25. Tennessee Valley Authority, (1992). Handbook on home-based employmentforpeople with disabilities. 26. TofIler, A. (1980). The third wave. New York: Morrow. 27. Woelders, H. (1990). Telework: New opportunities for the handicappedunemployed worker. The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, IO. 176-180. 28.Zuboff, (1988). In the age of th e smart machine: The future and power of work. New York: Basic Books.


Proceedings of the 28th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS '95) 1060-3425/95 $10.00 © 1995 IEEE

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