Safety & Health Benefits of Telecommuting for Disabled Workers
 
(WebPage Still Under Construction)
 
 

Links to helpful information provided by Dr. James Jarrett, University of Texas:
 
 
 


PRELIMINARY STATEMENT BY RICK JOHNSON, FOUNDER, TSHBI

 
In October 1997 I received an email inquiry from a person with a disability, who I responded to with my initial thoughts on telecommuting and safety for disabled workers. As a starting point for pursuit of this issue, I posted her initial email message and my reply (see below). To preserve the privacy of this person and other people and organizations mentioned in the original email message, I have edited the message to change names, accordingly.
 
All of you fellow web travellers out there are asked to think about the potential for improving safety and health for disabled workers by promoting the use of telecommuting to perform work and all other activities, to the maximum extent possible. We welcome your feedback on our efforts. Send email or see about TSHBI, if you wish to help us make a difference.
 
Thank you, -Rick Johnson, Founder, TSHBI-

 

 
E-MAIL REGARDING TELECOMMUTING & SAFETY FOR DISABLED WORKERS:

Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 08:08:10 -0800
To: "Mary" [not her actual name... other names changed, below, too... -Rick]
From: Rick Johnson []
Subject: "Telecommuting and Safety for the Disabled" [WAS: Looking for some (more) assistance]
 
Mary, thank you for contacting me regarding the challenges you face. I appreciate John's confidence in our ability to address some of your concerns.
 
The Telecommuting & Safety Institute (TSI) is presently focused exclusively on providing information and acting as an advocate for saving lives and preventing injuries by encouraging the use of telecommuting, wherever possible. This is a very new "employee-centered" perspective akin more to "employee rights" or "employee health and safety" than to traditional "employer-centered" approaches used to advocate telecommuting. Traditionally, telecommuting has been promoted by presenting the benefits it offers employers with energy conservation, environmental preservation, savings of space, increased productivity, employee retention and many other benefits. Looking at telecommuting as a potential "human right" is where TSI has stepped in. It is a moral issue with us and not an issue strictly of costs vs. benefits.
 
To date we have not considered the safety and health aspects that telecommuting may offer for people who are disabled. From the standpoint of highway safety, I know that (just like other people) a disabled person would be safer by performing their work from home and not commuting to/from their employer's workplace, if they can do their work adequately from their home workstation. As I have not examined the specific requirements for employing disabled persons, I can't say at this point in time if there are any *additional* safety improvements that would be realized by disabled persons who could telecommute. However, I would like to add the following element to my list of future target research areas, based on our interaction: "Telecommuting and Safety for the Disabled".
 
Mary, I urge you to visit our TSI website (see my signature below for the URL). A lot of the explanations for telecommuting and safety are in the "General Information" section, as well as in my "Whistleblower" website that you can get to from my "Telecommuting Links" page. The Whistleblower website is separate from the TSI site and details my earlier interactions with an uncaring employer. That employer fired me for telecommuting, after I had proven that I could perform my work very well as a telecommuter, and that by resuming a regular commute (which they wanted me to do) I was placing myself (and others) in harms way, unnecessarily.
 
We are presently an unfunded institute (just founded this Summer) and would welcome your help and the help of people you know as volunteers to promote our new and developing ideas about telecommuting and safety. Also, if you would like to provide your insights with respect to the "Telecommuting and Safety for the Disabled" issue, I encourage your involvement! If you would be willing to help with research in some of our other target areas, such as TeleLearning (distance learning) and safety, or in any other capacity your help, there, would be welcome, too. In fact, you might even consider getting your degree in a field that would enhance your knowledge about telecommuting... ever thought about that?
 
With regard to the denial of your request to be reimbursed for distance learning, I would have to say that denial is not only insensitive to your situation (if it is difficult for you to get to/from classes on campus), but also unfounded, based on the rapidly growing availability of high quality distance learning curricula available today. (In fact, I recently took a class on "telerobotics" offered over the Internet by www.space.edu, and it was just like I was in a campus classroom, only much more convenient and safe.)
 
If it were me, I would inform your sponsor that commuting to/from class represents a public safety hazard not only to you, but to others who *must* commute to/from their activities and might experience additional risk due to your unnecessary presence on the highway - you don't *have* to commute to/from a campus, because you can "get there" using your computer and a modem. If they ignore this reasoning, they are ignoring their responsibility to public safety and to your safety. My perspective on distance learning and safety has *not* been put forth before, and it is not law, yet, but it represents a strong moral stand on an issue that effects real people in a humane way. I feel strongly about this, and if you do to, I urge you to pursue the issue further. However, I caution you that you'll probably meet with resistance, as this perspective represents a highly misunderstood and potentially volatile worker and public safety issue that could have a tremendous impact on telecommuting issues in the future. When managers finally wake up to the fact that they have negligently overlooked a major and growing worker and public safety issue for the last 8 to 10 years, there will be some very fast scurrying around in the board rooms and human resources offices all across the country to correct the situation. Many managers are actually and unknowingly killing and injuring people every year, because of their inaction with regard to telecommuting.
 
With regard to your question about surveys I have not been able to find any data, yet, that pinpoint the actual number of potential telecommuters that are killed and/or injured every day commuting to/from their work sites. I *do* have data on people killed during "rush hours" that may be a starting point for more research, but we would have to extrapolate considerably to make an argument for telecommuting - extrapolation is not very accurate.
 
What is your present field of interest, Mary? Just about any field should offer opportunities for telecommuting nowadays.
 
Please read the information at the TSI website. Much more information will be provided as soon as our next phase of website design is completed and particularly if we get a sponsor and some funding for our research. I also plan to post some preliminary thoughts about "TeleNursing and Safety" (my wife's a nurse) and perhaps other areas where telecommuting could today easily enhance worker and public safety.
 
Hang in there, friend. Stay in tune to telecommuting. Your goals are worthy, and your ideas are deserving of respect!
 
Best regards, Rick
 
PS: I am going to post this email message to our TSI Website (with people and organization names "edited out" for privacy) - it may be a good starting point for generating more discussion about some of the issues we both are interested in...
 
 
>To: Rick Johnson
> Telecommuting and Safety Institute
>
>
>Dear Rick,
>
>John Henry suggested I contact you for information regarding
>telecommuting. He has directed me to some very helpful information and when
>I contacted him recently, I was inquiring about Labor Market Surveys and
>projections for telecommuting. I am trying to find some statistical data
>for the New Mexico Department of Human Services. [Actual names of State and Department are different... -Rick]
>
>The internet and technology available makes employment for disabled persons
>possible again.
>
>I am disabled, and a "client" of the New Mexico Department of Human Services.
>They have repeatedly denied my requests for education
>(completion of my bachelors degree via Distance Learning) saying that there
>is "no need" for anyone trained in developing telecommuting/telework
>systems for the disabled.
>
>As I told John, they have continued to ignore all of the other data I've
>provided and are only concerned with the surveys.
>
>Have you any ideas or suggestions? Have any surveys been completed? Are
>there *any* hard numbers that support the employment potential of
>telecommuting? The other option is to find an alternative job
>classification that might have existing statistics respectable enough to
>use in order to support my efforts. Any thoughts?
>
>Thank you for your time.
>
>Sincerely,
>
>
>
>
>Mary Morgan
>xxx@xxx.yyy
>
>cc: J. Henry <yyy@yyy.xxx>

Related information: Benefits of telecommuting
 
REMEMBER: "THINK SAFETY - THINK TELECOMMUTING!"
 
 

Last updated: February 27, 2000
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