Berkeley Lab

Facilities, All Access Rolling Out Program to Show Conference Room Accessibility

Photo of Misha Gonzalez using a click wheel in front of Wang Hall at Berkeley Lab.

Misha Gonzalez, All Access co-chair and an architect in the Facilities Division, measures the distance between disabled parking spaces and conference rooms, one of 16 accessibility questions in an accessibility survey.

As part of Disability Inclusion Month at the lab, Facilities and All Access, the lab’s Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group, are launching a program to assess the overall accessibility of 104 conference rooms across the site.

Heading the project is Misha Gonzalez, co-chair of All Access and an architect in the Facilities Division who is tasked with architectural system oversight and ADA compliance around the lab. Information collected by the project will be fed into an online database of conference rooms which was created by the IT Division.

An accessibility survey form for each room will include 16 questions about everything from the distance to disabled-accessible parking spaces and shuttle bus stops to the type of door handles to how easily furniture can be moved around the room.

“Our goal is to survey each room, systematically assess the various mobility factors and then assign an ‘ease of access’ rating to the room,” Gonzalez said. “This will help meeting organizers better decide if a space meets the needs of all attendees. And we hope it will get more people thinking about obstacles that can prevent everyone from participating in meetings and events.”

To do the job, Gonzalez has purchased several roller meters that track distances in feet and inches, as well as several tape measures for checking doorway widths.

Employees interested in helping with the survey can contact Gonzalez at mishagonzalez@lbl.gov.

Improving Accessibility for All

Photo of Betsy MacGowan and Misha Gonzalez at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Thursday, October 5, 2017 in Berkeley, Calif. 10/05/17

Misha Gonzalez (left) and Betsy MacGowan co-chair the All Access Employee Resource Group at Berkeley Lab.

As a building manager at Berkeley Lab, Betsy MacGowan has addressed many accessibility challenges on a case-by-case basis as new employees brought unique challenges to her attention. And as an architect in the Facilities Division, Misha Gonzalez is tasked with architectural system oversight and ADA compliance around the Lab. Together, the two women are the co-chairs of All Access, an Employee Resource Group (ERG) that is working to make our workplace and activities more accessible.

All Access’ mission is to create a welcoming and supportive environment for all employees and visitors and to serve as an information source for applicants, staff, recruiters, and managers who have questions about disabilities, support, and accommodations. The idea is that by making the Lab more accessible for some groups, it improves accessibility for all.

Berkeley Lab’s history and topography can make it a particularly challenging place to address some of these issues. “When you have so much history at a site, you get some bad with the good,” says Gonzalez. “Some of our pathways are probably as old as some of the more glamorous parts of our history.”

Some accessibility challenges are pretty simple to address — Gonzalez gives the example of a lever handle instead of a traditional doorknob making access much easier for a user with limited mobility. Others aren’t so straightforward, given the hillside location of our campus.

All Access recently rolled out a new initiative that will address the accessibility of the Lab’s many conference rooms by creating a database of their accessibility features. This information would be added to the IT Division’s existing Chrome extension that provides detailed information on each conference room. Conference rooms will eventually all have a “rating” distinguishing how easy they are to access.

Closed captioning is another service that All Access is exploring. They’re looking at options for using this service in the Building 50 auditorium, given its frequency of use and large audiences. Eventually they hope to make closed captioning available for other events around the Lab.

“Closed captioning is another one of those features that goes beyond its initial intended audience,” says MacGowan. “When you make something more accessible for those who are hearing impaired, it can help others as well — it can make it easier for people who aren’t native English speakers to understand; it might make it easier for remote attendees to understand; and it can help those with learning differences follow along more easily.”

She goes on to add: “We’ve also talked about things like having an app for folks to use while onsite at the Lab so that they can easily find out what accessibility features are available to them at various locations around the campus.”

The All Access ERG, whose executive sponsor is Associate Lab Director Kathy Yelick, was formed two years ago and currently has 70 members. The group holds monthly meetings and organizes events and speakers throughout the year, with many focused in October for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

This year, MacGowan and Gonzalez attended the US Business Leadership Network conference, where they were inspired by the presentations and workshops on disability inclusion in the workplace. “It really helped us realize that accessibility is a journey, not a destination,” says Gonzalez. “Even if one day we have everything checked off on our to-do list, there are and should always be more that we can tackle.”

About Berkeley Lab Employee Resource Groups

All Access is one of four employee resource groups (ERG) at the Lab, the others being the Veterans ERG, African-American ERG, and the Lambda Alliance ERG. ERGs are associations of employees who are organized around a primary diversity dimension and work on furthering the Lab’s business goals through strategic initiatives, deliverables, and policy-related goals stated in their annual charter. ERGs are open to all Berkeley Lab employees. You do not need to identify as a member of these groups to join an ERG. —  Story by Keri Troutman

 
All Access Events this Month
 

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) Executive Director Susan Henderson
Noon, Wed., Oct. 18
Bldg. 59 (Wang Hall) Room 3101

DREDF  Executive Director Susan Henderson and DREDF staff will discuss their experiences with disability rights. Founded in Berkeley in 1979, DREDF is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.

“Fixed” Documentary
Noon, Tue., Oct. 24
Bldg. 59 (Wang Hall) Room 3101

Showing of the documentary “Fixed,” which questions commonly held beliefs about disability and normalcy by exploring technologies that promise to change our bodies and minds forever. Told primarily through the perspectives of five people with disabilities: a scientist, journalist, disability justice educator, bionics engineer and an exoskeleton test pilot, Fixed takes a close look at the implications of emerging human enhancement technologies for the future of humanity. For example, what does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than most people in the world?

Autism Awareness Talk
Noon, Mon., Oct. 30
Bldg. 54 (Perseverance Hall)

Hosting an autism awareness Brown Bag Lunch: This talk will cover information about the autism spectrum and the benefits of enhancing an organization’s neurodiversity; general tips for hiring managers interviewing applicants or working with colleagues on the spectrum; and success stories of companies who have participated in the Autism Advantage program.

Oct. 30 Brownbag to Address Autism Awareness and Inclusion at Work

As part of Berkeley Lab’s efforts to increase awareness of Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Office and the All Access Employee Resource Group (ERG) will be hosting an autism awareness brown bag lunch from noon to 1 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30 in Perseverance Hall in the cafeteria. This talk will cover information about the autism spectrum and the benefits of enhancing an organization’s neurodiversity; general tips for hiring managers interviewing applicants or working with colleagues on the spectrum; and success stories of companies who have participated in the Autism Advantage program.

The goal of Autism Advantage is to further the ability of people on the spectrum to find gainful and integrated employment. The program achieves this goal through a two-pronged approach: 1) helping people harness their unique talents and realize their potential and 2) creating high-performing organizations through the inclusion of this unique talent. This approach allows support for both candidates and employers in creating a more inclusive workforce. This talk will also discuss the benefits of the Autism Advantage program at SAP, including lessons learned and ways to ensure success.

Jack Hogan is a technology startup veteran and co-founder of the Autism Advantage Program, which trains applicants on the autism spectrum and matches them with leading companies. Participating companies with successful matches include Autodesk, Cisco, SAP, Visa, EY, and Microsoft. The Autism Advantage Program was developed out of Expandability’s highly successful Autism at Work program, which was first pioneered by software company SAP.

Oct. 24 Screening of “Fixed” Explores the Impact of Human Enhancement Technologies on Disability

As part of Disability and Inclusion Month, the lab’s All Access employee resource group is showing “Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement” at noon Tuesday, Oct. 24 in B59 (Wang Hall), room 3101. The documentary questions commonly held beliefs about disability and normalcy by exploring technologies that promise to change our bodies and minds forever. Told through the perspectives of five people with disabilities: a scientist, journalist, disability justice educator, bionics engineer and exoskeleton test pilot, “Fixed” looks at the implications of emerging human enhancement technologies for the future of humanity.

Oct. 18 Brownbag: Righting Wrongs, Fighting Bias

Photo of Susan Henderson

Susan Henderson, director, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

photo of Lawrence Carter-Long

Lawrence Carter-Long, director
of communications, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

As part of Berkeley Lab’s Disability and Inclusion Month, Susan Henderson and Lawrence Carter-Long of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) will discuss the organization’s fight to defend the rights of disabled people and to right negative stereotypes that limit disabled people in the workplace and beyond. The brownbag discussion takes place at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 18 in Building 59 (Wang Hall) room 3101, and is sponsored by All Access, Berkeley Lab’s Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group.

Founded in Berkeley in 1979, DREDF is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.

Henderson, who has been with DREDF since 1997,  started the Foster Youth Resources for Education (FYRE) project to heighten awareness and protect the rights of children with disabilities in the child welfare system. She started DREDF’s Disability and Media Alliance Project (D-MAP) to address the misinformed disability coverage that undermines public policy. She conducts workshops on disability and human rights internationally.

Carter-Long is DREDF’s first-ever Director of Communications and spearheads their revitalized Disability and Media Alliance Project.

Six Tips for Making Meetings More Accessible to All

Photo: Harland Quarrington/MOD [OGL (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/1/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hosting meetings more accessible to hearing-impaired people make meetings more accessible to everyone. Lab employee Deb Andrews offers tips backed up by some personal experiences.

by Deb Andrews

Over the past few years, I have experienced accelerated hearing loss due to an autoimmune disease.  My doctors do not feel that the type of hearing loss I am experiencing would be helped with hearing assistive technology, and for the most part, I am able to function fully with a few workarounds.

Before my own experiences, I had no idea how difficult work situations, especially meetings and large group presentations, can be for those who have even moderate hearing loss.

I am sharing a few suggestions from the Hearing Loss Association of America for hosts to consider when planning meetings and group presentations, which make perfect sense to me now that I have first-hand (ear?) experience struggling to hear.

Create a Safe Space for Requests

I accept that it is my responsibility to ask for what I need. Having said that, as someone who is naturally more comfortable behind the scenes, it’s hard to approach a presenter and ask them to make adjustments on my behalf. If you’re planning a larger event, you might consider asking if anyone needs accommodations when sending invites, which can help create a more approachable space for attendees to make requests.

Use Notes/Handouts/Captions

Scripting your presentation and making it available as a handout is another great way to ensure those who have difficulty hearing can stay with you. If you do provide handouts, you might want to point out physically where you are at times to ensure your attendees are keeping pace.

Face the Audience

Lip reading and using face/body cues are very common strategies for coping with hearing difficulties. To help lip-reading attendees follow along with you, try to avoid speaking in the direction of the screen, which puts viewers at your back, or covering your mouth with hands or microphone. When possible, if you’re having a conference call, consider using web-based video services or on-screen closed captioning capabilities. Dim lighting helps attendees see the screen but may make it difficult for lip readers to follow along; adequate lighting can help attendees keep their eyes front and centered on you.

Speak into the Mic

When you’re in a larger space, using a microphone will help with projection and clarity. If you do opt for the microphone, make sure the microphone travels with you. I attended one meeting where the presenter held the microphone in front of her and swiveled her head to maintain eye contact with the crowd, never moving the microphone; I heard about two-thirds of the presentation! If someone asks a question without a microphone, it’s helpful to repeat the question so that everyone can hear it before you answer.

Speak Clearly

Speaking in a modulated, clear tone takes some practice. You may begin by stating something firmly, but the supporting sentences may come out in a rush, or in a lower, almost mumbled tone. It is difficult to lip read fast-talkers, and it is difficult to use context as a tool when everything blurs together. “I can take it there” sounds very similar to “I can’t take it there” when you are speaking too quickly.

Minimize Ambient Noise

Noise is my biggest challenge in meetings. If more than one person is speaking, whispering or having side conversations during a meeting, or if there is background noise like a loud fan or copier, all of the sound blends together and I can’t hear anything with clarity. As a host, you can try to minimize environmental noise and facilitate the meeting to reduce side conversations. If you’re hosting a conference call, be aware that rustling papers and tapping near a microphone will be very loud to callers.

These tips gave me some strategies to cope with my hearing difficulty, and I hope that you find them just as valuable!

Deb Andrews is a program manager and business process manager in human resources.

Additional Life-Saving Measures Provided During the Great Shake Out

photo of emergency whistle attached to keychain

All Access Employe Resource Group helped distribute emergency whistles during the “Great Shakeout” drill Oct. 20.

During the Lab’s Great Shake Out Drill on October 20, Protective Services and the All Access Employee Resource Group collaborated to provide additional resources for all employees, including those with disabilities.

Potentially life-saving whistles were distributed with the message, “If you can be heard, you can be rescued.” Also, employees were reminded that it is always a good idea to arrange a personal support group with a few trusted colleagues; personnel who are aware of medical conditions, limitations, or just your general whereabouts and well-being.

Employees who may need extra assistance in an emergency are also encouraged to self-identify by emailing PS@lbl.gov to allow support needs for issues with panic, mobility, vision, hearing, etc. The information will only be shared if approved by the employee.

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On a Roll: One Scientist’s Tales of Plowing through Barriers to Accessibility

photo of Dr. Jeanine Cook

Who: Dr. Jeanine Cook
What: A frank (and funny) conversation about living with disability in a mostly inaccessible world
When: 12-1 p.m., Monday, Oct. 24
Where: Building 59, Room 3101 (Wang Hall)

Dr. Jeanine Cook has been on a roll since she broke her back in a car accident 33 years ago. A respected member of Sandia National Lab’s Scalable Architectures Group, Dr. Cook earned her Ph.D. in computer science and became a professor at New Mexico State University for a decade before joining Sandia. In 2008, she received a Presidential Early Career Award at the White House and she regularly makes time to help mentor students and early career professionals. Along her path, she encounters a number of obstacles and insults that able-bodied folks rarely know exist, much less think about.

On Monday, Oct. 24,  Berkeley Lab’s Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group will present a conversation between Dr. Cook and Jon Bashor of Computing Sciences as part of Berkeley Lab’s Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month. An engaging and humorous speaker, Dr. Cook will discuss how one determined woman does her best to plow through obstacles, both accidental and intentional, and how everyone can help each other. Topics may include:

  • Allegedly ADA-compliant hotel rooms
  • Stinky, messy handicapped stalls
  • TSA Trials and Tribulations
  • Why disabled facilities are often in the worst locations
  • Why 88 percent of disabled people stay home and eat bon-bons

And she’ll candidly answer all of your questions.

Please join us at noon on Oct. 24 in the Building 59 Main Conference Room (3101) for what promises to be a fun, free-ranging and educational conversation.

Disability Shorts Featured in TABL

October is Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.  To celebrate, the All Access employee resource group has not only  launched this new web site, but is sponsoring showings of a ground-breaking documentary about the disability rights movement, as well as a series of disability awareness videos. Today at Berkeley Lab (TABL) will feature these videos each Wednesday in October. You can get a sneak peak by watching them right here.

This trailer for the 2016 Paralympics features the talent of 140 athletes, musicians and ordinary people with disabilities and aims to change attitudes about disability. Watch these superhumans respond to misconceptions that they cannot participate in sports, business, music, parenting and more with a resounding, “Yes I Can!”

In this video short, disability awareness author and speaker Gary Karp raises awareness of invisible disability in the workplace. The term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms or impairments that are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.

This video answers questions about animals that perform a task or tasks for a person with a disability to help overcome limitations resulting from the disability. Other service animal etiquette tips: address the person, not the animal; service animals are working and are not pets; and please do not touch, pet, or feed treats to a service animal without the owner’s permission.

This video short from the Campaign for Disability Employment reminds us to capitalize on the talents of people with disabilities. The Campaign for Disability Employment is a collaborative effort to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities by encouraging everyone to recognize the value and talent they bring to the workplace.

Lab’s Disability Inclusion Group to Sponsor October Showings of Documentary on Disabled Rights Movement

Disability rights activists protest, holding signs and an American flag the stars of which are rearranged into a wheelchair accessible symbol.

All Access, Berkeley Lab’s Disability Inclusion Employee Resource Group, is sponsoring multiple showings of the documentary “Lives Worth Living” as part of Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month in October.

“Lives Worth Living” traces the development of consciousness of these pioneers who realized that in order to change the world they needed to work together. Through demonstrations and inside legislative battles, the disability rights community secured equal civil rights for all people with disabilities. Thanks to their efforts, tens of millions of people’s lives have been changed.

Poster showing photo of disability rights protestors with text description of the movie plus dates and times for film showings.

Help us spread the word! Download the poster and hang it in your area.

The film will be shown on

  • Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 12 noon at JBEI, Rooms 4132 & 4134, in Emeryville
  • Thursday, Oct. 6, at 12 noon in the Bldg. 50 auditorium
  • Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 12 noon in the Bldg. 66 auditorium, and
  • Friday, Oct. 21, at 12 noon at Bldg. 971 (OFCO) in Emeryville.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 12:30 p.m. at JGI, room 149, in Walnut Creek

Members of All Access will attend each showing to answer questions about the group and how lab employees can help make our lab more accessible for all.