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Mental Health & Assistive Technology in the Workplace

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illnesses in a given year. That’s roughly 43.8 million people! For many of us, work can be an outlet that contributes to our sense of purpose and well-being, however, mental illness can also affect our work performance and access, which is why it is so important to seek support in the workplace. Mental illness may interfere with some daily work functions such as, concentration, stamina, distraction, interaction with supervisors and peers, meeting deadlines, keeping organized, and effective communication, among others. It’s important for us to explore and understand what limitations we may be facing due to our mental illness so that we can best advocate for ourselves and request accommodations to help support us in our day to day work.

With the help of the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website, which I will link below, I would like to outline a few possible limitations that one may face in their workplace, due to mental illness, and examples of accommodations and assistive technology for each. I will also provide links at the bottom of this page to any assistive technology that I mention in case you’d like to research further!

Difficulty remembering tasks or sequences…

Livescribe SmartPen:

Take handwritten notes and sync them with an audio recording; Allows you to upload to your computer for playback, and searchable content; Tap any written text and listen to the voice recording from that exact moment in the meeting.

Digital Voice Recorders:

Record meetings on a portable device; Playback on the device or upload to your computer.

Microsoft OneNote:

Take meeting notes in OneNote via typing, writing with a touchscreen, uploading pictures and other resources; Ability to record meeting; Share documents with others to work on and interact with by using OneDrive online.

Audio Notetaker Sonocent:

Audio record meetings and highlight key points with a click; After the meeting, review, listen to key moments, and type your notes; Ability to add slides, diagrams and text notes to the same project.

Ideament (Win/Mac App):

This app allows you to draw and create mind maps, concept maps, and flowcharts; Convert your diagram into a text outline, or outline and turn it into a concept/mind map; Use to brainstorm, illustrate concepts, make lists and outlines, plan presentation and create organizational charts; Import text into Ideament and automatically create diagrams and outlines; Share your ideas using email, Dropbox and other.

Difficulty completing projects, managing time, and meeting deadlines…

Use Calendars:

Mark meetings and deadlines; Set aside time to work on specific projects; Sync to phone and computer; Set reminders so you are alerted ahead of time of an upcoming deadline.

Microsoft OneNote:

See description above!

ToDoist App:

Create and organize to-do lists; Add subtasks to larger projects; Track progress; Set reminders for deadlines and recurring tasks; Sync across all your devices and integrate with other apps.

Time Timer App:

Visual timer; Allows you to visually structure your time or break your time into segments; App interface allows up to four visual timers; Set a timer while working on a specific task or project.

Difficulty concentrating…

Noise Cancelling Headphones:

These can be great at minimizing distraction while working on tasks that need your full attention; Listen to music to help concentrate, or just utilize the noise cancelling feature.

Reading Trackers:

Use a reading tracker to help maintain concentration on the sentence you are reading; Transparent shaded portion filters out distractions without blocking the entire reading content; Helps keep eyes focused and control visual field; Helps reduce pattern glare, prevent work or line skipping and increase reading speed.

Voice Typing in Google Docs:

Access in Google Docs by going to your Tools menu and selecting Voice Typing; Click on the microphone that pops up and start talking; Text will be entered into the typing field.

Fokus App:

Highlight only the text you want to read while Fokus dims and darkens the rest of your Chrome or Firefox window with an overlay; Highlights the paragraph you are reading; Ability to change opacity of the overlay; Compatible with Chrome and Firefox add-on.

Kurzweil:

Text-to Speech software that will read books, articles, and the web out loud; Includes features such as highlighters, dictionaries, note taking, and study aids; Includes writing support with mind mapping brainstorming tool; Available in versions 3000 (for those with sight) and 1000 (for those with limited or no sight); Compatible with Windows and Mac.

Resources and Product Links

Livescribe SmartPen https://www.livescribe.com/en-us/

Microsoft OneNote https://products.office.com/en-US/onenote

Audio Notetaker (Sonocent) https://www.sonocent.com/en-us/audio-notetaker

Ideament http://www.nosleep.net/

ToDoist App https://en.todoist.com/

Time Timer App https://www.timetimer.eu/products/time-timer-app/

Voice Typing https://support.google.com/docs/answer/4492226?hl=en

Fokus App https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fokus/

Kurzweil https://www.kurzweiledu.com/default.html

For more information about workplace accommodations for mental illness and/or other disabilities, check out the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website at www.askjan.org

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Comment by Jennifer Mundl on December 4, 2018 at 11:47am

Your article was well done and thorough.! Have you use all of these programs or just put them in without access to them? It is interesting and challenging to work with many people and employment for people with disabilities and people without disabilities. They seem to have many of the same struggles. It's just more of a hurdle when you have a physical, medical, cognitive or mental condition. When coming to work, all I have is the background information and really it isn't the most productive information and I enjoy when I can sit face-to-face and ask questions about how doing currently, previously and how they themselves in the future.

Comment by Adrienne Kleinman on August 8, 2018 at 4:06am

I am so pleased that you created this list of excellent resources, Katie! I especially would like to look into using the ToDoist app as I've consistently been overwhelmed with deadlines and time since forever. I always get everything done, it's just never completed over a well spaced out time frame.  

Comment by Sammy Abeje on August 2, 2018 at 1:43pm

These would be incredibly useful tools for someone in the workplace!  I have used some of these strategies in the classroom but I have never thought about implementing them outside of the learning environment. Thanks!

Comment by Janet - Great Lakes ADA Center on August 1, 2018 at 2:34pm

Katie, these are great tools. Thanks for sharing.  I'm working on learning OneNote and Google Keep, which is similar, right now. I think they have great potential!

Comment by Nikki Abramson on July 31, 2018 at 7:48pm

This is an excellent resource to all. I use Livescribe pen as well as calendars and Kurziwell. There are many resources out there as well including Dragon Naturally Speaking that is also helpful. I also find helpful Read Please app which reads to you what you want it to say. Great article and resources! 

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