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Human resource execs, Fortune 500 company reps and small business leaders all put their heads together at a recent summit to discuss strategies to make the workplace work for everyone. The event, which marked the 26th Annual Industry Liaison Group National Conference, featured nationally recognized speakers such as PBS Television host Tavis Smiley, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and popular blogger Luke Visconti.

Smiley spoke about race, expressing concern that, should there be an Obama presidency, the issue would not marginalized because he is the first Black president and a barrier had been broken. Matlin discussed her issues with Hollywood as a deaf actress and how she overcame obstacles. And Visconti, partner and cofounder of DiversityInc magazine, who writes the popular blog, Ask the White Guy, talked about the diversity questions readers send him, because they’re too intimidated to ask the folks at work.

Key federal officials also attended the conference and presented relevant policy updates. For instance, Patricia Schaeffer, vice president of Regulatory Affairs in the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, announced two new Federal policy initiatives:

First, the Good-Faith Initiative for Veterans Employment (G-FIVE), which recognizes companies’ best practices for the employment and advancement of veterans. And second, the Federal Contractor’s Online Application Selection System, which requires contractors and subcontractors either to make electronic job application systems accessible to candidates with disabilities, or to provide them with a reasonable accommodation that allows everyone an equal opportunity to compete for a job.

Author Grace Odums, author of Diversity Principles: Strategic Integration, offered research, which shows that companies that employ diversity as a business strategy, realize higher productivity, operational efficiencies, and overall profitability. Her findings were in keeping with what a panel of senior executives from industry and government have found to be true as well. The group included president and COO, Wes Bush of Northrop Grumman Corporation, Joyce Rowland, senior vice president of human resources at Sempra Energy; Sherry Nolan, vice president of diversity and workplace development at Pepsi Bottling Group; and Deborah Soon, vice president of marketing and executive leadership initiatives at Catalyst.

“The benefit [of diversity] to our companies is several fold,” explains Jacqui Quesada Jones, chairperson of the conference organizing committee, and the newly hired diversity staffing manager for Northrop Grumman’s Irvine, TX, plant. During conferences such as this one, “We get real time updates from the agencies on regulations, trends they’re noticing across the country, as well as the opportunity to share best practices…”


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A new online resource helps employers respond to the needs of veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), two common conditions facing returning soldiers. The America’s Heroes at Work website (see below) provides information about TBI and PTSD, and offers guidance on how to implement workplace accommodations and other services to help those who have it. The website includes the Job Accommodation Network’s tollfree phone number, which employers can call to receive personal assistance with providing job accommodations for veterans with disabilities.

“One of the best ways we can help these courageous men and women and honor their sacrifice is to help them return to full, productive lives through work,” said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “Employment can also play a role in their recovery.”

Although their injuries may not be obvious, people with TBI or PTSD may face difficulties, especially in the area of employment. Reasonable workplace supports can often help resolve these issues. Through America’s Heroes at Work, employers learn how to offer job coaching and mentoring, which can create a positive, successful workplace experience for disabled veterans and non-veteran employees, including such “first responders” as fire fighters, EMTs and police officers, who routinely experience traumatic events.


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Odors emanating from the skin can be used to identify basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, according to research out of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. The findings, presented recently at an American Chemical Society conference, may lead to even more methods to detect various forms of skin cancer.

The researchers “sniffed” air above basal cell tumors and found a different profile of chemical compounds, compared to skin located at the same sites in healthy control subjects.

“Our findings may someday allow doctors to screen for and diagnose skin cancers at very early stages,” said Michelle Gallagher, PhD.

It turns out that skin produces airborne chemical molecules known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, many of which have a scent. In the study presented at the conference, the researchers took VOC profiles from basal cell carcinoma sites in 11 patients and compared them to profiles from similar skin sites in 11 healthy persons.

Both profiles contained the same array of chemicals; the difference involved the amounts. Some chemical quanitities increased and others decreased in samples from basal cell carcinoma sites.

To identify changes that were the tell-tale signs of cancer, researchers identified a normative profile for VOCs, which varied based on age, gender and area of the body being examined.

In research published online recently in the British Journal of Dermatology, Gallagher and his colleagues sampled air above two skin sites – forearm and upper back – in 25 healthy male and female subjects. They ranged in age from 19 to 79.

The researchers identified nearly 100 different chemical compounds coming from skin. A normal skin profile varied between the two body sites, with differences in both the types and concentrations of VOCs. Aging did not influence the types of VOCs found in these profiles; however, certain chemicals were present in greater amounts in older subjects.

Implications of the research are considered to be vast. Together, the two studies may help advance development of new methods to analyze skin for signs of altered health status.

Increased understanding of the chemicals related to skin odor could also lead to development of more effective anti-aging skin care products.


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A breakthrough in video transmission technology will soon allow deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans to sign via their cell phones. Using special software, University of Washington engineers have found a way for mobile devices to send video. As a result of their discovery, the UW engineering team has been awarded a National Science Foundation grant for a 20-person field project to perfect the system; the project will begin next year in Seattle.

The current version of what’s being called MobileASL uses a standard video compression tool to stay within the data transmission limit. Future versions will incorporate custom tools to obtain better quality. The breakthrough technology allows a cell phone user to to transmit a person’s face and hands in high resolution, while the background remains in low resolution. Now the team is working on another feature that can identify instances when people are moving their hands; such a feature would reduce battery consumption and processing power during times when the person is not signing.

The team currently uses phones imported from Europe. These imported phones are currently the only ones compatible with the software that feature a camera and a video screen located on the same side to allow people to tape themselves while watching the screen.

According to Eve Riskin, UW professor of electrical engineering, mobile video sign language won’t be widely available until the service is provided through a commercial cell-phone manufacturer. The team has been in discussions with a major cellular network provider that has expressed interest in the project.

A YouTube video of the prototype posted by the UW team has gone viral among deaf people around the country. “A lot of people are excited about this,” said Riskin.


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