In the latest tip sheet from AccessATE and DeafTEC, we discussed strategies that can lead to productive discussions with potential employers about hiring a person with disabilities. Here, we will dive further into that topic by going over common workplace accommodations. Some employers may have questions or concerns about providing accommodations for disabilities, so it may be prudent to have some examples at the ready.
Tip Sheet: Educate the Employer
Potential employers may be unclear on their obligation regarding accommodations. Employers are required by law to provide “reasonable accommodation” for employees with disabilities. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that a reasonable accommodation is an adjustment to a job, work environment, or the manner of the hiring process. The ADA requires this as it relates to three aspects of employment:
- ensuring equal opportunity in the application process;
- enabling a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job; and
- making it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.
An employer may find these intimidating at first glance. Remind them that at the most basic level ADA focuses on ensuring that all employees have the means and access to do their job without issue, which may mean a change to the usual manner in which it is done. Accommodations and the ADA are about enabling workers to be successful at their job, which is good for both the employee and the employer.
Employers may also have questions or concerns about the accommodations themselves. If cost is raised as a possible issue, remind them that, according to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), many accommodations have little to no expense associated with them. If employers wonder what sort of accommodations they might be expected to provide, you can inform them that accommodations can be roughly sorted into four categories:
- physical changes, such as a modified workstation layout or the installation of a ramp;
- accessible and/or assistive technology, such as screen reader software or teletypewriter (TTY);
- accessible communications, such as a sign language interpreter or instructions provided via email instead of verbally; and
- policy enhancements, such as allowing service animals or flexible work hours or locations.
The most common workplace accommodations are equipment, schedule, or location modifications. For example, an employee who uses a wheelchair or one with chronic back issues may require an adjustable-height desk, or an employee with low vision may require a larger computer monitor. An employee with a chronic health condition may need to attend medical treatments, so they may require more flexible work hours or the ability to work remotely.
In all cases, it’s important to remind the employer that, at the heart of it, accommodations for disabilities are not only steps to ensure that everyone is able to do their job well, but means of improving employee wellbeing and productivity.
- For more detail and further resources from the Department of Labor, check out the DOL summary page on accommodations. Similarly, the Office of Disability Right’s Types of Reasonable Accommodation discusses more categories and types on accommodations.
- Understood’s article, 30 Examples of Workplace Accommodations You Can Put Into Practice, and SNPO’s article on accommodating common disabilities (PDF download) offer a number a great, practical examples of accommodations.
- The Job Accommodation Network’s (JAN) A to Z of Disabilities and Accommodations is a handy reference for employers and individuals, containing ADA information, accommodation ideas, and further resources.