Reasonable Accomodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Tips on how to stay ADA compliant and avoid fines and lawsuits

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to break the barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications imposed on the staggering economic and social costs in American society. Undermining our well-intentioned efforts to educate, rehabilitate, and employ individuals with disabilities. By breaking down these barriers, the ADA will enable society to benefit from the skills and talents of individuals with disabilities, will allow us all to gain from their increased purchasing power and ability to use it, and will lead to fuller, more productive lives for all Americans.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act:

The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.

What is "Reasonable Accommodation" and when is there a need to provide it under the ADA?


Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.
Accommodations Employees and Applicants May Need:

* Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices,
* Job restructuring,
* Part-time or modified work schedules,
* Reassignment to a vacant position,
* Adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies,
* Providing readers and interpreters, and
* Making the workplace readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

Additional Accommodation:

Reasonable accommodation may also include reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified, if the person is unable to do the original job because of a disability even with an accommodation.
However, there is no obligation to find a position for an applicant who is not qualified for the position sought. Employers are not required to lower quality or quantity standards as an accommodation; nor are they obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.

The decision as to the appropriate accommodation must be based on the particular facts of each case. In selecting the particular type of reasonable accommodation, the principal test is that of effectiveness, i.e., whether the accommodation will provide an opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same level of performance and to enjoy benefits equal to those of an average, similarly situated person without a disability. However, the accommodation does not have to ensure equal results or provide exactly the same benefits.

Employer Requirements For Reasonable Accommodation:

An employer is only required to accommodate a "known" disability of a qualified applicant or employee. The requirement generally will be triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who frequently will be able to suggest an appropriate accommodation. Accommodations must be made on an individual basis, because the nature and extent of a disabling condition and the requirements of a job will vary in each case. If the individual does not request an accommodation, the employer is not obligated to provide one except where an individual's known disability impairs his/her ability to know of, or effectively communicate a need for, an accommodation obvious to the employer. If a person with a disability requests, but cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, the employer and the individual should work together to identify one. There are also many public and private resources that can provide assistance without cost.

Limitations On the Obligation to Make A Reasonable Accommodation:

The individual with a disability who is requiring accommodation must be otherwise qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer. In addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship. Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation.

Undue Hardship Defined:


"Undue hardship" is defined as an "action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors can include:

• The nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation.

• Where the facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, in general, a larger employer with greater resources would be expected to make accommodations requiring greater effort or expense than would be required of a smaller employer with fewer resources

Modification of Exsisting Facilities:


The employer's obligation under title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.

For example, if an employee lounge is located in a place inaccessible to an employee using a wheelchair, the lounge may be modified or relocated, or comparable facilities might be provided in a location that would enable the employee to take a break with co-workers. The employer must provide access unless it would cause an undue hardship.

Under title I, an employer is not required to make its existing facilities accessible until a particular applicant or employee with a particular disability needs an accommodation, and then the modifications should meet that individual's work needs. However, employers should consider initiating changes that will provide general accessibility, particularly for job applicants, since it is likely that people with disabilities will be applying for jobs. The employer does not have to make changes to provide access in places or facilities that will not be used by that individual for employment-related activities or benefits.

Employers Requirement to Modify, Adjust, or Make Other Reasonable Accommodations: Test is Given


Accommodations may be needed to assure that tests or examinations measure the actual ability of an individual to perform job functions rather than reflect limitations caused by the disability. Tests should be given to people who have sensory, speaking, or manual impairments in a format that does not require the use of the impaired skill, unless it is a job-related skill that the test is designed to measure.

Take steps to become ADA compliant.

Understand how your workplace is impacted.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commission

Implement Changes

After becoming familiar with the laws, perform an audit and figure out if your workplace is compliant.

Be clear in policies and job descriptions

Understand what each job entails and keep the description up to date.

Stay Compliant

Make sure that you stay on top of the constantly changing laws to ensure you remain compliant.
ADA and EEOC websites regularly as well as your state specific sites.  For a cost effective service that will automatically alert to changes in any hr related laws visit, HRSentry.
  • It is unlawful to ask an applicant whether she is disabled or about the nature or severity of a disability, or to require the applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer.
  • You may ask an applicant questions about abilities to perform job-related functions, as long as the questions are not phrased in terms of a disability. You may also ask an applicant to describe or to demonstrate how, with or without reasonable accommodation, the applicant will perform job-related functions.
  • If the individual does not request an accommodation, the employer is not obligated to provide one except where an individual's known disability impairs his/her ability to know of, or effectively communicate a need for, an accommodation obvious to the employer.
  • If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship. Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation.
  • Under title I, an employer is not required to make its existing facilities accessible until a particular applicant or employee with a particular disability needs an accommodation, and then the modifications should meet that individual's work needs. However, employers should consider initiating changes that will provide general accessibility, particularly for job applicants, since it is likely that people with disabilities will be applying for jobs. The employer does not have to make changes to provide access in places or facilities that will not be used by that individual for employment-related activities or benefits.