Accommodations Get the Job done

Accommodations are developed on an individual basis and in a partnership between the person with the disability and the employer. This teamwork generally results in cost-effective solutions. The elements to consider are (1) the job tasks that must be performed, (2) the functional limitations of the individual, and (3) whether the proposed accommodation(s) will result in undue hardship to the employer. Creative solutions may involve equipment changes, work station modifications, adjustments to work schedules, assistance in accessing the facility, and dozens of other possibilities, depending on the individual s particular limitations and needs.

Offered below are examples of accommodations that have been made for qualified workers with disabilities. These are samples only and are not necessarily the only possible solutions to the problems. To receive guidance on specific problems and possible solutions, call the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network at 800-526-7234, or 800-ADA-WORK (800-232-9675), or, with computer and modem, 800-DIAL-JAN (800-342-5526). JAN is a free service.

Job Accommodations Come in Groups of One

Like all employees, people with disabilities need the job tools and a work environment that will enable them to do their jobs effectively. While some of these “tools” or the job accommodations they require may be different from those traditionally used to do a job, they accomplish the same end—they help qualified employees to do the best jobs they can. Job accommodations can be an integral part of a successful employment situation for a person with a disability.

Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis. They are made as a cooperative effort among the employee with a disability, the employer, and other individuals when appropriate (e.g. the union representative, the rehabilitation counselor). The main issues to be considered are the job tasks that must be accomplished, the functional limitations of the person doing the job, and whether the proposed accommodation will pose an undue hardship to the employer. Accommodations may include specialized equipment, facility modifications, adjustments to work schedules or job duties, as well as a whole range of other creative solutions.

In December 1994 the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN) reported that 68% of job accommodations made cost less than $500, and further, that employers report that for every dollar spent on accommodations, the company received $28 in benefits.

Accommodations, which are modifications or alterations, often make it possible for a qualified person with a disability to do the same job as everyone else but in a slightly different way. Some accommodations are simple adaptations; others require technically sophisticated equipment. The essential functions of the job and the functional limitations of the individual are what the employer and the employee want to match up.

An employer should analyze the job tasks, basic qualifications needed to do those tasks, and the kinds of adjustments that can be made to ensure that performance standards will be met. The way the worker does the job is far less important than the outcome.

Accommodations are always made on an individual basis. To find solutions to your own situations, call JAN toll-free at 1-800-526-7234.

Workplace Accommodations Process

Title I of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers with 15 or more employees make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must be made on a case-by-case basis and are not required when costs would constitute an undue hardship for an employer.

What are Reasonable Accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations are adjustments or modifications which range from making the physical work environment accessible to restructuring a job, providing assistive equipment, providing certain types of personal assistants (e.g., a reader for a person who is blind, an interpreter for a person who is deaf), transferring an employee to a different job or location, or providing flexible scheduling. Reasonable accommodations are tools provided by employers to enable employees with disabilities to do their jobs, just as the employer provides the means for all employees to accomplish their jobs. For example, employees are provided with desks, chairs, phones, and computers. An employee who is blind or who has a visual impairment might need a computer which operates by voice command or has a screen that enlarges print.

What is Undue Hardship?
This legal term is defined in the ADA as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense for the business/employer, considering the following factors:

the nature and cost of the proposed accommodation,
the overall financial resources of the business and the effect of the accommodation upon expenses and resources, and
the impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility.

When May a Job Accommodation be Required?
A workplace accommodation may be requested by an employee with a disability at any time during employment. After initiating the workplace accommodation process, the individual and the employer should discuss the request. There are several considerations when determining reasonable accommodation requests, including the demands of the job, the employee’s skills and functional limitations, available technology, and cost. After both parties agree that a workplace accommodation is needed, an appropriate one must be selected.

What are the Steps to Consider When Making a Workplace Accommodation?
Step 1: Decide if the employee with a disability is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without an accommodation.

Step 2: Identify the employee’s workplace accommodation needs by:

involving the employee who has the disability in every step of the process;
employing confidentiality principles while exploring ways to provide workplace accommodations;
consulting with rehabilitation professionals, if needed;
using job descriptions and job analyses to detail essential functions of the job; and
identifying the employee’s functional limitations and potential accommodations
Step 3: Select and provide the accommodation that is most appropriate for the employee and employer.

Costs should not be an undue hardship.
Accommodations selected should be effective, reliable, easy to use, and readily available for the employee needing the accommodation.
An employee should try the product or piece of equipment prior to purchase.

Step 4: Check results by:

monitoring the accommodation to see if the adaptation enables the employee to complete the necessary work task(s); and
periodically evaluating the accommodation(s) to ensure effectiveness.

Step 5: Provide follow-up, if needed, by:

modifying the accommodation if necessary; or
repeating these steps if appropriate.

What Tax Credits are Available to Assist with Workplace Accommodations?
Disabled Access Tax Credit: This is a tax credit available to an eligible small business in the amount of 50 percent of eligible expenditures that exceed $250 but do not exceed $10,250 for a taxable year.

Architectural Barrier Tax Deduction: Businesses may deduct up to $15,000 of the costs incurred each year to remove physical, structural, or transportation barriers in the workplace.

Where Can I Obtain Additional Information About Workplace Accommodations?
The Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Job Accommodation Network (JAN):
(800)526-7234 (V/TTY)

Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs):
(800)949-4232 (V/TTY)

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
For Technical Assistance: (800)669-4000 (V) or (800)669-6820 (TTY)
To Obtain Documents: (800)669-3362 (V) or (800)800-3302 (TTY)
Mark Pitzer, Attorney
Office of Chief Counsel
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224