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Reasonable accommodation under ADA may be hard to define

There are times when an employee or job applicant is very qualified to perform the essential duties of a position but, due to a disability, cannot perform one or more duties adequately. For many, an adjustment of certain work conditions can readily allow them to adequately perform those main functions of the job.

Under certain conditions, an employer is legally obligated to make those adjustments so that the employee can do the job or keep the employment. The same is true with regard to the application process. There are times an employer must modify the application process to allow a person who has the qualifications to do the job, an accommodation so he can fulfill the application process and receive consideration for the position.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act directs that certain disabled employees or job applicants have a right to a reasonable accommodation from the employer if it would not cause too much of a hardship on the employer. What is a reasonable accommodation may not be as cut and dried as one might expect.

Areas of accommodation

An employee or job applicant can request an accommodation in three areas, as follows:

  • Changes to the application process so the disabled applicant receives consideration for the job
  • Changes to the physical work surroundings or the manner in which a particular job is performed, that allow the disabled person to perform the fundamental tasks of the job
  • Changes that will allow a disabled employee to appreciate the benefits and privileges of employment as other non-disabled employees do

Reasonable accommodations take precedence, where appropriate, to both part-time and full-time employees. However, generally, the disabled person must advise the employer of his or her need.

Examples of reasonable accommodations

Some examples of what may be a reasonable accommodation include the following:

  • Making areas of the work environment more accessible for the employee
  • Modifying work schedule to better fit employee’s need
  • Modifying work machinery or equipment
  • Providing interpreters or readers

Whether the requested change is reasonable may depend on whether it appears to be possible. It must also be effective in assisting the needs of the employee. What may be a reasonable working accommodation for one employee, may not be an effective solution for another.

Further, it must also not create a hardship for the employer. A hardship may arise if the accommodation is very difficult or expensive relative to the resources and nature of the particular employer’s organization.

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