In this blog on accommodating disabilities in the workplace, we will look at the following topics:
- What does accommodating for special needs in the workplace mean?
- What would be an example of accommodation in the workplace?
- What are government regulations about accommodation in the workplace?
- Laws & rules around workplace accommodation
What Does Accommodating For Special Needs In The Workplace Mean?
People with disabilities may need accommodations to meet their full potential at work. Accommodating in the workplace means to enable an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.
Effective accommodations aid with physical impairments, hearing or speech challenges, focus-related challenges, etc. They allow all employees to be equally set up for success in their place of employment without any developmental or physical barriers creating setbacks.
What Would Be An Example Of Accommodation In The Workplace?
An employer can help their employees with disabilities excel in many ways. We have listed several examples of accommodations in the workplace below:
- A company incorporates wheelchair ramps and elevators into their building to make travel accessible to employees with physical disabilities.
- An employer incorporates visuals and closed captioning into presentations to clarify instructions for employees with auditory processing disabilities.
- All meetings are recorded to assist employees with disabilities that create challenges with focus, such as ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and autism.
- Employees are given the option to work from home or in a separate area of the office to minimize auditory and visual distractions.
- A company provides all employees access to assistive technology in the workplace (e.g., text-to-speech software, screen reading software, large print materials, etc.).
- An employee with a walking disability is reassigned to a vacant desk that provides closer access to the restrooms and parking lot.
- A company transfers its employee to a vacant position at another location that is more suitable for their needs.
What Are Government Regulations About Accommodation In The Workplace?
The U.S. Department of Labor outlines that all public secret employers (state and local governments and federal agencies) must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities upon request.
Reasonable accommodations are defined under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or how things are usually done during the hiring process.
These accommodations are further outlined by being broken down into four categories:
- Installing ramps or elevators
- Modifying a restroom
- Changing the workspace layout
- Providing the less physically demanding job duties
Accessible and Assistive Technologies
- Providing text-to-speech software and screen reading software
- Providing access to assistive technology apps
- Incorporating screen magnification software
- Incorporating closed captioning or sign language interpreters into meetings and events
- Providing Braille and large print format options for materials
- Meetings are recorded for easy playback to review information
- Allowing for service animals in the workplace
- Job restructuring to hybrid or remote
- Adjusting work schedules for employees who have frequent medical appointments
Laws & Rules Around Workplace Accommodation
Accommodations are essential to the workplace, but the support requested must be reasonable, realistic, and fair. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accommodations that fit the three key components:
- Ensuring equal opportunity in the job applicant process
- Enabling a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job
- Making it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment
Accommodations are often viewed on a case-by-case basis and can impose an undue hardship for some companies. The undue hardship principle was created to protect employers from these unrealistic accommodation requests. According to The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an undue hardship is any accommodating action that “requires significant difficulty or expense,” making it disruptive and unreasonable.
The ADA was put in place to help and empower employees with disabilities. That said, workplaces must adhere to the requirements of reasonable accommodations to ensure both the employer and their employees are given the correct and appropriate resources.