In a diverse workforce, individuals with disabilities have the right to access reasonable accommodations. They play a vital role in promoting a supportive work environment and enabling employees with disabilities to perform their essential job functions effectively.
This guide aims to provide employees with essential information about reasonable accommodations, address frequently asked questions, and offer resources for further assistance.
What is Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation refers to the modifications or adjustments made to the application process, job duties, work environment, or other aspects of employment.
These allow individuals with disabilities to perform their essential job functions and enjoy equal employment opportunities.¹ Examples of reasonable accommodations include but are not limited to:
- Job restructuring
- Providing assistive technology or equipment
- Creating a more accessible workplace
- Offering alternative formats for communication and training
- Allowing modified work schedules, flexible times, or work from home
- Using service animals
Who Qualifies for Reasonable Accommodations?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a person with a disability as someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.² This includes individuals with a documented disability as well as those who are “regarded as” having a disability by their employer.
If the disability is not apparent, they may request medical documentation from a healthcare provider to confirm the need for accommodation. You may need to disclose your disability to your employer to explore potential accommodations that would help you to perform your job effectively.
Importance of Reasonable Accommodation
Reasonable accommodation benefits individuals with disabilities and organizations alike. According to a survey by the Job Accommodation Network, 85 percent of employers experienced an increase in employee retention because of having adequate accommodation.³ This resulted in cost savings and a skilled workforce along with the following:
- Increased productivity by 53 percent.
- Improved attendance by 48 percent.
- Enhanced interactions with co-workers by 34 percent.
- Improved company safety by 31 percent.
- Increased morale by 30 percent.
These numbers highlight that embracing accommodations creates a diverse and inclusive workplace that values everyone’s talents and contributions, leading to improved productivity, retention, and overall success.
The Reasonable Accommodation Process: What You Need to Know
You may find it necessary to request workplace accommodations to ensure equal access and support for your specific needs. The process of requesting accommodations is a collaborative effort between you and your employer.
1. Awareness of Your Rights
Familiarize yourself with the ADA and its provisions concerning reasonable accommodations. Knowing your rights empowers you to engage in meaningful conversations with your employer and ensures that you are treated fairly and respectfully.
2. Early Communication
Promptly initiate a conversation with your employer as soon as you become aware of the need for a specific accommodation. It also allows your employer to assess the situation, explore appropriate solutions on time, and ensure your work performance remains strong.
For example, if you have anxiety or depression, let your employer know to help you avoid any triggering factors. They might be able to provide a working area with less foot traffic or a work-from-home setup if you prefer. Reaching out to your employer early on allows them to evaluate potential modifications or adjustments that can be made to accommodate your needs.
3. Take a Solution-Oriented Approach
Take the time to identify potential solutions that address your specific needs while considering the feasibility for your employer. Presenting these solutions during your conversation demonstrates a proactive mindset and commitment to finding mutually beneficial outcomes.
Presenting these options to your employer shows that you have taken the initiative to explore possibilities and are actively seeking ways to excel in your role. Approaching the conversation with a collaborative mindset and genuine concern for both your needs and your employer’s needs sets the stage for a constructive and positive dialogue.
4. Clear Documentation
Asking for reasonable accommodations may not always require formal documentation. You can do it through in-person conversations or other types of communication. However, it’s more beneficial to maintain a clear record of your request with your employer.
Keeping track of important details such as dates, specific requests, and written correspondence ensures you have a comprehensive record of the accommodation process. This documentation shows your proactive approach and helps protect your rights.
If you have a face-to-face conversation with your employer regarding your accommodation needs, consider sending a follow-up email summarizing the discussion and any agreed-upon solutions. This ensures clarity and avoids miscommunication.
5. The Role of Medical Documentation
According to the Job Accommodation Network, employers may request medical information as part of the interactive process. But it should only be necessary when the disability or need for accommodation is not known or apparent.
Medical documentation should substantiate the disability and describe its nature, severity, and duration, as well as how it limits your ability to perform essential job functions.
6. Timeline for Approval and Implementation
The duration and timeline for the approval and implementation of reasonable accommodations will depend on the unique circumstances of each situation. Although there is no set time frame, employers should strive to act promptly, demonstrating their commitment to supporting their employees’ needs.
Suppose you request a modified work schedule to accommodate medical appointments. Your employer should promptly review the request, consult any necessary medical documentation, and communicate a decision within a reasonable timeframe.
7. Modifications in Reasonable Accommodation
When an accommodation no longer effectively addresses the disability, it may be time to explore alternative solutions. This can be influenced by various factors, such as changes in the employee’s condition, shifts in job responsibilities, or technological advancements.
For example, your condition is already improving, and you no longer need the same level of accommodation. You may ask to replace or remove your modified workstation setup that once improved your accessibility.
Also, new technologies may offer alternative solutions that can better meet your needs, rendering the current accommodation obsolete.
While accommodations are provided to support individuals with disabilities, they are not guaranteed permanent. Any accommodation will wear and tear, requiring adjustments over time.
If you need additional resources, it’s best to speak with your employer and look for alternative ways how they can help you perform your tasks.
FIND THE SUPPORT YOU NEED WITH GALT FOUNDATION
Reasonable accommodations are crucial in fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment for individuals with disabilities. If you’re looking for assistance or job placement support related to reasonable accommodations, we encourage you to reach out to Galt Foundation.
We specialize in connecting individuals with disabilities to employment opportunities and providing the necessary support to request reasonable accommodations. Contact us today to learn more.
1 “Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace.” ADA National Network, https://adata.org/factsheet/reasonable-accommodations-workplace. 24 Jun. 2023.
2 “What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?” ADA National Network, https://adata.org/learn-about-ada. 24 Jun. 2023.
3 “Costs and Benefits of Accommodation.” Job Accommodation, 4 May 2023, Network, https://askjan.org/topics/costs.cfm.