What Are the Legal Requirements of Accommodation Under the ADA?

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Reasonable accommodation can include creating handicapped parking spots.
Reasonable accommodation can include creating handicapped parking spots. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed into law. Under the law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with known disabilities. “Reasonable accommodation” refers to certain adjustments or modifications made so that a disabled applicant or worker has the same opportunities as his counterparts.

Job Application Process

The ADA aims to provide equality of opportunities to both current employees and candidates for jobs. Therefore, the law requires employers to accommodate potential new hires, to give them the same chance as anyone else when applying for a position. An example of this accommodation would be when a company located on a high floor offers to hold a job interview in a more accessible location for a wheelchair-bound applicant.

Essential Job Functions

The ADA requires that an employer make reasonable accommodations for a qualified applicant or employee in order to fill the essential functions of a job. A reasonable accommodation, in the case of a visually impaired worker who must read many documents as part of her position, would be to purchase a magnifying glass or to print documents in a larger font. These adjustments would be relatively simple and cost-effective, while allowing the employee to do her job.

Privileges of Employment

A qualified employee with a disability has the right to enjoy the privilege of employment. In order for the worker to enjoy this privilege, the employer might have to make some adjustments. Moving furniture or equipment to make an office more accessible for an employee on crutches would count as an attempt to allow an individual to enjoy the privileges of employment.

Undue Hardship

Some accommodations which would allow the applicant or employee access cost large sums of money, or present an inconvenience to the company. The drafters of the ADA realized the potential difficulty for employers. They inserted the principle of undue hardship into the bill. “Undue hardship” means that accommodating an employee or applicant will be costly or disruptive, or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the business. However, employers should still make every effort to overcome the undue hardship.

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