Job and schedule modifications are only the tip of the iceberg

Do you have a physical or mental health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities in the workplace. But what does that actually mean? 

Reasonable accommodation may mean a change to the physical environment or a change to some aspects of the job itself—as long as those changes don’t create an undue burden.

Here are some concrete examples of reasonable accommodations for specific conditions—but remember, these are only examples. Each accommodation request must be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Wheelchair use:

  • Installing a ramp to make a workplace wheelchair-accessible.
  • Modifying a restroom so a worker with disabilities can use it.
  • Changing the layout of cubicles to provide enough room for a wheelchair to pass.
  • Providing a raised or adjustable desk so that a wheelchair can be used in place of a chair.

Hearing or vision impairment:

  • Getting dictation software to help a hearing-impaired worker.
  • Purchasing a screen magnifier for a visually impaired person’s computer station.

Chronic or sudden medical conditions:

  • Allowing an extended period of unpaid leave to recover from a medical procedure.
  • Permitting a later start time to accommodate an employee’s medical treatments.
  • Providing rest periods throughout the day to accommodate an employee’s disability.

When Accommodations are More Complicated

While some accommodations can be handled with physical changes to the work environment or by allowing schedule changes, others may require modifications that are more significant. Companies may need to consider things like the following examples.

Changes in policy. For instance:

  • Changing the rules to allow an employee to bring a service animal to work.
  • Adjusting the policy surrounding flexible work schedules or working from home.

Job restructuring. In general, asking coworkers to take on a large portion of a disabled employee’s core tasks may be considered an undue hardship—particularly if the coworkers can’t finish their own tasks because of the additional work.

However, it may be possible to reallocate tasks so that coworkers handle some job duties that a disabled employee has trouble performing, while the disabled employee takes on other duties for the coworkers.

Location changes. For example:

  • Changing assignments for employees who conduct site visits, so that a disabled employee only visits wheelchair-accessible locations.
  • Transferring an employee to the same job in a different office, to allow better access to medical treatment.
  • Scheduling training or exams at a more accessible location or a place with handicapped-accessible bathrooms.

Changes in training requirements. For instance:

  • Allowing an employee with a disability more time to take an exam.
  • Allowing an employee with vision impairment to take a test orally rather than in writing.

Changes in internal communications. For example:

  • Making sure all internal communications, signs, documentation, training materials, and employee handbooks are available in braille.

Remember, these are only a few examples of reasonable accommodations under the ADA—there are no specific, limiting definitions of what may or may not be done to accommodate employees with disabilities, outside of undue hardships for employers.

See Also: What is Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA?

Call Us for a Free Consultation Now

If you’re considering making a request for reasonable accommodation under the ADA [link to “how to apply” article], we suggest getting in touch with a lawyer who specializes in employment law.

An experienced employment law attorney can help you navigate the process, avoid pitfalls, and protect yourself in case of disputes.

Email us at murphy@phillyemploymentlawyer.com, or call 267-273-1054 for a free, confidential consultation.