Job Accommodations

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Job Accommodations in the Workplace

Questions and Answers

 

Do you wonder how job accommodations are arranged in the workplace?  Do you wonder how the process works?  Hopefully this section will address and answer your questions relating to accommodations in employment!

         Contents:

Overview of Job Accommodations

Reasonable Accommodation under ADA

Types of Job Accommodations

Needs vs. (versus) Wants

Determining What Accommodations will be Provided

How to Arrange Accommodations with an Employer

Financing Job Accommodations

Locating Job Accommodation Resources, Information, and Guidance

Assistive Technology Training

Locating Sign Language Interpreters and Captioning Services

Locating Brailling, Large Print, Audio, and Electronic Formatting Services
(Alternate Formats) for Employers

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Overview of Job Accommodations

 

#1:    Who receives job accommodations?

Individuals with disabilities qualified under ADA, including new employees,
employees being promoted or transferred, and current employees who 
acquire functional limitations as a result of a new or progressive disability.

#2:    Do all employers have to provide accommodations?

No.  Only employers who are covered by a statute prohibiting disability 
discrimination must comply.  To learn which employers are covered by the 
ADA or Rehabilitation Act, see the Workplace Laws section of this Guide.

#3:   How will I know if I'll need an accommodation for a job position?

To make that determination, you'll need to look at these two things:

The essential job functions (duties) of the position that are often listed
in a job's description, and

The work-related functional limitations related to your disability.

To help you assess your work-related functional limitations, see Milepost 8,
My Functional Work Skills Assessment - Disability Considerations, in the
Career Self-Assessment section of this Guide.

Examples of job-related functional limitations would include such things as
an inability to climb ladders, an inability to lift over 20 pounds, difficulty 
handling small items, and an inability to hear on the phone.  Of course, you'll 
only need to identify those functional limitations that directly affect the 
essential duties of the job position of interest that may require accommodation.

#4:    How can I determine if a job is right for me with my disability?

To help you make the determination, ask yourself this important question -
Will I be able to perform the essential job functions (duties) with or 
without a reasonable accommodation?
  This will help you determine if the 
job is right for you.

In the next section, we'll look more closely at what reasonable accommodation
means in the workplace.  As you'll see, the type of accommodation you might
need may be a factor as well in determining if a particular job is right for you.

#5:    Do all employees with similar types of disabilities get the same 
         accommodation?

No.  Accommodations are determined and arranged on an individual, case-by-case basis.  

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Reasonable Accommodation Under ADA

 

#1:   What does "reasonable accommodation" mean?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment provided to a
qualified person with a disability in the job application and testing process,
the work environment, and the manner in which work is done, to enable the 
person to perform the essential job functions (duties) and enjoy equal 
benefits and privileges of employment.

It means an employer may be required to modify a task or make a workplace
modification or adjustment to accommodate a job-related functional 
limitation you have.  The modification or adjustment would then enable you
to perform the essential functions (duties) of the job.

#2:    How is a "reasonable" accommodation determined?  What would be
          considered reasonable?

Under ADA, an accommodation is considered "reasonable" if it is:

  1. effective, and

  2. it allows you to attain an equal level of opportunity, participation,
    and achievement as a non-disabled person.

It's important to note that the term "reasonable" varies from employer to 
employer.  What may be considered reasonable for one employer may
be classified as an undue hardship for another.

The term also means the employer does not have to provide the best or
most expensive accommodation, nor the accommodation of your choice.
The employer simply needs to provide an accommodation that is: 1) effective,
and 2)  serves to level the playing field.  That's the "reasonable" test.

#3:    What would be considered "unreasonable"?

An "unreasonable" accommodation might be one that poses an undue
hardship
for an employer either because it's too costly, too disruptive or
substantial, or it changes the essential functions of the position.

Examples might include an employee taking an indefinite leave from work, 
an employee asking a small business employer to install an elevator in
an old building, or an employee requesting to have a full-time interpreter.

Such accommodations may pose an undue hardship for an employer.
Much depends on the employer's business size and financial strength and
profile.  What's unreasonable for one employer may be reasonable for
another.  It's determined on an individual basis.

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Types of Job Accommodations

 

#1:    What types of accommodations may covered employers provide?

Accommodations may include such things as:

Making workplace facilities accessible.

Examples:  ramping stairs; widening entrance doors; installing 
lever doorknobs or automatic door openers; making a restroom accessible; and keeping aisles wide enough and clear of obstruction.

Modifying a work schedule.

Examples:  allowing for a flexible work schedule; job sharing; 
adjusting work hours; and allowing time off for medical treatments.

Restructuring or redistributing nonessential job functions (often
in exchange for tasks you can do).

Examples:  filing; requiring less travel; using the telephone; lifting 
heavy objects; and computerizing forms and documents instead 
of writing.

Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices.

Examples:  raising a desk; installing a TTY; providing a talking 
calculator; purchasing a desktop turntable organizer; adding a 
braille printer to a computer; providing voice activated software 
for a computer; providing a keyguard for a computer keyboard; 
lowering a copy machine; or labeling copy and fax machine 
buttons with brailled markings. 

Providing qualified support service assistants at times needed.

Examples:  an interpreter for interviews, meetings, and training 
sessions; a fellow employee taking notes during a meeting;  
someone to retrieve files you need;  a reading assistant to read 
you your mail;  a fellow employee to alert you in an emergency, 
or employee volunteers that learn how to assist in case of an 
emergency evacuation.

Changing job locations.

Examples:  telecommuting (part of the work week is spent working
at home);  teleworking (all work performed is done at home);  or
providing workspace at the business location closest to home.

Retraining and/or reassigning an employee to a vacant
position due to injury or illness.

Examples:  

  If you are an employee and become injured or ill,
     you may be able to return to your current position;  

  If you become injured or ill and can't do the job 
     functions when you return, you may be able to 
     receive retraining, perhaps with accommodations, 
     so you can perform the same job functions - as 
     long as retraining does not cause an undue 
     hardship for the business;

  If you can't perform the same job functions even 
     with accommodations, an alternative job 
     placement must be explored before you can be 
     medically terminated.

     Two eligibility conditions, however, do apply:

     1)  You must be qualified for a reassigned position; 
     2)  Only vacant or soon-to-be-vacant positions will 
           be considered for reassignment.  

      It's also important to note that the employer isn't 
      required to reassign you to a position at the same 
      level or salary of your current job.  The level or 
      salary can be higher, lower, or the same.

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Needs vs. (versus)  Wants

 

#1:    Can I ask for any accommodation I want?

You can, but it's not advised.  When it comes to requesting accommodations,
reasonableness, fairness, and team spirit are extremely important.  

Before you discuss accommodations with an employer, clearly differentiate 
between accommodation necessities and luxuries.  Decide if the 
accommodation is something you need or merely something you want or 
would like to have.  Make a "need vs. want" list.  When you meet with the 
employer, focus on the accommodation you need.  "Wants" should be
discussed separately or at a later time.

For example, let's say you need a raised desk.  That's the accommodation
you "need" and should discuss with the employer.  You may "want" an
expensive adjustable desk, but using wood blocks to raise the existing 
desk would work fine - and would be far less expensive for the employer.
Perhaps down the road you could discuss with the employer your desire
to have an adjustable desk, but the wood blocks would effectively meet
your need.

Or let's say you're deaf, and you need an interpreter for meetings and
company trainings.  That's the accommodation you "need" and should
discuss with the employer.  Naturally you would "like" to have an interpreter
available at all times, but an interpreter isn't needed for you to perform your
essential job duties.  So while working, you'll rely on e-mail and written 
notes - until hopefully your fellow co-workers begin learning to sign!

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Determining What Accommodations Will Be Provided

 

#1:    Who decides which accommodation will be provided?

Depending on the size and organization of the company, it may be a Human 
Resource (HR) ADA specialist,  a supervisor, the small  business owner, or 
other designated person.  The ADA specialist or management will decide, 
with your input, which accommodation will be provided.

Be aware the accommodation may not be your preferred choice or the best 
possible accommodation option, but as long as the accommodation provided
is:  1) effective, and 2) allows you to attain an equal level of opportunity,
participation, and achievement, it is acceptable by ADA standards.

#2:    How does an employer decide which accommodation to provide?

The Human Resources ADA specialist or other designated person:

  1. looks at the essential functions (duties) of your job position;

  2. evaluates your job abilities and work-related functional limitations;

  3. assesses potential obstacles at the work site; and

  4. reviews accommodation options.

The specialist or designee then informally consults with you in selecting
and implementing a reasonable accommodation.

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How to Arrange an Accommodation with an Employer

 

#1:    Are employees required to request accommodations from employers?

Yes.  An employee who needs an accommodation must request an 
accommodation from the employer, unless a disability prohibits an
employee from making a request.  In that case, and if it is clear an
accommodation is needed, the employer is responsible to pursue
consideration of an accommodation.  In most cases, however, an
employer must be made aware of a disability and the need for a job
accommodation.

#2:    What should I say to the employer if I need an accommodation?

When you contact the Human Resource (HR) ADA specialist or other
designated person, you can simply say - 

             "I would like to request an accommodation." 

#3:    Am I required to provide documentation of my disability?

Yes.  Documentation is required in most cases.  The information is used
for documenting purposes and to determine if you are qualified under
ADA for the accommodation being requested.

Be sure to only provide and supply the documentation about your disability
to the Human Resources ADA specialist - or other person designated at 
the company to arrange accommodations.  (See the Workplace Privacy
section of this Guide for more information pertaining to documentation
records).

#4:    After the Human Resources ADA specialist receives my documentation,
          what happens next?

The specialist will review the documentation to:   

1)  determine your qualifications for the accommodation,
2)  evaluate the essential and non-essential functions (duties) of
      your job position, and
3)  review work-related functional limitations related to your 
     disability.

The specialist will then meet with you and your supervisor to determine what
accommodation may be reasonable.  Arrangements will then be made.

 

For more information about requesting job accommodations, see the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission's web site publication:

Employers and Reasonable Accommodations:  Requesting Reasonable Accommodation

 

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Financing Job Accommodations



#1:    Who pays for an accommodation I need?

The employer, in most cases.

#2:    What are my chances of getting hired if the employer has to pay for
          an accommodation?

It depends.  Most accommodations cost little or nothing.  According to the Job
Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the U.S. Department of Labor's 
Office of Disability Employment Policy:

31% of accommodations cost nothing.
50% cost less than $50.00
69% cost less than $500.00
88% cost less than $1,000.00

In most cases, the cost of an accommodation won't be a factor.  However, if
an accommodation will require a major expense for the employer, you'll no 
doubt be at a disadvantage getting hired.  Try switching roles for a moment.

If you were the employer and an applicant asked for an accommodation that
would cost nearly as much or more than the salary of the job being sought,
what would you do?  You'd likely give greater consideration to other qualified
candidates.

If an accommodation you need will require a sizable expense for an employer,
you'll want to learn about and become familiar with possible funding 
assistance options available to help the employer, and you'll want to share 
this information.  You'll also want to carefully evaluate if a less expensive 
alternative accommodation is possible. 

#3:    What funding assistance is available to an employer?

          Funding assistance for employers may be available through:

Your supporting state agency -  like Vocational Rehabilitation or 
the Commission for the Blind. 

You'll want to discuss your employment accommodation needs 
with your counselor to see if accommodation support and/or 
funding assistance would be available to an employer.  In some circumstances, the state agency might assist in providing an accommodation or help with the cost.

Tax credits and incentives -  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
provides several tax credits to employers to help defray costs an
employer might incur.  To learn about these tax credits, see the
Tax Credits and Incentives for Employers section of this Guide.

Vendor discounting -   Some company vendors offer a price
discount on the purchase of equipment for an individual with a
disability.

Health insurance benefits -   Check to see if your health 
insurance policy covers assistive devices as a benefit, like 
a communication device, for example.  Contact your health 
insurance company representative to ask if a device you need 
might be covered under your policy.

Maybe you -   If an accommodation you need would pose an undue
hardship
for a particular employer, even when calculating in financial
assistance from state agencies, tax credits, and other possible sources,
and if a less expensive alternative option isn't possible, you must be
given the opportunity to pay the portion of the accommodation cost 
that constitutes an undue hardship for the employer.  Many employers,
applicants, and employees aren't aware of this.  If you can afford to help
pay the cost, this may be an option.

#4:    What does "undue hardship" for an employer mean?

It means the accommodation would be either:

  1. too costly for the employer;

  2. too disruptive, extensive, or substantial for the business; or

  3. would change the essential functions of the position.

 

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Locating Job Accommodation Resources, Information and Guidance

 

The following resources should be able to provide you, and an employer, with information and assistance you need!

 

Job Accommodation Network  (JAN)

JAN, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability 
Employment Policy, provides free consulting services and information
about job accommodations, resources, and vendors.  JAN also offers
a Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) to help you
explore various accommodation options in the work setting.  If you need
accommodation guidance and wish to personally speak with a consultant, 
contact JAN toll-free at  1-800-526-7234  (Voice/TTY).

Disability Resources - Assistive Technology Index

Disability Resources provides an extensive assistive technology index
and links to resources.

ABLEDATA  (National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research)

ABLEDATA is a referral service that maintains a database of more 
than 17,000 adaptive devices from 2,000 companies.

disABILITY Information and Resources

This is a mega-resource for assistive and adaptive products, and
disability-related resources from A-Z!

Accommodations for Persons with Visual and Hearing Impairments (Cornell)

Microsoft Windows Accessibility Support

Product resources, assistive technology, step-by-step tutorials, and 
guides by disability are available.

WOW-COM's World of Wireless Communications

This web site provides information and resources on wireless 
communications and accessibility for people with disabilities.  
It includes a good section on resources and options for people 
with hearing impairments.

Dragon Naturally Speaking®

This is a speech recognition software program for computers.

 

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Assistive Technology Training

 

Do you wonder what assistive technology is available to meet your needs?  Do you need training?  The following programs, organizations, and agencies may be able to help!

 

Technology Access for Life Needs - TALN   (Oregon)

TALN provides technical assistance, evaluations, training, equipment loans,
an equipment marketplace, information about assistive technology, and
referral services.

Oregon Commission for the Blind - Technology Center

OCB's Technology Center provides evaluations, training, access to
equipment, information and referrals, and helpful resources.

Washington State Department of Services for the Blind

Commission for the Blind  -  State Listings

Locate the Commission for the Blind office in your state.

Washington Assistive Technology Alliance

The Alliance offers training, consultation, information, and referral
services statewide.

Oregon Technology Access Program   (Southern Oregon)

This program provides services for children and youth with disabilities
to age 21.  Affiliated with the Oregon Department of Education.

Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Division

Eligible clients may receive technical training and assistance.

Washington State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation

Eligible clients may receive technical training and assistance.

Vocational Rehabilitation Division  -  State Listings

Locate and link to the Vocational Rehabilitation Division Office
in your state, then locate your nearest county office.

Oregon Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Eligible clients may receive technical training and assistance.

Washington State Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Eligible clients may receive technical training and assistance.

Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation Services  -  State Listings

Locate Veterans Vocational Rehabilitation services in your state.

 

Additional Resources:

Your School District or College

Some school districts and colleges offer assistive technology information
and resources, evaluations, and training.  If you're a student, check if your
school district or college has technology assistance available.

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Locating Sign Language Interpreters and Captioning Services

 

If an employer wonders where and how to locate an interpreter or captioning services, the following information may help!

 

To Locate an Interpreter:

The following companies provide interpreter services:

 

Oregon Interpreting Services  (Portland, OR)
(503) 997-6722  (Voice)
(503) 973-5534  (TTY)

P-S Squared, Inc.  (Portland, OR)
(503) 236-3656
1-888-236-3656  (Voice/TTY)

Signing Resources and Interpreters  (Vancouver/Portland)
1-877-512-2246  (Voice)
1-866-512-2446  (TTY)

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Access Program  (Serving Oregon State Agencies)
Oregon Disabilities Commission
(503) 378-2272  (Voice/TTY)

DHHAP provides interpreter referral services for Oregon's 12 state agencies
only.  However, information services are available to employers and the public
as well.

Hands in Motion  (Salem, OR)
(no web site)
e-mail:  handsinmotion@aol.com
(503) 949-2790
(503) 393-6334  (TTY)

Mid-Valley Interpreting Services  (Salem, OR)
(no web site)
e-mail:  midvalleytrp@msn.com
(503) 364-1063  (Voice/TTY)

Accessibility Northwest   (Eugene/Springfield, OR)
(no web site)
(541) 334-0137
(541) 687-1221  (TTY)

 

For Nationwide Referral Services:

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf  (Nationwide)

RID is a national organization for interpreters.  RID's web site can direct you
to interpreter referral services or contacts in your state.  RID has individual
state chapters that may be able to assist you and your employer as well.

 

To Locate Captioning Services:

 

LNS Captioning   (Portland, OR)
(503) 299-6200  (Voice/TTY)

LNS offers realtime captioning, internet realtime, webcasting, live event
captioning, tv broadcast captioning, offline captioning for video projects,
and other captioning services.

P-S Squared   (Portland, OR)
(503) 236-3656
1-888-236-3656  (Voice/TTY)

P-S Squared offers both realtime captioning and interpreting services.

 

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Locating Brailling, Large Print, Audio and Electronic Formatting

 

If an employer wonders where and how to locate brailling, audio, and other alternate format services, the following resources are available.

 

National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped - Library of Congress
(202) 707-9275
1-800-424-8567 (Ask for Reference)

For producing company applications, forms, business cards, and documents
in braille and other alternate formats.  Contact NLS for further information.

Braille Plus   (Salem, OR)
(503) 391-5335

Braille Plus provides brailling, large print, audio tape and electronic formatting
of any book, publication, or document.  There is an hourly fee for preparing
the master and reproduction fee.  Contact Braille Plus for further information
on available services.

 

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