This is the second part of a series of articles addressing the issues faced by workers with disabilities. Read Part 1 here.
First Step in the Process
Let’s discuss requesting accommodations under the ADA from an employer. This can be done at any point including but not limited to:
- During the application period
- Once the job has been offered
- After beginning employment
- After being employed for any amount of time
It is entirely up to the applicant when they may want to request accommodations and, as a result, reveal that they have a disability. If an accommodation is needed during the interview, the employer is required to provide that accommodation as long as it is reasonable. A few examples of requests would be:
- Requesting an interpreter or reader (either in-person or virtually)
- An accessible location (at any point during the process)
- Technological aids such as screen readers or captioning
- Changing aspects of the facility such as office locations
If you feel that you need an accommodation for any step in the process, it is best to request the accommodation as soon as possible to provide the employer time to either obtain what is needed or make arrangements for any changes needed for equal access. Every step of this process is entirely up to you; and it is your choice to decide when you want to disclose the presence of a disability or request accommodations. It is also your right to determine which accommodations you feel give you the best ability to perform the job. It is important to clarify that you do not have to fully disclose or explain your disability. The employer is only obligated to know the tasks you are limited in or unable to perform and how the accommodations would ensure your ability to perform those tasks.
Being specific in your accommodations and how they will assist you is your right and will benefit you. Many employers may have never employed someone who needs the kind of accommodations you are requesting. It is also recommended to have a letter detailing the accommodation and the task to give the employer the most information in order for them to determine how they can best assist you.
Requesting Testing Accommodations
Another area where accommodations can be requested is for any testing material. If the test does not measure the skill affected by the disability, then the employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations. For example, a proofreading position may have a written test, the employer would not be required to provide an alternative testing method to someone who is dyslexic, because an essential job function is the ability to read written material.
If the test is on an applicant’s knowledge or requires a skill that is not an essential job function, they are required to provide an alternative version of the test or another type of accommodation. Some examples of testing accommodations are:
- Extra time to take the test
- An interpreter or reader for the test instructions and questions
- An accessible location for testing
- A different format of the test such as audiotape or digital versus paper
Defining Reasonable Accommodations
What is considered to be a reasonable accommodation? Any accommodation that equalizes access to the facility or any other resource needed for those with disabilities. This can be anything that makes the facility more accessible, a change in some peripheral duties of the job, acquiring or modifying equipment and devices, changes to training materials or policies, provision of readers or interpreters, or any other accommodation needed by the applicant or employee. An accommodation can also be a change in scheduling or more flexibility in sick time.
In some cases, an employer can refuse an accommodation request if they claim that it will cause an undue hardship on the operation of the business. An undue hardship can be defined as excessively costly, extensive, substantial or disruptive. The employer is required to attempt to offer an accommodation that achieves a similar result if possible as well as prove that providing the requested accommodation is unreasonable. The business is also not required to provide any personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids. Finally, the accommodation cannot be anything that lowers the quality or quantity standards expected of other abled employees.
What Happens After the Request?
After requesting an accommodation, you may have to discuss things further with the employer, especially if they are unfamiliar with the disability and what accommodations are needed for that disability. You may have to explain why the accommodation is needed in order to determine what the best accommodation is for the situation. You may also have to explain why some accommodations are not acceptable depending on your experience with your disability.
For example, someone who is blind asks for an accommodation for a test, and the employer offers a braille version of the test. This may work for some people who have learned how to read braille, but not every blind person has learned this skill. In this case, an applicant may prefer to have someone read them the questions and the possible answers. An employer can provide a similar accommodation such as an audiotape version of the test which would be a reasonable accommodation in this situation.
Another example would be for a deaf applicant who is offered a captionist or some form of written material. Not every deaf person has an ability to read well or fast enough to use written material. In that case, they would have to have a sign language interpreter to be able to understand the material as well as a hearing person would.
Please stay tuned for further articles discussing the rights of jobseekers with disabilities.
Written by Kathryn Cusimano
DISCLAIMER: The Career Center is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice. The general information on our site is for basic informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice of any kind.