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Types of Reasonable Accommodation

The following types of accommodations are defined as reasonable:

  • No-tech: An accommodation costs little or no money…just time, support and creativity (e.g., additional preparation time for an individual, or a color-coded filing system).
  • Low-tech: Any accommodation that is technologically simple or unsophisticated, and readily available in most offices (e.g., replacing a door knob with an accessible door handle, providing a magnifier).
  • High-tech: Any accommodation that uses advanced or sophisticated devices (e.g., screen reading software with synthesized speech).

Examples of Possible Accommodations

Job Restructuring

Job restructuring as a form of reasonable accommodation may involve reallocating or redistributing the marginal functions of a job. Job restructuring frequently is accomplished by exchanging marginal functions of a job that cannot be performed by a person with a disability for marginal job functions performed by one or more other employees. An employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job, but where it is possible to remove certain non-essential tasks from an employee’s work requirements, this should be done.

Example: An agency has two data processing clerks. Typing on the computer is an essential function, using the phone is a marginal one. If a qualified data processing clerk had a speech impairment, it would be reasonable to assign the function of using the phone to the employee without a speech impairment in exchange for doing that employee’s filing.

The agency is not required to reallocate essential job functions.

It may be a reasonable accommodation to change when or how the essential functions are done. These include:

  • Reassign work at the existing site among coworkers.
  • Example: If a secretary had a vision impairment that prevented the secretary from typing in small spaces on forms, whenever such forms needed to be prepared, they might be assigned to another secretary without a vision impairment. In exchange, the secretary with a disability could assume one of the colleague’s duties, such as filing.
  • Eliminate non-essential tasks.
  • Example: If a part of the job is not necessary, it could be eliminated entirely. A mail clerk, rather than travelling to the post office in the early morning, might be allowed to wait for regular mail delivery.
  • Reassign visits to accessible sites.

Example: A repairperson who uses a wheelchair could service the accessible sites, while the other sites could be assigned to someone who does not have a mobility impairment.

  • Allow work in other than the traditional office setting.

Example: A surveyor can make calls on a designated line from home instead of having to come regularly to an inaccessible office to make those calls.

Modified Work Schedules and Flexible Leave Policies

Changing a regular work schedule or establishing a flexible leave policy may be a reasonable accommodation unless it would cause an undue hardship. Modified work schedules may include flexibility in work hours or the work week, or part-time work.

People whose disabilities may need modified work schedules include individuals:

  • Who require special medical treatment for their disability (such as people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or mental illness);
  • Who need rest periods (including some people who have multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, respiratory conditions, or mental illness); and
  • Whose disabilities (such as diabetes) are affected by eating or sleeping schedules,

Flexible leave policies should be considered as a reasonable accommodation when people with disabilities require time off from work because of their disabilities. The agency is generally not required to provide additional paid leave as an accommodation, but should consider allowing use of accrued leave or leave without pay, where this will not cause an undue hardship.

People with disabilities may require flexible leave because of:

  • Medical treatment related to the disability;
  • Repair of a prosthesis or equipment;
  • Temporary adverse conditions in the work environment (an air-conditioning breakdown causing temperature above 85 degrees could seriously harm the condition of a person with multiple sclerosis); or
  • Training in the use of an assistive device or a guide dog. (If an assistive device is used at work and provided as a reasonable accommodation, and if other employees receive training during work hours, then the disabled employee should receive training on this device during work hours, without the need to take leave.)

Some qualified people with disabilities are unable to work a standard 9 am to 5 pm workday, or a standard Monday to Friday work week. Depending on the nature of the work assignment and operational requirements, changes to work schedules and hours may be a reasonable accommodation as long as it does not result in an undue hardship.

Example: An employee who needs kidney dialysis treatment is unable to work on two days because treatment is only available during work hours on weekdays. Depending on the nature of the work and nature of the work operation, it may be possible to perform work assignments at home on the weekend or to work three days a week as a part-time employee.

Modification or Purchase of Equipment and Devices

Purchase of equipment or changes to existing equipment may be effective accommodations for people with many types of disabilities. There are many devices that make it possible for people to overcome existing barriers to performing functions of a job. These devices range from very simple solutions, such as an elastic band that can enable a person with cerebral palsy to hold a pencil and write, to “high-tech” electronic equipment that can be operated by head or mouth movements by people who cannot use their hands.

Types of equipment and devices that may be appropriate include:

  • Teletypewriters (TTYs), telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs), text telephones (TTs), or video phones to enable people with hearing and/or speech impairments to communicate over the telephone;
  • Telephone amplifiers for people with hearing impairments;
  • Special software for standard computers and other equipment to enlarge print or convert documents to spoken words for people with vision and/or reading disabilities;
  • Tactile markings on equipment in Braille or raised print for people with visual impairments;
  • Telephone headsets, speaker phones, and adaptive light switches for people with manual disabilities;
  • Talking calculators for people with visual or reading disabilities;
  • Raised or adjustable-height desks for employees who uses wheelchairs;
  • Modified equipment controls for hand and foot operation for a person with limited hand or foot control;
  • Keyboard armrest and finger guides mounted on keyboards to keep persons with motor control impairments from striking keys in error;
  • Clipboards for employees with manual impairments; and
  • Refreshable Braille displays or Braille printers for blind employees.

The agency is only obligated to provide equipment that is needed to perform a job; there is no obligation to provide equipment that the individual uses regularly in daily life, such as glasses, a hearing aid or a wheelchair. The agency may be obligated to provide items of this nature if special adaptations are required to perform a job.
Example: An employee with a mobility impairment owns and uses a manual wheelchair. However, if the employee’s job requires movement between buildings that are widely separated and the employee’s mobility impairment prevents operation of a wheelchair manually for that distance, or if heavy, deep-pile carpeting prevents operation of a manual wheelchair, then it may be a reasonable accommodation to provide an employee with a motorized wheelchair at work.

Training

Reasonable accommodation should be provided, when needed, to give employees with disabilities equal opportunity to benefit from training to perform their jobs effectively and to advance in employment. Needed accommodations may include providing:

  • Accessible training sites;
  • Training materials in alternate formats (e.g., large print, Braille, audiotape, or electronic format) to accommodate a disability; and
  • Sign language interpreters or captioning.

Modification of Policies

Policy modifications may include:

  • Change of a workplace policy that prohibits something an employee with a disability needs to do their job (e.g., allowing a person with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal, allowing food at the workstation of a person with diabetes, allowing personal items at the desk of a person with a psychiatric disability);
  • Development of an emergency evacuation procedure to provide effective egress for employees with difficulty in mobility in case of emergency; or
  • Provision of accessible parking for an employee with a qualified parking permit designated for persons with disabilities.

Modification of Physical Site (building and facility)

Employment activities must take place in an integrated setting. Employees with disabilities may not be segregated into particular facilities or parts of facilities. This means that architectural barriers may have to be removed or altered to provide structural accessibility to the workplace. However, the agency is not required to make structural changes that are unreasonable and would impose an undue hardship.

In existing structures, structural changes are necessary to the extent that they will allow an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, including access to work stations, and normal support facilities such as bathrooms, water fountains, and lunchrooms.

Non-structural changes are allowed instead of structural changes if they achieve the same result. Examples include:

  • A training is provided in a location without an accessible restroom. Rather than modify the restroom, the training can be moved to an accessible location.
  • A water fountain is too high for a person in a wheelchair. Rather than lower the drinking fountain, cup dispensers may be installed.

Provision of Readers, Communication Access Providers, or Personal Assistants

Individuals with communication disabilities (e.g., vision, hearing, and speech disabilities) should be able to communicate effectively with others as needed for their job duties and should have access to information needed for the job. Identifying the needs of the employee in relation to specific job tasks will determine whether or when an interpreter, reader, or other communication access provider may be needed.

It may be a reasonable accommodation to provide a reader for a qualified individual with a vision disability, if this would not impose an undue hardship. In some job situations a reader may be the most effective and efficient accommodation, but in other situations equipment may enable an individual with a vision disability to perform job tasks more accurately.

Example: A social worker who is blind requests a reader for paperwork, interviews, and report generation. A reader could be provided for several hours a day. If reading materials consist of complex or technical material, then the reader’s vocabulary and reading level should be commensurate with the documents to be read.

Communication access providers (e.g., sign language interpreter or real time captioner) as needed may be a reasonable accommodation for a person who is deaf, if this does not impose an undue hardship.

Example: A deaf person applies for a job as a Clerk-Typist. It may be necessary to obtain a qualified interpreter for a job interview, because the applicant and interviewer must communicate fully and effectively to evaluate whether the applicant is qualified to do the job. Once hired, however, if the employee is doing clerical work, computer applications, or other job tasks that do not require much verbal communication, an interpreter may only be needed occasionally. Interpretation may be necessary for training situations, staff meetings or employee parties, so that this person can fully participate in these functions. Communication on the job may be handled through different means, depending on the situation, such as written notes, “signing” by other employees who have received basic sign language training, or by typing on a computer.

Providing an assistant as needed may be a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability, if this does not impose an undue hardship. Examples include:

  • An assistant may be needed to retrieve items on shelves, file, or selectively assist a person with quadriplegia with other clerical duties.
  • An assistant may be needed to guide a blind person who must travel as part of the job

Reassignment to a Vacant Position and Light Duty

If an employee develops his/her disability after being on the job, and can no longer perform the essential functions of his/her job, the employer may need to reassign the employee to a vacant position within the agency or within District government, if doing so does not constitute an undue hardship. The new position should be one that the employee is qualified to perform and that pays a comparable salary. Reassignment does not require the employee to compete for the new position.

Reassignment does not require the employer to violate a seniority system or collective bargaining agreement under which someone else is entitled to the vacant position. Reassignment should be considered ONLY if there are no reasonable accommodations available that would allow the employee to perform the essential functions of his/her current job.

Reassigning an employee with a disability to a light duty job might be required as a reasonable accommodation, depending on how an employer's light duty program is designed. If an employer reserves certain jobs for light duty, rather than creating light duty jobs as needed, the employer must reassign the employee to a vacant, reserved light duty position as a reasonable accommodation if (1) the employee cannot perform his/her current position because of his/her disability, with or without a reasonable accommodation; (2) the employee can perform the light duty job, with or without a reasonable accommodation; and (3) the reassignment would not impose an undue hardship. This is because reassignment to a vacant position and appropriate changes to an employer's policy are forms of reasonable accommodation required by the ADA, absent undue hardship. There is, however, no requirement to create a light duty position or any other position under the ADA.

Other Accommodations

There are many other accommodations that may be effective for people with different disabilities in different jobs. Some other accommodations that may be appropriate include:

  • An employee makes sporadic site visits to a home for inspection. Mileage is paid as part of the job. Instead, an employee who doesn’t drive may be allowed to use paratransit or taxicabs instead of a personal car.
  • A person with an intellectual disability is hired for a maintenance position. An employer may offer the use of a job coach for individualized on-the-job training services.
  • A person with a learning disability may require assignments and instructions to be communicated by e-mail, rather than verbally.
  • If a person’s disability makes it difficult to come to the office, and the job can be done off-site, an accommodation may be to allow the person to work from home.

Timing and Review of Accommodations to Ensure Effectiveness

Once an accommodation is approved, it should be implemented as soon as possible.

Within 4 - 6 weeks after the accommodations have been granted, the agency should assess the effectiveness of the accommodation(s) in enabling the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. If there is a need for additional accommodations, or changes to the existing accommodations, the agency should reevaluate the accommodations.

If the accommodations are not effective and there are no other methods of accommodation that can assist the employee in performing the essential functions of the job, then the accommodation of reassignment to a vacant position within the agency or within District government will be discussed.