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Tips for Small Businesses

Disability Accommodations Tips

An applicant or employee with a disability may need a reasonable accommodation (a change to the way things are normally done at work) to allow her to apply for a job, perform a job or enjoy the same benefits as other employees.

For example, an applicant who uses a wheelchair may ask that an interview be scheduled in an accessible location, or an employee with diabetes may request an exception to the "no food or drinks in the workspace" rule so she can eat or drink when necessary to adjust her insulin level.

  • Understand who the law protects. The law protects applicants and employees with disabilities. This includes people who have disabilities that do not affect them all the time, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People who have disabilities and people who had disabilities in the past may be entitled to reasonable accommodations, if needed.
  • Recognize requests for disability accommodation(s). An applicant or employee may indicate that he needs an adjustment or change in the application process or at work for a reason related to a medical condition. The request does not have to be in writing, and does not have to include the terms "reasonable accommodation," "Americans with Disabilities Act," or "disability."
  • Consider the request. Don't automatically refuse an accommodation request or have an inflexible policy that doesn't allow for exceptions.
    • Review each request individually. There is no one-size-fits-all accommodation. Accommodations may differ based on the employee's medical condition, medical treatment and job duties.
    • Discuss the request with the applicant or employee, if needed. Ask for additional information if needed to help you determine what type(s) of accommodations might be effective for both the individual and your business. For example, if an employee who is partially blind requests special computer software, you may want to discuss what types of software would meet her needs.
    • Consider alternative accommodations. If it is not possible to provide the requested accommodation, determine whether other accommodations would be effective for the applicant or employee and for your business.
    • Consider additional requests. An employee may need another accommodation or a different accommodation later due to changes in his job responsibilities, his medical condition or his medical treatment.
  • Provide an effective accommodation, unless doing so requires significant difficulty or expense, changing fundamental job duties, lowering production or performance standards or tolerating misconduct.
  • Don't automatically assume that you can't afford to provide an accommodation. Many accommodations are not expensive, and some are free. Also, you may be eligible for tax credits, such as the Small Business Tax Credit, or other funding, such as vocational rehabilitation funding.
  • Ask for help, if needed. If you and the applicant or employee are having difficulty finding the right accommodation, the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Accommodation Network (JAN) may be able to help. JAN provides free, confidential accommodation assistance.

See also:

What should I do if an applicant or employee asks for breaks, leave or other changes to a work situation because of his medical condition or his religious beliefs?

Reasonable Accommodation Policy Tips

Manager Responsibilities - Reasonable Accommodation Tips