What Are Reasonable Accommodations?


Last week, television viewers across the country watched Pennsylvania Senate candidates John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz debate a host of issues affecting Keystone State residents. The debate was noteworthy not just because Pennsylvania is a battleground state, but also because Fetterman, who suffered a stroke back in May, was permitted to use closed captioning technology to assist with stroke-induced auditory processing difficulties.

This blog isn’t about politics and we aren’t taking a stance on who should win the Senate seat. But the debate did get us thinking about the issue of accommodations and why employers are sometimes resistant to providing them.

In many cases – particularly with regard to hiring decisions — employers overestimate the expense and/or burden of providing accommodations. They may mistakenly believe that individuals with disabilities are receiving special treatment or that they are being forced to hire a disabled person.

These misconceptions may come from a lack of knowledge or a misunderstanding of the regulations stipulated by Title I of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Here are the facts:

According to ADA.gov, “Title I requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide qualified individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from the full range of employment-related opportunities available to others. For example, it prohibits discrimination in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment. It restricts questions that can be asked about an applicant’s disability before a job offer is made, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Religious entities with 15 or more employees are covered under Title I.”

But what are reasonable accommodations? The Department of Labor explains them as follows:

“Reasonable accommodations are intended to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have rights in employment equal — not superior — to those of individuals without disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a modification to a job, work environment or the way work is performed that allows an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform the essential functions of the job, and enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals in the workplace.”

Contrary to popular belief, most accommodations aren’t expensive. In fact, the majority of disabled employees (56%) don’t require any accommodations to do their jobs. Those who do require some accommodation usually cost their employers no more than a measly $500 according to a 2020 survey by the Job Accommodation Network. Surely, that’s not too much to spare for employees the Journal Nature contends are among the most productive, motivated, loyal and creative team members.

“The results of countless studies speak for themselves,” says Nature: “If the right people with disabilities are selected for the right job and are given responsibility, they often outperform other employees, with higher levels of efficiency, productivity, accurateness, commitment, loyalty, and satisfaction. This, in turn, increases the company’s profitability and overall shareholder value.”

Sounds like a win-win to us! We believe that all employees should receive the accommodations to which they’re entitled!