If you have a physical or mental disability, you undoubtedly realize that 1990’s Americans with Disabilities Act protects you from discrimination in the workplace. This protection applies both in terms of the jobs you apply for and the jobs you get. Furthermore, all but the smallest employers must provide you with reasonable accommodations once they hire you so that you can perform your job functions.
The ADA National Network advises, however, that in order to come under ADA protections, you must, in fact, qualify as a disabled person. Per the ADA’s definition of what constitutes a disabled person, you qualify if you suffer from “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (sometimes referred to in the regulations as an “actual disability”).”
While the ADA defines “disabled person,” it does not define “reasonable accommodation.” Nor does any statute or court decision so far rendered. Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts determine reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis. The specific employer involved and the specific employee’s disability form the two main considerations.
Over the years, courts have determined that the following represent examples of what types of reasonable accommodation your employer must provide you:
- Wheelchair accessibility to your building and your workspace within that building
- Elevators to get you to your work area if you work anywhere other than on the ground floor of the building
- A reserved handicapped parking space with wheelchair accessibility
- An exception to the company’s no-pets policy if you have a service dog or other animal
- Whatever special equipment you need in order to perform your job functions, such as large-type manuals, voice-activated software, etc., if you are visually impaired
- Instructional and/or testing materials and procedures appropriate to your disability
Keep in mind that small employers; i.e., those who employ 15 or fewer people, generally need not comply with the ADA. Others may obtain an exemption if providing the accommodation(s) you require would impose an economic hardship on them.