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Reasonable Accommodations – What they mean in the workplace and when to get help

Posted November 18th, 2020

As October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we wanted to cover the basics of reasonable accommodations in the workplace: what they are, what counts are “reasonable,” and what to do when you need help.

The requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations comes from the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA). This means that an employer must take reasonable steps to accommodate an employee with a disability that impacts their ability to complete an assigned task.

To start, an employee doesn’t have to use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” Simply stating that you have a disability and you’re having a hard time with part of your job is sufficient.

What counts as a “reasonable accommodation” depends on the situation. Most experts agree that the size and budget of an organization is taken into consideration to determine what is “reasonable.” For example, it may be determined unreasonable for a small business to install an elevator as an accommodation. However, it may be determined reasonable to require a large employer to install an elevator.

Next, the employer must engage what is called an “interactive process.” This is essentially a series of conversations between the employer and employee. During these conversations, the impact of disability is determined and potential solutions are explored.

There are many resources available to both the employee and the employer. One of our favorite resources is the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), which can be found at askjan.org. JAN, a part of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, provides free advice and resources for employers and employees.

Locally, Larimer County residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities can ask The Arc of Larimer County (arclc.org) or the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (970-207-6464) for help.

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