Accessibility Resource Center

Employment Accommodation FAQs

What is Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable Accommodation is any adjustment to a work environment or job that allows a qualified worker to perform the essential functions of the job in question. Employers must offer reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities (for example, providing a TDD telephone to an employee with a hearing impairment) as long as those accommodations do not create an undue burden for the employer.

What is an Essential Function?

Essential function means the fundamental job duties of the employment position. For example, for a position as a proofreader, the ability to read documents accurately is an essential function because that is the reason the position exists. Additionally, a job function may be essential because of the limited number of employees available to perform the function, or among whom the function can be distributed.

What is a Functional Limitation?

A functional limitation is the inability to perform an action or a set of actions because of a physical or mental restriction. Determining whether a limitation in performing essential functions exists due to a physical or mental disability is the first step in establishing whether an individual is entitled to a reasonable accommodation.

How is Disability Defined?

An individual is considered to be disabled if they:

  • Have a permanent physical or mental impairment that limits the performance of one or more major life activities
  • Have a record of such an impairment
  • Are regarded as having such impairment

What is a Major Life Activity?

Major life activities are functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Primary attention is given to those life activities that affect employability, or otherwise present a barrier to employment or advancement.

How does Reasonable Accommodation Work?

A request for reasonable accommodation is a statement that an employee needs a work-related adjustment or change for a reason related to a mental or physical disability. A request may be made orally or in writing by the employee or by someone on his or her behalf. Requests for accommodation will be responded to in a prompt, fair and efficient manner.

The employer and the employee should identify possible accommodations. In general, a reasonable accommodation is one that effectively enables an employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Modified work schedule
  • Leave of absence
  • Reassignment
  • Modified equipment
  • Assistive devices
  • Modification of existing facilities
  • Restructuring the job

The interactive process is used to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodation will be made. For more information about accommodations for specific conditions, please visit: Accommodation Information by Disability: A to Z.(opens in new window)

What is the Interactive Process?

The interactive process is a good faith communication process between the employer and employee to identify a reasonable accommodation that allows the employee to perform the job effectively.  Both the employer and the employee participate in the interactive process, and it is an ongoing dialogue between the employee and the employer about possible options for reasonably accommodating the employee's disability.

How Does the Interactive Process Work?

The interactive process may begin in different ways, such as:

  • The employee may ask for a specific accommodation
  • The supervisor may infer that an accommodation is needed (e.g., an employee mentions a difficulty in performing work duties due to medical treatment for a health condition)

Once the need for possible accommodation arises, the supervisor or employee should contact the ADA Coordinator in order to engage in the interactive process.

Once the employer is informed, or becomes aware, of the need for an accommodation, the employer will coordinate the interactive process. Participants in the process include the employee, the supervisor, the ADA Coordinator, and other appropriate employer representatives (e.g., directors or deans).

During the interactive process, the employer considers information such as:

  • The essential functions of the job
  • The employee's functional limitations and medical information
  • The reasonableness and implementation of possible accommodations

This information is used by the employer to determine what, if any, accommodation will be made.

Please note that medical verification is necessary, unless the disability or need for accommodation is obvious or otherwise known by the employer.

How Do I Start the Reasonable Accommodation Process?

Employees and supervisors should discuss the situation and contact the ADA Coordinator. The ADA Coordinator will forward the appropriate documents for completion. The ADA Coordinator can be reached at 530-898-5959 or via email ADA Coordinator.