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What is reasonable accommodation for disabled workers?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that protects Florida’s disabled workers by requiring employers to make “reasonable” accommodations for them. That word can be subjective to varying degrees, as is the term “disabled.”

Many companies hire specialists or train Human Resources personnel to ensure they comply with ADA standards. Those with disabilities can access these human and legal resources too, should they need a better understanding of their rights.

Defining ‘Disability’

According to the federal Dept. of Education’s ADA National Network, a disability is an impairment that significantly restricts significant activities of one’s day-to-day life, such as walking, standing or sleeping. An inability to control bodily functions, such as reproductive and cardiovascular systems as well as bowel and bladder movements, is a disability. The definition also extends to mental impairments such as bipolar disorder, PTSD and schizophrenia.

Applying the ADA

The ADA applies to any company with 15 or more workers, as well as governments and employment agencies. A business may not discriminate in any aspect of employment, including hiring, promotion, benefits and even the application process. That does not mean that a disabled person is safe from termination for inability to perform essential job functions, or must be hired for a job that is beyond his or her capabilities.

An example scenario is having two applicants for a typing position, one of whom has a disability. If the disabled applicant cannot match the speed or accuracy of the other, despite reasonable accommodation, the employer is not discriminating by hiring the faster typist.

So, what’s ‘reasonable?’

Making the work environment more accessible by moving furniture, modifying equipment or purchasing specific equipment is a reasonable accommodation. So is transferring a disabled worker into a vacant job that he or she can do. If a disabled worker cannot perform job responsibilities, the employer does not have to find a job the employee can perform, nor is the business required to lower its standards for production or quality.

Case-by-case application

What is reasonable varies in each case because the details differ. Workers do not have the same level of disability as another and job duties vary with each company too. The deciding factor in each case should be whether accommodations are effective. They should allow a disabled worker to meet the performance standards of other employees and also give them an equal level of benefits.

This article contains general information about ADA standards. It is not to be taken as legal advice.

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