2004 Conference Proceedings

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ADA REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION PROCESS: FOCUS ON CHOOSING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Presenters
Mandy J. Gamble, MS, MBA
Human Factors Consultant
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
PO Box 6080
Morgantown, WV 26506-6080
Phone: (800) 526-7234
Email: gamble@jan.wvu.edu
Web: http://www.jan.wvu.edu

Determining what assistive technology (AT) to provide as a job accommodation for an individual with a disability is challenging. Contacting AT related resources and applying a decision-making process may be the key to finding a successful AT fit. A five step process will be presented with the goal of choosing the right AT for the job in addition to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Job Accommodation Network is a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), US Department of Labor. JAN is an information and referral service that assists employers, rehabilitation professionals and individuals with disabilities through the accommodation process and provides referrals to local resources to help bridge the distance between the maximum ability of the individual and the essential functions of the job.

Within the five step ADA process, a JAN consultant will demonstrate JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR). SOAR can be used as an online tool that helps the user move through the accommodation process, suggests accommodation ideas, and provides resources for further exploration. AT job accommodation situations and solutions for individuals with disabilities will also be presented. Handouts with resources will be provided to session attendees.

The Five Step ADA Process:

Step 1: Request for Accommodation

A request for accommodation from an employee or applicant typically triggers the accommodation process. An employer can also consider reasonable accommodation for a known disability when workplace barriers are obvious or performance suffers, due to a qualifying disability (EEOC, 2002).

Questions to consider:
1. How should an accommodation be requested?
2. Does the employer have a reasonable accommodation policy?
3. How should an employer respond to a request for accommodation?

Once the need for accommodation is apparent, move to Step 2: Determine ADA Eligibility.

Step 2: Determine ADA Eligibility

Once the need for accommodation is known and the ADA process has begun, the next step is to determine if the applicant or employee is eligible for accommodations under the ADA.

Questions to consider:
1. Does the individual meet the ADA definition of disability? 2. Is further documentation needed to establish ADA coverage or to define accommodation needs?

Step 3: Accommodate in the Original Position

An accommodation "is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities (EEOC, 2002)." An accommodation may allow a qualified individual with a disability to perform essential job functions, enjoy equal access to benefits and privileges of employment, or remove workplace barriers.

Consult with and Explore Resources

Step three involves identifying resources that allow the employer or employee to explore AT options. Resources may include the individual with the disability, State Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies, State Assistive Technology Projects, Assistive Technology Practitioners (ATP) or Rehabilitation Engineering Technologists (RET), Disability Specific Organizations and vendors of AT, computer technicians or an IT team at the place of work, and/or utilize JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR).

Selecting the AT

Make an informed decision about the AT based on the information gathered. In addition, consider the following:

1. Is there technical support available?
2. Is there a money back guarantee and warranty?
3. Is the product compatible with other technology used?
4. How will the AT be funded?

Implement AT Accommodation(s)

Once a potential AT solution is identified, implement accommodation(s) by purchasing the product, providing appropriate training, and ensuring that the person with the disability can successfully use the AT. Follow-up with any resources mentioned in step 2 if there are further questions.

Step 4: Explore Alternative Placement Options

If an employer was not able to identify and implement successful accommodations in step three, an employer should consider alternative placement options.

Questions to consider:
1. Is reassignment a possibility?
2. Are any vacant, equivalent positions available?
3. Is the employee qualified for reassignment?
4. Do accommodations need to be considered in the reassigned position? If so, return to Step 3 to explore resources.

Step 5: Monitor Accommodations

The accommodation process is an ongoing one (EEOC, 2002). It is important to monitor accommodations to ensure their effectiveness.

Questions to consider:
1. If training was provided, was it effective?
2. Is the product being used properly?
3. Is the product being maintained?
4. Are other accommodations necessary?

Take into account any changes in the individual's functional limitations or job duties that would alter current accommodation needs. When changes occur, an employer may need to provide further AT accommodations.

This five step process with a focus on choosing AT for individuals with disabilities can provide a pathway to successful accommodation outcomes. Careful attention to each step is critical to ensuring the optimal match between technology and user within the specified environment.

References

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2002, October 17). EEOC enforcement guidance on reasonable accommodation and undue hardship under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Retrieved September 26, 2003, from http://www.eeoc.gov/docs/accommodation.html

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