More employers are hiring workers with disabilities these days. This is likely in part due to increased awareness of how to best work with disabled employees. In fact, employers are pleasantly surprised to learn that the cost for appropriate alterations to the workspace are less expensive than they feared. According to studies at the dation Network, a majority of these changes cost less than $500.
The impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Drafted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act stipulate that employers must provide equal opportunity for employment to individuals with disabilities. The law reads in part that “Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.”
This applies to any employer that has 15 or more employees and is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The ADA does not cover every medical condition, but the general rule is that the worker must be qualified to do the job and have a legally defined disability. The EEOC also provides a variety of resources and additional guidance for initiating the necessary changes, including potential funding through the EEOC as well as fact sheets, how-to manuals and other literature for making these accommodations.
Err on the side of the disabled employee
Oftentimes, the workplace solutions can come from the employee who uses similar equipment at home. This can be as simple as:
- A new computer monitor for the sight impaired worker
- A stool to sit on if there are physical limitation
- Voice activated software
However, employers can state that the adjustments are too expensive or logistically problematic. The FMLA may also cover certain situations as well. The circumstances of these situations vary on a case-by-case basis, but those with legal questions regarding these matters can also speak with an attorney who works with employment law issues to discuss options.