Today more than ever, businesses need people with a demonstrated ability to adapt to different situations and circumstances. In the workplace, this resourcefulness translates into innovative thinking and varied approaches to confronting business challenges and achieving success. What's more, research shows that consumers both with and without disabilities favor businesses that employ people with disabilities.

But, while research shows that a workplace inclusive of people with disabilities is good for business, not all employers understand how to foster one. The key is the concept of reasonable accommodation.

A reasonable accommodation is considered any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform the essential functions of a job. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified people with disabilities, unless doing so would cause an “undue hardship.”

Reasonable accommodations must be provided regardless of whether someone works part-time, full-time, or are considered "probationary." Furthermore, employees can ask for accommodations at any time, in conversation or by any other method of communication. They don’t need to use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.” If an employee’s disability isn’t obvious, you can ask for reasonable documentation from a medical provider about the nature of the disability and how it limits the individual. Avoid requests that are too broad or that ask for more information than is necessary to determine whether the employee needs a reasonable accommodation, such as a request for information unrelated to the impairment for which an accommodation is being requested or all information the health professional has about the impairment.

Research shows that accommodations are low cost, but high impact. In fact, data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor-funded Job Accommodation Network (JAN) reveal that 59 percent of accommodations cost nothing, while the rest of the accommodations had a typical cost of only $500—an outlay that most employers report pays for itself many times over via reduced insurance and training costs and increased productivity. For customized assistance on individual accommodation situations, you can reach JAN at 1-800-526-7234 (Voice), 1-877-781-9403 (TTY) or online at AskJAN.org.

Questions? We’re here to help.

We are committed to helping you understand your responsibilities as an employer. Many questions about your responsibilities may be answered by using the following elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisors:

  • Disability Nondiscrimination Advisor
  • For additional assistance, please contact:
    • Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP): 1-866-ODEP-DOL (633-7365) or odep@dol.gov
    • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP): 1-800-397-6251 (TTY 1-877-889-5627) or the OFCCP Help Desk
    • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): 1-800-669-4000 or info@eeoc.gov
    Learn about ODEP Learn about OFCCP Learn about EEOC