Tips For Accommodating Employees With Disabilities

With the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, many employers are left sifting through overlapping laws and regulations that leave them with more questions than answers. An employee’s disability may vary from person to person, and as such, their unique needs to be met following federal law.

In accordance with the ADA, what constitutes a disability is an individual who has a physical, or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. The disability may be invisible or visible, but are not limited to hearing or visual impairments, cerebral palsy, psychological disabilities, heart disease, cancer, acquired brain injuries, muscular dystrophy, and attention deficit disorder. Even if the condition affects them infrequently, and even if it only in their past, they may still be a person with a disability and entitled to protection under the law.

Set Up a Defined Process

Employers need to detail, as well as review and update, their reasonable accommodations and disability policies. If necessary, those involved in implementing it need to receive training on said policy, and it must be clearly communicated to the employees.

Prioritize Funding

A centralized fund should be established to cover accommodation costs for which the company is financially responsible for. This can be used for assistive devices, alternate reading formats like braille, customized software, flexible schedules, adapted furniture, or even workstation modifications.

Aside from the regulations already enacted through legislation, it remains up to the employer to consult official requirements and guidelines to ensure company policies flow with the standards. When purchasing or licensing software, even furniture or workspace tables, it’s also important to consider whether or not it’s accessibility compliant.

Time is of the Essence

It is imperative and critical to make timely reasonable accommodations to disabled employees who request them. Federal agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission look at response times in acknowledging a request, as well as whether or not the employer has implemented solutions within a reasonable time frame.

Documentation is Key

Ensure that the employer preserves and maintains records sent to each employee, as well as benefits, employer handbooks describing their policies and practices regarding leaves, as well as any correspondence disputing leave designations or extensions. Phone conversations and meetings also must be documented. A lack of documentation will make a particular case hard to defense, and it also gives the appearance that the employer lacks the drive to follow compliance.

While it may feel overwhelming at first, having a plan will go a long way. Becoming disability compliant is both rewarding to the company and those they employ; it will keep employees on the job for the long-term.

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