As a business owner, you undoubtedly already know that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 forbids you to discriminate against your employees or job applicants on the basis of their respective physical or mental disabilities. In fact, you must provide them reasonable accommodation so that they can successfully do their respective jobs.

No definition exists as to what constitutes reasonable accommodation. Instead, it becomes a case-by-case situation specific to your company and the employees you hire.

Disabled person definition

Unlike reasonable accommodation, the ADA specifically defines who qualifies as a disabled person. Per the ADA National Network, a disabled person is one who suffers from “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (sometimes referred to in the regulations as an “actual disability”).”

For employment purposes, (s)he also must have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the essential functions of the job for which you hire him or her once you provide the reasonable accommodation(s) (s)he requires.

Unfortunately, no precise definition exists for “essential functions” either. The ADA National Network suggests that you consider the following when determining a job’s essential functions:

  • Whether or not the job entails performing certain
  • Whether or not you have other employees who perform the same tasks
  • The skill level required to perform the tasks

Example reasonable accommodations

Depending on an employee’s specific disability, your reasonable accommodation thereof could include one or more of the following:

  • Wheelchair accessibility, such as ramps into your building
  • Elevators in addition to stairs and/or escalators
  • Handicapped parking spaces in your company’s parking lot(s)
  • Special equipment, such as voice-activated software for a visually impaired employee
  • Service animal exception to your “no pets allowed” policy
  • Appropriate testing and instructional methods to accommodate an employee’s limited sight or hearing

Depending on your company’s size and financial situation, you may qualify for an exemption to the reasonable accommodation rule. For instance, you need not provide one if doing so would cause you undue hardship.