5 types of reasonable accommodations and examples

Last updated: April 24, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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5 types of reasonable accommodations and examples
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In 2022, 21.3% of U.S. people with disabilities were employed. In contrast, 65.4% of the population without disabilities were employed. This shows that even though the law prohibits workplace discrimination, it still happens.

That’s why individuals with disabilities and impairments must understand reasonable accommodations. That way, you can determine whether your application is being denied for fair reasons or if the prospective employer is discriminating against you.

In this article, we’ll cover what the law says about discrimination against individuals with disabilities, what types of employers should provide accommodations, and reasonable accommodation examples.

What is the ADA?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with disabilities — including mental, physical, and intellectual disabilities — from being discriminated against in their workplace. This includes mental, physical, and intellectual disabilities.

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Companies need to be accessible to employees with impairments. This might require altering environments and working processes to support them as they work to ensure their comfort and success.

As long as the worker can do the work and perform the essential functions of the position, they can be a good candidate and can’t be discriminated against.

Factors that determine the essential functions of a job include the following:

  • Whether the position exists to specifically perform these essential functions. For example, a warehouse worker needs to lift heavy objects and pack orders — both of which require physical strength.

  • The number of other employees available to perform the same job functions.

  • The degree of skill and experience needed to perform these functions.

Who qualifies as an “individual with a disability”?

A person meets the ADA’s definition of “disability” if they have a mental, physical, or intellectual disability that limits one or more major life activities.

What are mental, physical, and intellectual impairments?

  • Physical disabilities include vision impairment, deafness or being hard of hearing, loss of arm or leg function, and brain injury.

  • Mental impairments include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety disorders.

  • Intellectual disabilities limit cognitive functions, such as social, language, and self-care skills.

If a disability isn’t apparent to an employer, they may ask you for medical documentation from a trained healthcare provider to confirm your disability and need for an accommodation.

What types of employers must provide reasonable accommodations?

Under the ADA, companies with more than 15 employees should provide reasonable accommodations — unless doing so will cause undue hardship.

However, in some states, employers with fewer than 15 workers may also be required to make reasonable accommodations.

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That being said, the ADA doesn’t require small businesses to make significant renovations or alterations. By law, small businesses are only required to make alterations considered “readily available,” which means the changes are easy to make with relatively little cost.

Also, if an employer rents their retail space or office, they’re still required to make reasonable adjustments. If not, you are fully within your rights to sue them.

Often, employers will choose to make the necessary accommodations without fighting since a lawsuit against them can severely damage their brand’s reputation.

How do employers determine whether accommodations are reasonable?

To determine whether an accommodation is reasonable, employers must review the request made by the applicant. It ultimately depends on the position you’re applying for and how your disability affects the job.

In other words, it comes down to whether you can perform essential functions with the help of these accommodations.

A reasonable accommodation allows you, as the employee, to do the following:

  • Perform essential functions: It allows you to perform a vital function or specific task that will enable you to enjoy the same opportunities as other employees.

  • Meet the necessary qualification standard: It can also be a modification or adjustment to a job application process that enables you to be considered for the position. If you don’t meet the specific qualification standards (i.e., you don’t have the necessary training or qualifications), the employer should demonstrate the importance of the standard. If they can’t prove the importance of the standard, they can’t use it as a basis to take adverse action against you.

  • Enjoy equal benefits as other employees: It can allow you to enjoy the same benefits as non-disabled workers in similar positions. Learn all you need to know about employee benefits.

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It’s also worth noting that employers aren’t required to reallocate essential functions or lower production standards as part of reasonable accommodations. In the eyes of the law, this is considered an unreasonable request.

Similarly, they’re not required to provide you with hearing aids, glasses, or other aids if you have hearing or vision impairments.

Types of reasonable accommodations and examples

While the ADA does require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, it doesn’t require them to provide the “best” accommodation possible.

This means the employer ultimately has the discretion to choose between adequate accommodations. Here are some different types of reasonable accommodations and examples:

1. Job restructuring

When your disability only impacts a small job function, the ADA requires your employer to accommodate this disability in some way. This is because mere inconvenience isn’t a good enough defense for failure to make an accommodation.

While, as mentioned earlier, the employer isn’t required to lower the standard of work, they need to assist you in meeting a specific production standard.

Examples of this accommodation include the following:

  • Having another employee perform a specific task (if it’s only a tiny portion of the overall production).

  • Allowing an individual to work from home.

  • Revamping a position to accommodate an employee’s needs.

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2. Reassignment to a vacant position

Employers must consider reassignment when no other accommodation is available to help you perform essential functions.

In this case, the employer can’t simply refer you to the company website to search for jobs where you’ll need to compete. Instead, they should place you into the vacant position (for which you qualify) without facing competition from other applicants.

If a comparable position is available, the reassignment should be equivalent to your previous role regarding pay, status, and terms of employment.

If no comparable positions are available, the employer could move you to a job with reduced pay and seniority.

However, employers aren’t required to create a new position to reassign you. If an employer goes against this law and doesn’t reassign you to a different job, you must prove that a vacant position existed and you were qualified for it.

3. Modifying work schedules

Employers should adjust work hours and provide break periods to you — as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship for them.

They can also consider offering you a part-time work schedule even if they don’t do so for other workers.

However, before employers make these adjustments, they must determine whether the adjustments will influence them negatively. If they will, the employer should instead consider reassigning you to a position where you can work the hours needed.

Examples of this accommodation include the following:

  • Giving you a flexible schedule.

  • Making shift changes if you have difficulty getting to work at a particular time.

  • Giving you a longer lunch break so you can attend any appointments you might have, such as physical therapy or psychiatrist sessions.

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4. Appropriate adjustments or modifications to policies and training materials

Employers who “test” applicants need to create tests with questions that accurately reflect your skills, expertise, and competency — not your physical or mental disability.

However, this rule doesn’t apply if the test aims to measure sensory, speaking, or manual skills.

Employers must also make the necessary adjustments that allow you to participate in company training programs. Lastly, they must modify policies as an accommodation when required.

Examples of this type of accommodation include the following:

  • Providing additional ways to present the learning materials, such as braille or audio lessons.

  • Modifying a dress code if it’s difficult for the employee to follow.

  • Changing the office’s “no pets” policy to welcome the employee’s service animal.

5. Appropriate adjustments or modifications to devices and facilities

The employer must make appropriate accommodations or modifications to devices and facilities that you can’t access.

For example, they need to provide nearby parking for you if you can’t walk long distances (even if these parking spots are reserved for workers in senior-level management).

Other examples of this type of accommodation include the following:

  • Purchasing software that magnifies your computer screen so that you can see better.

  • Providing equipment and furniture that makes it easier for you to work, such as a wheelchair-friendly desk.

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Examples of unreasonable accommodations

Here are some examples of accommodations that are unreasonable and that employers have the full right to deny.

A request to remove an essential job function

You can’t demand that your employer eliminate one or more essential job functions. For example, suppose your job description requires you to talk to customers daily, but you have a permanent speech impairment. In that case, you can’t require another employee to perform these duties in addition to their own responsibilities.

A request to have no contact with coworkers

You can’t ask to work from home and have no contact with coworkers or supervisors for a prolonged period. Similarly, you can’t ask to transfer farther away from coworkers if it will cause excessive stress among the team.

A request for a fragrance-free environment

You can’t request that the company implement a broad fragrance-free workplace policy prohibiting other employees from using perfume or other fragrance products.

A request for a change in supervisor

This is when you request a change of supervisor. These requests need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and are often seen as an unreasonable request for accommodation. This is especially true if the company’s cost to implement these changes outweighs the benefits.

A request to perform a non-essential job function

While companies often appreciate additional help from you (that falls outside of your normal work duties), the employer isn’t obligated to accommodate your request and allow you to perform non-essential work if they don’t want to.

Start looking for your dream job today

Now that you’re aware of reasonable accommodations and have seen several examples, you’ll know what to look out for during your job search. You can start searching for a great position on Jobcase.

Head to our job board and type in the position you’re looking for alongside your ideal location. From there, you’ll get a list of job opportunities you can consider.

If you’d prefer a remote job, tick the “remote/work from home only” option. This will give you a list of remote work opportunities so you can eliminate many of the concerns that come with location-based work. Here’s a list of seven of the best work-from-home jobs for beginners.

Furthermore, we invite you to discover our top tips for landing a job with a disability.

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