The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reflects a change in our social consciousness in which the paradigm regarding the historical perception of disability has shifted. Disability now has meaning only at the points of interface between an individual and his/her environment.
There is no cookbook approach in determining the needs for accommodating a person with a disability; assumptions based on the old paradigm are invalid. Because a person has a disability, it does not necessarily follow that he/she is disabled (unable) to perform the functions of a job. Nor does it follow that a person with a categorized disability will inherently require certain specific job modifications or adaptive equipment.
To accommodate workers with disabilities, each employment position must involve an analytical problem solving/decision making process. This process, the Accommodation Analysis, must be specific to the uniqueness of the individual, the functions of the job, the accessibility of the workplace, and the needs of the employer. If placement is to be successful, contributions to this process must be made by the employee, employer and physician.
Purpose of Accommodation Analysis:
The purpose of performing an Accommodation Analysis is fourfold:
1. To determine an otherwise qualified individual's ability to perform the essential functions of a job, with or without accommodations.
2. To determine the disabled individual's specific needs if accommodations are required.
3. To identify accommodations that will enable an individual with specific functional abilities and limitations to perform those essential job functions.
4. To provide specific objective information to enable the employer to determine the existence of direct threat or undue hardship.
Categories of Accommodation:
1. Job Restructuring, including changes of work hours and work environment, job task modification, and division of tasks among other employees.
2. Reassignment to another vacant position (existing employees only) if accommodations within the existing position would pose undue hardship or direct threat, and the employee is otherwise qualified.
3. Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, including physical accessibility to the worksite, simple procurement modification of the equipment or adaptive devices, utilization of knowledge and technical skills of consultants and/or specialists such as a rehabilitation engineer, utilization of knowledge and skills of employer's in-house specialists, provision of qualified readers/interpreters/telecommunication devices, utilization of external sources such as the Job Accommodation Network, and redesign of the work space.
The process required in identifying and providing accommodation is as much an art as it is a science. Each accommodation request is approached with the most simplified and cost effective methods. Some problems are easily identified, facilitation readily and inexpensive accommodations, while others are more complex.
The steps of the problem solving/decision making process are:
1. Identification of problem(s)
2. Investigation of possible modifications
3. Determination of equipment, adaptive equipment, and/or special devices required
4. Product procurement
5. Product/worksite modifications
6. Worksite re-design
Indications for the Need for Accommodation Analysis:
The need to provide an Accommodation Analysis will typically manifest in one of the following ways:
1. A new job applicant, who is otherwise qualified, identifies a disability and requests accommodations.
2. The employer's pre-screening procedures reveal that an otherwise qualified new applicant cannot perform the essential functions of the available job.
3. The post-offer medical evaluation identifies a health problem that interferes with the performance of the physical demands of the essential job functions, and the health problem meets ADA criteria as a disability.
4. An existing employee becomes a person with a disability and request accommodations.
Review the employer's job description.
Schedule a job site visit for evaluation of the job to prepare Ergonomic Job Analysis or Essential Function Job Description.
Review medical records and meet with applicant/employer.
Be available for expert testimony