Reasonable Adjustment

The information presented within this glossary entry is aimed at website owners seeking to learn the ropes of web accessibility. Technical elements are described in layman’s terms, and, as a rule, all topics pertaining to the legalities of web accessibility are presented in as simplified a manner as possible. This guide has no legal bearing, and cannot be relied on in the case of litigation.

Reasonable adjustments are practical changes an employer makes to ensure that employees with disabilities can properly perform their job. These include changes to the work environment, making specialized equipment available, and providing extra support. Reasonable adjustments should not impose an unreasonable financial burden on the employer or present a fundamental change to the job or business.

Examples of reasonable adjustments

Reasonable adjustments take many forms, depending on the job and situation. Some examples include:

Providing physical aids and services

Employers can provide wheelchairs, hearing aids, and other assistive devices to employees with mobility and hearing impairments. These devices enable employees to easily navigate the workplace and participate effectively in their roles.

Making adjustments to a physical environment

Adjustments to a physical environment, like installing ramps for wheelchair access, help ensure employees with disabilities can access facilities and workspaces without difficulty or risk of injury. These installations should fit into the existing environment without requiring extensive modifications.

Adapting hiring processes

Prospective employers should provide applicants with disabilities with alternative recruitment methods. These include adjusting interview formats and providing accessible application materials. Employers should provide reasonable adjustments during an interview, as well, in the form of offering the option of a virtual interview, and providing interpreters or communication support personnel during the interview session.

Making flexible working arrangements

Flexible working arrangements, such as work-from-home policies and changing work shift patterns, help employees who need to attend medical appointments or have disabilities that limit their ability to work in certain conditions. Employees with diabetes, for example, may need to take more breaks to check their blood sugar levels. Spacing work breaks more evenly throughout the day or providing longer lunch breaks can help these employees perform tasks more effectively.

Offering alternative methods of communication

Sign language interpreters, text-to-speech software, or specialized communication aids help employees with hearing, speech, or vision impairments (e.g., blindness), understand instructions and their work environment in general.

Implementing reasonable adjustments

Employers bear the responsibility for implementing reasonable adjustments to comply with Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). They are also responsible for the initial and ongoing support that helps employees understand and use them. The scope of employers’ responsibilities regarding reasonable adjustments may include:

  • Covering the cost of required equipment and services
  • Making physical adjustments
  • Offering recruitment materials in accessible or alternative formats
  • Providing special training courses
  • Maintaining a supportive and safe working environment for all

Those who must comply with disability laws other than the ADA will need to review the specific requirements regarding reasonable adjustments detailed in these laws.

Best practices for implementing reasonable adjustments

Understanding what the relevant legal expectations are regarding the provision of reasonable adjustments

There are a number of laws enacted to protect people with disabilities (and, in some cases, other minority groups) from discrimination. Under these laws, employers are expected to provide reasonable adjustments to employees with disabilities.

Prominent laws include:

While they may vary in their scope of requirements, all of these laws include detailed instructions regarding the provision of reasonable adjustments ‌to current and prospective employees with disabilities. These responsibilities begin during the hiring process, when applicants may need to be given alternate application procedures and/or be granted access to various assistive technologies to help complete related tasks.

Existing employees may need to be provided with reasonable adjustments to help them perform job-related tasks. These include, but aren’t limited to, providing necessary assistive technology, adapting work schedules, adapting physical environments to employees with specific disabilities, and offering alternative means of communication.

It is important to note that employers are expected to provide reasonable adjustments as long as such measures do not impose a disproportionate burden (or undue hardship) upon them.

Assessing the costs of providing reasonable adjustments

Providing reasonable adjustments to existing and prospective employees costs employers time and money. Most relevant laws do not include specific instructions as to the financial scope of employers’ responsibilities to provide such adjustments. However, such laws typically stress that such adjustments should be provided, unless doing so poses undue hardship upon employers.

Ensuring reasonable adjustments are implemented in a timely fashion

Fast implementation ensures employees with disabilities are not discriminated against and can start performing their tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible.

When dealing with complex adjustments, employers will often need to break them down and implement them incrementally. They will also need to create a timeline that tracks progress, and hold regular meetings to monitor implementation.

To save time during implementation of reasonable adjustments, employers must prepare training or guidance sessions that help their employees understand the changes.

Employers can save additional time by taking a proactive approach to certain reasonable adjustments. By providing accessible parking, for example, employers won't have to worry about such an adjustment if they hire an employee who uses a wheelchair.

Involving relevant individuals and their support networks

Sometimes, reasonable adjustments require allies or support networks to help employees perform their tasks. For example, a workplace mentor can provide guidance and advice to an employee who is new to the job and has a physical disability.

In other instances, family members, caregivers, or health professionals may need to be involved. This is common for employees with mental health issues or learning disabilities who need support to complete their tasks.

Reviewing and updating the implementation process where necessary

Employers should periodically assess the effectiveness of existing adjustments to ensure they continue to meet the needs of the individuals in question and that they comply with relevant legal standards. To do this, employers should collect feedback from the employee, their support network, and colleagues to identify any potential issues or areas for improvement.

When employers analyze the collected information, they can consider whether new technologies or methods can further enhance accessibility. By creating a feedback loop of continual evaluation and improvement, employers can make immediate changes that benefit their employees and help them remain productive.

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