Creating an Reasonable Accommodation Policy (ADA)

More than 60 million adults in the United States have a disability. That’s one in four, according to the CDC. This means that, in all likelihood, some of your employees are affected by disability. By empowering conversation around disability and reasonable accommodations, your company can create an inclusive and accessible workplace where every employee thrives.

Plus, let’s be real. Your employees probably know that this policy is required, so it’s important to put your own spin on it. How can you create a policy that covers the must-haves while providing insight into your company culture? We’ve got some ideas.

Key points to include

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) are federal laws designed to eliminate barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities.

At a minimum, in accordance with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, your Reasonable Accommodation / ADA policy should cover these items:

  • Employment discrimination is prohibited, including individuals with disabilities
    • An individual with a “disability” is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment
  • Employees are protected throughout the employment lifecycle, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment
  • Individuals with disabilities can request and should receive reasonable accommodations — meaning those that can be reasonably accommodated without creating an undue hardship
    • An “undue hardship” is defined as an action that requires “significant difficulty or expense” in relation to the size of the employer, the resources available, and the nature of the operation.

After explaining the protections of the ADA and ADAAA, you’ll want to provide your organization’s procedures related to reasonable accommodations:

To create a more impactful reasonable accommodation / ADA policy, it’s a good idea to include language about why this particular policy is important to your company and its employee-first culture.

Why it matters

Your reasonable accommodations / ADA policy matters because, well, people matter. There’s a very good chance you employ individuals who are affected by disability, whether personally or by association. You can provide a policy that looks like an obligatory copy-and-paste job, or you can make an actual statement — one that increases goodwill and empowers employees.

As we recommend for all handbook policies, START off with why you have the policy in the first place. Give it some oomph so your employees feel supported from the start.

For example, you might choose to introduce your policy related to reasonable accommodations / ADA like this:

We appreciate and respect diverse abilities, and our ultimate goal is to create a workplace where all employees feel welcomed and valued. We believe that an accessible and inclusive work environment helps us attract and retain the best possible talent. Therefore, we are committed to supporting individuals with disabilities.

What’s trending

A quick search of the word “ableism” lands you on Merriam-Webster’s definition, which reads: discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities. More surprising, when you scroll down the page, the word’s first known use was in 1981. Considering that disabilities have existed for way longer than 41 years, we’re still in the early stages of ensuring people with disabilities are treated with equity.

Ideally, you should create an atmosphere that illustrates inclusivity and encourages employees with disabilities to self-identify and discuss their needs.

Here are a few ways to improve your company culture:

  • Make the workplace accessible in terms of physical design and digital tools / technology
  • Promote accessibility in your recruitment / hiring practices and throughout the workplace using signage, messaging, etc.
  • Ensure your benefits reflect your commitment to inclusion
  • Create an accessibility interest group that enables employees to connect and chat about programming and other ideas to increase awareness
  • Partner with community organizations to schedule guest speakers, trainings, and volunteer opportunities

Additional notes

Link to relevant handbook policies, such as:

While you’re perfecting your handbook, check out some other Blissbook content focused on policy creation:

Drew Dotson

Drew Dotson

Drew enjoys eating cheese, cuddling with dogs, doing puzzles, and watching sports. She is passionate about raising awareness (and funds) for cystic fibrosis. Can't get enough info about Drew Dotson?


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