US Department of Education NIDRR Technical Assistance Program

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Chapter III: The Reasonable Accommodation Obligation

3.7 How Does an Employer Determine What Is a Reasonable Accommodation?

When a qualified individual with a disability requests an accommodation, the employer must make a reasonable effort to provide an accommodation that is effective for the individual (gives the individual an equally effective opportunity to apply for a job, perform essential job functions, or enjoy equal benefits and privileges).

In many cases, an appropriate accommodation will be obvious and can be made without difficulty and at little or no cost. Frequently, the individual with a disability can suggest a simple change or adjustment, based on his or her life or work experience.

An employer should always consult the person with the disability as the first step in considering an accommodation. Often this person can suggest much simpler and less costly accommodations than the employer might have believed necessary.

For example: A small employer believed it necessary to install a special lower drinking fountain for an employee using a wheelchair, but the employee indicated that he could use the existing fountain if paper cups were provided in a holder next to the fountain.

However, in some cases, the appropriate accommodation may not be so easy to identify. The individual requesting the accommodation may not know enough about the equipment being used or the exact nature of the worksite to suggest an accommodation, or the employer may not know enough about the individual's functional limitations in relation to specific job tasks.

In such cases, the employer and the individual with a disability should work together to identify the appropriate accommodation. EEOC regulations require, when necessary, an informal, interactive process to find an effective accommodation. The process is described below in relation to an accommodation that will enable an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job. However, the same approach can be used to identify accommodations for job applicants and accommodations to provide equal benefits and privileges of employment.