It’s been several years now since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act went into effect and many employers finally are heeding the Act’s main message: stop spending so much time determining whether an employee meets the definition of disability and instead focus on providing effective workplace accommodations. In fact, some employers have taken this message a step further and are leaving the disability determination out of the equation altogether when possible and just focusing on the limitation that is causing the problem. For employers who want to do the same, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) recently launched a new section on its website called “Accommodation Information by Limitation A-Z.”
And it’s not just for employers, anyone can use it! How does it work? The new section allows JAN website users to find accommodation ideas by the type of limitation an employee is experiencing, regardless of the underlying disability.
Here are a few examples to illustrate:
Example 1: A clerical worker is having trouble doing her job. When her employer talks with her about her performance problems, the employee says she is having trouble concentrating because of some medication she is taking for a mental health condition. The employer wants to explore accommodation ideas to discuss with the employee without probing further about her mental health condition. On JAN’s Accommodation Information by Limitation page, the employer finds the following listed under “Concentrating”:
People may have difficulty concentrating on work tasks. Accommodations include:
The employer meets with the employee and they decide that these accommodation ideas can be tested without getting additional medical information. The accommodations are implemented and the employee’s job performance improves.
Example 2: A teacher is having difficulty talking loudly enough for her students to hear her. She has a rare medical condition that causes her speech to be soft. She cannot find any information about possible accommodations for her medical condition, but she wants to have accommodation ideas before talking with her employer. She searches the Accommodation Information by Limitation page and finds information about portable voice amplification products listed under “Speaking.”
Example 3: A call center employee is having problems with the fluorescent lighting in the call center and asks his employer if he can move to a private office. The employer does not have a private office available so is planning to deny the request, but before doing so wants to see if there might be other options. On the Accommodation Information by Limitation page, the employer finds a list of options under “Light Sensitivity,” including information on where to get light filters that can be added to existing lights.
Sometimes it’s necessary to know the type of disability involved in order to come up with effective accommodations, but when it’s not necessary you can save time by just focusing on the limitation. Next time you need to look for accommodation ideas, visit the JAN website’s A-Z page, which allows users to search by disability, by topic, and now by limitation. You can find the A-Z page at http://askjan.org/links/atoz.htm.
Linda Carter Batiste, J.D., is a Principal Consultant with the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), specializing in the Americans with Disabilities Act and other disability related legislation. She has been with JAN since 1992 and is a member of JAN’s management team. She has a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling/vocational evaluation and a law degree from West Virginia University.