Improving Access: Part 3

The 3rd Part of my Miniseries on Understanding When Physical Access is Required to be Improved Under the ADA. Today's Post Focuses on Title 1 of the ADA for Employment Situations.

The last 2 blog posts I had written were about when the ADA requires physical access to be improved under Titles II and III. But what about under Title I, Employment? I will outline the basics around Title I employment requirements today. I'll also provide examples to illustrate when physical access should be increased in an employment setting.

Title I of the ADA requires covered entities not to discriminate on the basis of disability in any aspect of the job process. A covered entity under Title I of the ADA must employ 15 people at minimum. The job process is everything from applying for, interviewing, accepting, benefitting from, and ending a job. The crux of Title I responsibilities is the Interactive Process. This is where a person with a disability chooses to disclose their disability. Upon disclosure, the employer and employee can have a conversation about what barriers exist and how to best address them.

Reasonable Accommodation is any action from the employer that allows the employee with a disability to perform their essential job functions free from inherent barriers. The term “Reasonable” refers to what the employer is willing and able to do to provide a job accommodation. “Reasonable” will mean different things to different employers, is relevant to the nature of the disability and to the job itself. For example, an independent hardware store that employs 18 people will have less resources to accommodate an employee with a disability than a national chain hardware store which has hundreds of locations. In both cases, the employee should be reasonably accommodated. The methods may be quite different because of the differences in the resources available to the employer.

Reasonable Accommodation can be almost anything as long as it is reasonable to the employer and effective for the employee. Title I does not limit physical access to what is found in the 2010 ADA Standards. An employee could require a physical change at the workplace that is more or is less stringent than what the ADA Standards might require.

An example of a job accommodation could be installing automatic door openers for interior doors that are otherwise compliant for an employee who still has trouble using them because of their disability. If the employer has the resources to do so, this could be a reasonable accommodation that goes beyond what the ADA Standards require. There could also be other alternative accommodation ideas that are equally effective. As long as the barrier to performing at the job is addressed, the employee should be reasonably accommodated.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are situations where the Standards do not have to be followed to provide access for an employee. There could be an employee who requests an accessible parking space from their employer. During the interactive process, it’s understood that the employee has a condition that makes it difficult to walk long distances. It is also learned that employee does not use a mobility device and can walk up a stair step. This employee could be reasonably accommodated by providing a reserved parking space closer to the entrance. There is no need to provide a fully accessible parking space with an access aisle in this situation. The parking space wouldn’t need to be located along an accessible route if the distance was suitable to the employee.

Physical improvements need to be reasonable to the employer to provide and effective for the employee to benefit from their job. They may be necessary to remove a barrier to the job for some people. Physical improvements are triggered when identified as part of the interactive process or when it is obvious to the employer.