The District of Columbia Reasonable Accommodation Guidelines for

By Christina Myers,2014-03-20 16:30
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The District of Columbia Reasonable Accommodation Guidelines for





1.0 Introduction

    1.1 Office of Disability Rights

    1.2 Purpose of Manual

2.0 Overview

    2.1 Legal Requirements

    2.2 Purpose of Reasonable Accommodations

3.0 Definitions

    3.1 Who is a Person with a Disability?

    3.2 What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

    3.3 What are Essential Functions” of a Position?

    4.0 When Can the District Deny an Accommodation?

    4.1 Undue Hardship

    4.2 Direct Threat

5.0 Reasonable Accommodation Process

    5.1 Request Process (Employee requests an accommodation)

    5.2 Interactive Process

    5.3 Medical Documentation and Confidentiality

    5.4 ADA Determination

    5.5 Reasonable Accommodation Plan

6.0 Types of Reasonable Accommodations

    6.1 Examples of Possible Accommodations

    6.1.1 Job Restructuring

    6.1.2 Modified Work Schedules & Flexible Leave Schedules

    6.1.3 Modification or Purchase of Equipment & Devices

    6.1.4 Training

    6.1.5 Modification of Policies

    6.1.6 Modification of Physical Site

    6.1.7 Provision of Readers, Communication Access Providers, or

    Personal Assistants

    6.1.8 Reassignment to a Vacant Position and Light Duty

    6.1.9 Other Accommodations

     6.2 Review of Accommodations to Ensure Effectiveness

7.0 Denying a Request for Accommodation




    1.0 Introduction

    1.1 The Office of Disability Rights

    The DC Office of Disability Rights is available to assist agencies and employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations and other disability issues.

     (202) 724-5055

     Haydn Demas, ADA Compliance Specialist (Employment)

     (202) 442-4692

    1.2 Purpose of the Manual

    The purpose of this Manual is to provide guidance on how to reasonably accommodate District employees and applicants for positions within the District government. This Manual outlines a uniform approach to providing reasonable accommodations consistent with federal and District laws. The Manual explains the obligations of both the District agencies and individuals with disabilities, and it answers some of the questions about reasonable accommodations facing District agencies.

    2.0 Overview

    2.1 Legal Requirements

    The District of Columbia Government (the District) is required by federal and District laws to provide equal employment opportunity to qualified individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended, seek to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities to ensure that our workforce is as diverse as our society. The District has a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations as required to facilitate the employment of qualified employees and applicants with disabilities. Beyond its legal obligations, the District is committed to providing accommodations that will allow its employees with disabilities to contribute at the highest levels.


    2.2 Purpose of Reasonable Accommodation

    The purpose of reasonable accommodation is to provide employment opportunities for persons with disabilities who otherwise would not be able to perform the essential functions of their job, and to allow employees with disabilities to perform or be more productive.

    Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

    ; Making existing facilities accessible;

    ; Job restructuring;

    ; Change of work schedules or place of work;

    ; Extended leave;

    ; Telecommuting;

    ; Reassignment to a vacant position;

    ; Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, including computer

    software and hardware;

    ; Appropriate adjustments or modifications of examinations, training

    materials or policies; and

    ; Provision of qualified readers and/or sign language interpreters and other

    similar accommodations.

    Reasonable accommodations must be provided in a timely manner. The process of considering requests for accommodations and providing reasonable accommodations must always include an “interactive process of mutual

    communication and consultation between the qualified individual with a disability and the District agency providing the accommodation. Accommodation decisions should be based primarily on whether they will help the applicant or employee be a successful and productive member of the District’s workforce.

    Most accommodations cost little or nothing. The District is not required to provide an accommodation if it would cause an undue financial or administrative hardship in light of the overall financial and administrative resources available.

    In addition, the District is not required to provide an accommodation if doing so would pose a direct threat to health or safety.

    3.0 Definitions

    3.1 Who is a Person with a Disability?

    ; A person with a disability is

    ; An individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially

    limits one or more of the person’s major life activities;

    ; An individual with a record of such an impairment; or

    ; An individual who is perceived to have such an impairment”.


    ; A person is substantially limited in performing a major life activity if s/he

    is materially restricted in a major life activity.

    ; Examples of “major life activities” include walking, lifting, seeing,

    performing manual tasks, sitting, breathing, speaking, hearing, learning,

    reading, personal care/grooming, and other activities.

    ; A “qualified individual with a disability” means an individual with a disability

    who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-

    related requirements of the employment functions of the position, and who,

    with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential

    functions of the position.

    An individual with an injury covered under workers' compensation may be protected by the ADA, but is not automatically protected. To be protected by the ADA, the employee must meet the ADA’s definition of disability. The ADA does not require an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee with an occupational injury who does not have a disability as defined by the ADA.

    3.2 What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

    A reasonable accommodation can be described as any change or adjustment to the job, the work environment or the way work is customarily done which permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job or to enjoy the equal benefits and privileges of employment as are available to a similarly situated employee without a disability.

    Reasonable accommodation may occur in three phases of employment:

    ; In the application process. Reasonable accommodation must be provided

    in the job application process to provide a qualified applicant with a

    disability with an equal opportunity to be considered for the position;

    ; In the performance of the essential functions of a job. Reasonable

    accommodation must be provided to enable a qualified person with a

    disability to perform the essential functions of the job. This may include

    changes or adjustments to the work environment, to the manner or

    circumstances in which the position is customarily performed, or to

    employment policies;

    ; In the receipt of all benefits of employment. Reasonable

    accommodations must be provided to enable an employee with a disability

    to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by

    similarly situated employees without disabilities. This would include equal

    access to lunchrooms, meetings, employer-sponsored services, employee

    benefits, social events, etc.


    In determining whether a requested accommodation is reasonable, agencies should consider several factors, including:

    ; The nature and cost of the change;

    ; The number of people who could benefit from the change (including

    members of the public); and

    ; Additional benefits or detriments that would result from the change.

    3.3 What are the Essential Functions of a Position?

    ; Essential functions are those that are fundamental and central to the purpose of the position. An agency must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability to allow the employee to accomplish the essential functions of the job, but an agency is not required to exempt an employee with a disability from performing the essential functions of the job.

A function may be essential because:

    ; The position exists to perform that function

    ; There are a limited number of employees available who could perform

    that function

    ; The function is highly specialized

    It is important to determine whether something is really an essential function or whether it is simply a way of performing an essential function. An essential

    function is what the completed task is, not how that task is completed. As

    such, results oriented language should be used as much as possible; an essential function may be for an employee to relocate (as opposed to lift) 50

    lb. boxes.

    Factors in determining whether a task is an essential function include:

    ; The employer’s judgment;

    ; Position description written before the job was advertised and filled;

    ; Amount of time the employee spends performing the function;

    ; Functions performed by others in the same or similar job classifications;

    ; Work performed by current and past incumbents;

    ; Consequences if this position did not perform the function; and

    ; Number of available employees who could perform the function. ; Marginal functions are useful responsibilities, but are not central to the purpose of the position. These functions can be reassigned without destroying the basic purpose of the position.

    4.0 When Can the District Deny an Accommodation?


    4.1 Undue Hardship

The agency may decline to provide an accommodation because such

accommodation is unduly

    ; Expensive;

    ; Extensive;

    ; Substantial;

    ; Disruptive; or

    ; Would fundamentally alter the nature or operations of the agency

    Whether an accommodation causes an undue hardship must be determined in light of all available financial and administrative resources.

    4.2 Direct Threat

An agency may decline to provide an accommodation because the

    accommodation would pose a direct threat to health or safety. In order to be a direct threat, there must a significant risk of substantial harm. The determination of a direct threat must be based on an individualized assessment of the applicant or employee with a disability, must rely on current medical knowledge, and must not be based on generalized assumptions or stereotypes.

    5.0 Reasonable Accommodation Process

    5.1 Request Process (Employee Requests an Accommodation)

    Employees or applicants with disabilities may request reasonable accommodations of the employer, regardless of title, salary, grade, bargaining unit, employment status (permanent, temporary, provisional, emergency) or civil service status (regular, exempt). This request does not have to be in writing, be formal or use any special language. An individual may use “plain English” and need not mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.”

Here are some examples from the Job Accommodation Network:

    Example A: An employee tells her supervisor, “I’m having trouble getting to work at my scheduled starting time because of medical treatments I’m undergoing.”

    This is a request for a reasonable accommodation

    Example B: An employee tells his supervisor, “I need six weeks off to get treatment for a back problem.” This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.


    Example C: A new employee, who uses a wheelchair, informs the employer that her wheelchair cannot fit under the desk in her office. This is a request for a reasonable accommodation.

    Example D: An employee tells his supervisor that he would like a new chair because his present one is uncomfortable. Although this is a request for a change at work, his statement is insufficient to put the employer on notice that he is requesting reasonable accommodation. He does not link his need for the new chair with a medical condition.

    A request for accommodation also may be made by a family member, health professional, or other representative who is acting on the individual’s behalf with the individual’s consent.

    The employee usually initiates the reasonable accommodation process by inquiring about the process from a supervisor, Human Resources representative, EEO Counselor, or the ADA Coordinator at the agency. If the supervisor is contacted first, the ADA Coordinator should be brought in early in the process.

    If an employee with a known or obvious disability is having performance problems, a supervisor may suggest an accommodation, but only after making a preliminary determination that the performance problem is related to the employee’s disability. This is an exception to the general rule against inquiring about disabilities, and extends only to those with known or obvious disabilities.

    The reasonable accommodation does not have to be requested at the beginning of employment. However, a reasonable accommodation request will not cancel out any prior disciplinary actions.

    5.2 Interactive Process

    The ADA requires that the employer engage in an interactive dialogue with the individual with a disability concerning reasonable accommodations. It is best to take a methodical approach in addressing requests for reasonable accommodation from employees.

    Immediately upon receiving the reasonable accommodation request, the agency ADA Coordinator/EEO Counselor should schedule a meeting with the employee as soon as possible. The employee’s collective bargaining agent or other

    person(s) of his/her choosing may assist the employee during this meeting.

    The agency’s ADA Coordinator should conduct an informal, interactive discussion with the employee. The discussion should include the following steps:

    1) A review of the agency’s detailed, written job description/vacancy

    announcement delineating the “essential functions” of the position from

    the “marginal functions.”


    2) A determination of how the employee’s impairment/disability limits his/her

    ability to perform the essential functions of his/her job in order to identify

    the employee as a qualified individual with a disability.

    3) An identification of potential accommodations and assessment of the

    effectiveness of such accommodations on the employee’s job


    4) Identification of the type of accommodation needed. The Job

    Accommodation Network can be contacted for assistance in making this

    assessment at 1-800-232-9675 (Voice/TTY) or

    5) Consideration of the preference of the employee; however, the agency

    has the right to select among the alternatives available, as long as they

    are effective.

    6) Selection and implementation of the effective reasonable accommodation

    by the agency as expeditiously as possible. Keep the dialogue open with

    the employee and discuss time lines for obtaining the accommodation

    and follow up with the employee on unexpected delays.

    The agency may find it difficult to accommodate the disability because it is not well understood or because neither the employee nor the ADA Coordinator know what equipment, modification or accommodation will enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The agency ADA Coordinator should consult the Office of Disability Rights (ODR) for additional reference material and service organizations that may help in identifying appropriate accommodations.

    5.3 Medical Documentation and Confidentiality

    If the disability is not obvious, and there is no other medical information already on record for the employee, the agency can require the employee to submit documentation from a physician or other medical professional concerning the existence and extent of the disability. Before consulting with the physician, it is necessary to obtain the individual’s written consent for the release of medical information to the agency.

The employee’s medical information must be maintained in a confidential file

    separate from the employee’s personnel file or other records and must not be

    revealed to anyone who does not need to know in order to provide the accommodation. In some instances, the employee’s supervisor does not need to know about the person’s disability or accommodations. In those situations, the information should not be shared with the supervisor.

    Information about the employee’s disability or accommodations should not be revealed to co-workers, customers, or members of the public.


    5.4 ADA Determination

    After the initial meeting and review of medical documentation (if submitted by the

    employee’s healthcare professional), the agency will make a determination

    whether the employee is a qualified individual with a disability and develop a

    Reasonable Accommodation Plan for the employee.

    5.5 Reasonable Accommodation Plan

    The Reasonable Accommodation Plan will:

    (i) State whether the employee is a “qualified individual with a disability”

    as defined by the ADA;

    (ii) Outline the employee’s essential job functions needing accommodation;

    (iii) Recommend types of accommodation; consideration will be given to

    the preference of the employee, however, the agency has the right to

    select among the alternatives available; and

    (iv) Determine whether any accommodation causes an undue hardship or

    poses a direct threat.

    6.0 Types of Reasonable Accommodation

    ; A “no-tech” accommodation costs little or no money…just time, support and

    creativity (e.g., additional preparation time for an individual, or a color-coded

    filing system).

    ; A “low-tech” accommodation is any accommodation that is technologically

    simple or unsophisticated, and readily available in most offices (e.g.,

    replacing a door knob with an accessible door handle, providing a magnifier).

    ; A “high-tech” accommodation is any accommodation that uses advanced or

    sophisticated devices (e.g., screen reading software with synthesized speech).

    6.1 Examples of Possible Accommodations

    6.1.1 Job Restructuring

    Job restructuring as a form of reasonable accommodation may involve

    reallocating or redistributing the marginal functions of a job. Job restructuring

    frequently is accomplished by exchanging marginal functions of a job that cannot

    be performed by a person with a disability for marginal job functions performed


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