Hello, I’m Kathy Gips. For most of us employment is a critical part of our lives. In the past (and unfortunately sometimes in the present), people with disabilities were discriminated against in employment solely because of their disability. A colleague told me that years ago an employer told her not to bother to fill out an application because he wouldn’t hire someone who is blind – that was pre-ADA.
The ADA requires employers to make an assessment of a job applicants’ qualifications without regard to disability. A person who is blind might be a great lawyer, someone with low vision might be a competent website designer. These people are clearly qualified.
Before a job offer is made an employer must not make disability-related inquiries. They are allowed (and encouraged) to ask applicants to describe how they would do job functions. They may ask applicants to demonstrate how they would do job functions. Employers may ask applicants questions about reasonable accommodation ONLY if it is obvious that the person has a disability and may need an accommodation.
Reasonable accommodation is a key concept in title I. It may start before employment, such as holding an interview in an accessible location for someone who uses a wheelchair, it includes supports to perform job functions, such as buying screen reader software for the lawyer who is blind and also applies to benefits of employment, such as providing a sign language interpreter for an employee who is deaf and plans to attend an office party. If it’s not obvious that the person has a disability or needs what they are requesting the employer may require medical documentation.
Some people think that employees with disabilities may not be held to the same job performance standards as others, but that’s not true. As long as job performance standards are uniformly applied, employees with disabilities must meet performance and conduct standards.
Please return for future segments on reasonable accommodation and other ADA topics.