TO: Department and Agency Personnel/Affirmative Action Officers
FROM: Candice T. Carter, Executive Deputy Commissioner
Americans with Disabilities Act: Reasonable Accommodations
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), agencies are required to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified applicant or employee with a disability if an accommodation would enable the applicant or employee to perform the essential functions of the job to which he/she is seeking appointment or in which he/she is employed, unless it can be demonstrated that the accommodation would constitute an undue hardship on the operations of the agency. (42 U.S.C. §12112(5)(A)).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Technical Assistance Manual on Title I of the ADA provides that, if an applicant or employee requests an accommodation and the need for an accommodation is not obvious, or if an employer does not believe that an accommodation is needed, the employer may request documentation or require a medical examination to identify the individual's functional limitations to support the request. The Manual advises that a reasonable accommodation must take into consideration the specific abilities and functional limitations of a particular applicant or employee with a disability and the specific functional requirements of a particular job. Therefore, the focus should be on identifying the abilities and limitations of an individual, and not upon the diagnosis and prognosis of a physical or mental condition.
The following procedure, which has been approved by the State Office of the Advocate for the Disabled, should be used to verify an applicant's or employee's need for a requested accommodation.
The key issue in all cases is the degree to which medical documentation supports the need for the requested accommodation. While an agency may seek technical assistance from a medical professional, State or local rehabilitation agencies or disability constituent organizations in determining how to accommodate a particular individual in a specific situation, the decision as to what is and what is not an appropriate accommodation is to be made by the agency.