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What makes an accommodation reasonable under the ADA?

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

In 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor said employers often use reasonable accommodations for a disability to keep good employees, and 68.4% of those who did found them to work well.

To include everyone, it is important to understand the things that can help people under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and the state and local disability laws. Knowing what is a reasonable accommodation is very important to make sure everyone has the same chances, especially those with disabilities.

Basic definition

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, work environment or public space that enables a qualified individual with a disability to perform essential job functions or access services. To be reasonable, the accommodation must not impose an undue hardship on the employer and must meet the employee’s needs.

Undue hardship

Undue hardship means facing significant difficulty or expense when trying to provide a specific accommodation. Although the law stresses the importance of reasonable accommodations, it understands that there are limits to what employers or service providers can reasonably do.

Deciding if something is an undue hardship involves carefully looking at factors like the nature and cost of the accommodation, the entity’s financial resources and how it affects the business or service. It is not a one-size-fits-all idea. Instead, it depends on the specific details of each situation.

The ADA aims to strike a balance between helping individuals with disabilities and recognizing the practical limits of an organization. This way, it promotes inclusivity without putting too much burden on employers or service providers.


Making accommodations reasonable depends on two points. It has to address the individual’s specific needs. It also must ensure the changes fit into the overall function of the workplace. Accommodations can take different forms, like adjusting work schedules, changing facilities or providing extra help like interpreters or assistive technology.

Deciding what is reasonable involves a team effort between the person with a disability and the employer or service provider. They work together to find solutions that meet the individual’s needs without causing too much difficulty.

The ADA does not require a specific kind of accommodation but emphasizes being flexible and tailoring solutions to each person. What works for one might not work for another. The key is to adjust the accommodations to fit each situation.

Sometimes, employers (1) may improperly delay in negotiating a reasonable accommodation; (2) or offer an accommodation that would not work for the employee’s disability; (3) or even refuse to engage in negotiations. In those circumstances, an employee may want to seek legal advice from an attorney who specializes in representing employees.

Reasonable accommodations under the ADA aim to provide equal opportunities for people with disabilities while being practical for the workplace. Through being inclusive and talking openly, employers and service providers can create environments that empower everyone, no matter their abilities.

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