Understand the Value of ADA Accommodations

Even if you do your due diligence, it’s not always apparent

The only president elected for three terms..... David Wilson Flickr Creative Commons

The only president elected to three terms…..
David Wilson Flickr Creative Commons

before you hire someone that they can’t follow through on tasks, can’t deal with authority, and can’t meet any deadline…ever. These are the sorts of disabilities that make people generally unemployable. But oddly, it’s the other disabilities that are immediately apparent and often less relevant that create the problem. For example, if the candidate can’t walk, can’t see very well, can’t hear, we often assume that they’re going to have to surmount big obstacles to do a good job. Truth is, there are a lot of jobs where those kinds of disabilities have zero impact on the candidates’ ability to perform. Especially if you really understand the value of ADA accommodations.

The ADA laws about accommodations have been around for 25 years but many employers don’t really know what they say, and that causes a lot of anxiety. Basically, if you are an employer with 15 or more employees, and you have a candidate applying for a job who has a disability, they can request an accommodation to help them compete for the job. So if your offices are up a flight of stairs and they are in a wheel chair, they can request to be interviewed and assessed elsewhere. If they can’t drive and have to take the bus and the bus arrives 10 minutes after your other employees are expected to be at work, they can ask you to accommodate that. Or if you have an employee who gets hurt or suffers some problem after being hired that affects their ability to do the job, you will try to find a way to continue to employ them which might include buying a bigger computer monitor, getting a different desk, widening the passages between work stations to allow for a wheelchair and the like. You don’t have to change your office to accommodate any disability you might ever encounter. You just deal with the disability of the person asking for an accommodation. You respond to the candidate or the employee, not the disability. Which, if you think about it, is how we’d all like to be treated.

The accommodation can’t create “undue hardship” meaning a level of difficulty or expense that is unreasonable given the circumstances.  You don’t have to move your entire operation across town to accommodate one employee. You don’t have to hire someone who is not as qualified as another candidate just because they have a disability. But you do have to realize that the purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act was to remove superficial barriers that keep really hard-working, skilled, talented people from getting work. That includes removing barriers from yours and your hiring managers’ perceptions, realizing that we all tend to have preconceived notions about what the candidate we hire will be like, or what a person with a disability might be like. Recognizing that those preconceived notions are there is the first step to overcoming them.

A person doesn’t actually have to be able to walk to be brilliant at creating software, for example. They don’t have to be able to hear to be a great chef. They don’t have to be able to see to provide fantastic customer support—as long as they have access to the information they need to help the customer.

On the other hand, an employee really does need to be able to follow through, meet deadlines, and cope with authority to do a good job. And you might not believe the accommodations I’ve seen employers give for employees who couldn’t–or wouldn’t—do those things.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt couldn’t walk. Ludwig Von Beethoven couldn’t hear. Ralph Teetor, who invented cruise control, couldn’t see. And then there’s Stephen Hawking. None of them could be accused of being lackluster in their performance. If you’re an employer who wants help hiring great people, regardless of disabilities, call us!

You can also read more at ADA.gov.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

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