Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sections 501 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act require employers to consider and implement reasonable accommodation for employees, including newly hired employees. Employers would be wise to review their new employee onboarding process to ensure reasonable accommodations are provided as soon as possible.
The purpose of an onboarding process is to smoothly integrate new employees into their positions and company culture. If you already have an onboarding process, does your process consider reasonable accommodation issues for your new employees who may happen to have a disability? It should. Take a look at your process and see if you need to incorporate the following reasonable accommodation considerations.
A key to the success of any process, including the accommodation process, is education and training for those responsible for implementing the process. Know who these players are in your organization. Who sets up a new employee's workstation? Who provides access to the facility and parking? If a new hire with a disability needs an accommodation to be an effective member of your team, who will make sure the accommodation is in place for the individual's first day of work? Key players certainly will include your human resources (HR) department, as well as managers and supervisors. And do not forget to include staff from information technology (IT), facilities, and security departments in this training. Also remember when conducting training, be sure to make everyone aware of the need and requirement to keep any and all medical information confidential.
Once your staff is educated about your company's accommodation process for new hires, the next step is to make sure new hires know that they can and should ask for an accommodation if they know or think they may need one. Many individuals who know they need an accommodation to do the job successfully will choose to make an accommodation request. Others may fear the job offer will be rescinded if they do so and some may not be sure if they need an accommodation or may not know how to request what they need. To overcome these issues, the individual making the job offer can share information about the company's desire to facilitate a smooth transition and integration for the new employee and explain various employment policies including the company policy for implementing effective reasonable accommodations.
Whoever is responsible for responding to an individual who has accepted a job offer should be prepared to describe to the new employee the office location and the type of equipment that will be provided. This does not have to be detailed, but should include information about the work location and work area such as: parking is provided onsite or no parking at the site; standard computer, telephone, cell phone provided; ID card needed to access building; desk workstation/cubicle environment, etc. Also, if prior to start date forms need to be filled out online or one has to go to a location to obtain an ID, etc., this should be explained, giving the opportunity for other potential needs to be addressed. Having all this information enables new employees to consider if they need to request a reasonable accommodation.
What accommodations may be imperative for effectively onboarding employees with disabilities?
- Access to Website and online forms;
- Print material in an accessible format including providing media in alternative format as needed (large print, Braille, text file, etc.);
- Accessible parking and building access (keyless entry, security issues, restrooms, break rooms, exercise rooms, etc.);
- Use of service animal in the workplace;
- Computer and communication technology access (alternative input devices, screen reading software, screen magnification, telephone amplification, smart phone or tablet apps, etc.);
- Workspace modifications (furniture, lighting, space, noise abatement, etc.);
- Services or work related assistance (sign language interpreters, readers, note takers, etc.); and/or
- Emergency evacuation and shelter in place plan needs.
Certainly not all of these accommodations need to be in place for the first day of work, but an awareness of the potential need and a willingness to implement accommodations as part of your company culture will help any employer successfully onboard new employees. To help you update your onboarding process if needed, here is a sample onboarding accommodation assessment form.