A long, long time ago…before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and shortly after I graduated college, I applied for a position and was contacted for an interview. As was my habit, I drove around the building looking for wheelchair access because usually ramps were located in the back of buildings where deliveries were received. In this case there were no ramps at the building, which surprised me because the building was about 5 stories high.
This was also long before cell phones were popular (invented), so I went to the nearest pay phone (old technology) and called the interviewer to explain my situation. I asked the interviewer if she could conduct the interview outside the building on the steps, and she agreed. As an applicant, I requested a reasonable accommodation, of which the employer agreed…a foreshadowing of the interactive process!
Since the passing of the ADA in 1990, employers have become more aware of accessibility difficulties some people may have regarding employment and as a result have risen above the minimum accessibility standards with high marks. A clear majority of organizations today provide accessibility into buildings as well as technology access such as screen readers for PCs and phone video to ‘see’ conversations just to name a few. So we’ve come a long way, but what about accessibility before the job? Do job candidates have a right for reasonable accommodations for an interview today?
The answer, as many may not be aware of, is yes! According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees Title I of the ADA dealing with employment, the ADA “makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified applicant or employee with a disability.” So, although a majority of employers have met or exceeded accessibility needs of their employees, I suspect not as many are aware of the accessibility needs of applicants.
Fortunately, the ADA has instructed employers to provide “reasonable” accommodations such that “an employer cannot refuse to consider you [applicant] because you require a reasonable accommodation to complete for or perform a job.” The term “reasonable” refers to whether the accommodation will cause an “undue hardship” on the organization. Undue hardship is not specifically defined, but is something considered to have significant difficulty or expense.
If a requested accommodation does cause undue hardship, the employer will still be required to at least provide an alternative accommodation that would meet the needs of the applicant. Similar to my own personal example above, if a qualified candidate uses a wheelchair but the employer is located upstairs in a building with no elevator, the employer can certainly conduct the interview downstairs (alternative accommodation) rather than be required to install an elevator system (undue hardship).
The following is a short list of accommodation ideas:
- Provide building entrance accessibility
- Provide written materials in accessible formats (large print, Braille, audio)
- Provide readers or sing language interpreters
- Provide accessible technology equipment
- Provide adjustment or modification to application procedures
Those are just a few examples of accommodation ideas. There are two online resources for more:
And remember, if you would like information on equal opportunity standards and guidelines, check out Workforce Solutions.
David Spears is a member of the Workforce Solutions Navigator team for the Texas Gulf Coast Region. Combining training and education to real world examples, David brings personal and professional experience with disabilities to the table in order to help job seekers with disabilities realize their potential. David has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration with over 20 years of experience in the business world.