Reasonable accommodations do not begin with a hired employee. The initial starting point is with the job posting. While no specific information is required in a job posting or on an application, the EEOC does recommend employers communicate the essential functions of the job since this information is more likely to attract qualified applicants, including those with disabilities.
The EEOC also recommends that employers include a statement that they do not discriminate based on a disability or other legally protected class. An example would be: “We are an Equal Opportunity Employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or disability.”
As stated by the EEOC:
“Employers have an obligation to make reasonable accommodations to enable applicants with disabilities to apply for jobs. For example, information about jobs should be available in a location that is accessible to people with mobility impairments. If a job advertisement provides only a telephone number to call for information, a TTY (sometimes also called a TDD, or telecommunication device for the deaf) number should be included, unless a telephone relay service has been established. Printed job information in an employment office or on employee bulletin boards should be made available, as needed, to persons with visual or other reading impairments. Preparing information in large print will help make it available to some people with visual impairments. Information can be recorded on a cassette or read to applicants with more severe vision impairments and those who have other disabilities that limit reading ability. Employers must either make their on-line application processes accessible or provide an alternative means for people with disabilities to apply for jobs, unless they can show that doing so would cause an undue hardship.”
So…make the application process as easy as possible for everyone, including those with a disability, to apply. Visit Job Accommodation Network (JAN) website for information regarding making on-line applications accessible. Not only should your online application be readily accessible to those with a disability, it is wise to start thinking about making your company website user friendly. Check out what the ADA says about accessible websites…
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, if the government entities receive Federal funding, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, generally require that State and local governments provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities unless doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services, or activities or would impose an undue burden. One way to help meet these requirements is to ensure that government websites have accessible features for people with disabilities, using the simple steps described in this document. An agency with an inaccessible website may also meet its legal obligations by providing an alternative accessible way for citizens to use the programs or services, such as a staffed telephone information line. These alternatives, however, are unlikely to provide an equal degree of access in terms of hours of operation and the range of options and programs available. For example, job announcements and application forms, if posted on an accessible website, would be available to people with disabilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
While website accessibility currently applies to some state and federal government agencies, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a requirement for all businesses with an online profile. For more information on accessible websites, check out this ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Governments.
Applicant Screening & Interviewing
Once you have received several applicants, it’s time to begin the screening process. More detailed information about the job, the company and the applicant may be shared at this point in the process and you can better determine which applicants you believe are better suited for the advertised position. While phone interviews are becoming more of an initial step in the interview process, it’s always best to meet personally before making a final decision so ensure your interview site is accessible to all applicants.
Medical inquiries cannot be asked on the application or during the interview process so you cannot ask whether they need an accommodation or what their medical condition is. If the applicant volunteers information about their medical condition, stop them immediately and let them know they don’t need to discuss that at this point. You can however, inquire about an applicant’s ability to perform specific job-related functions or require the applicant to take a test that is specifically associated to the position. Tests must be developed by a reliable, professional party in order to be validated. Ensure all tests are applicable to the position…you wouldn’t give a programmer the same test as an administrative assistant, and remember to test all applicants with the same testing criteria in order to avoid any hint of discrimination. Keep in mind that sometimes an applicant may not realize they need an accommodation in order to take a qualifying test. If that is the case, the employer is obligated to provide an effective accommodation in order for the applicant to continue with the hiring process. The applicant can suggest and discuss accommodations, but the final decision is up to the employer. JAN has more information on alternative testing accommodations at https://askjan.org/media/downloads/TestingAccomm.pdf.
The EEOC states that “Once a conditional job offer has been made, and before an employee starts work, employers may ask any disability-related questions they choose and they may require medical examinations as long as this is done for all entering employees in a particular category.” For more information, click to the EEOC’s Pre-employment Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Exams at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/preemp.html.
CHECKLIST FOR HIRING PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
- Do learn where to find and recruit people with disabilities.
- Do learn how to communicate with people who have disabilities.
- Do ensure that your applications and other company forms do not ask disability-related questions and that they are in formats that are accessible to all persons with disabilities.
- Do consider having written job descriptions that identify the essential functions of the job.
- Do ensure that requirements for medical examinations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Do relax and make the applicant feel comfortable.
- Do provide reasonable accommodations that the qualified applicant will need to compete for the job.
- Do treat an individual with a disability the same way you would treat any applicant or employee with dignity and respect.
- Do know that among those protected by the ADA are qualified individuals who have AIDS, cancer, who are mentally challenged, traumatically brain injured, deaf, blind, and learning disabled.
- Do understand that access includes not only environmental access, but also making forms accessible to people with visual or cognitive disabilities and making alarms/signals accessible to people with hearing disabilities.
- Do develop procedures for maintaining and protecting confidential medical records.
- Do train supervisors on making reasonable accommodations.
- Don’t assume that persons with disabilities are unemployable.
- Don’t assume that persons with disabilities lack the necessary education and training for employment.
- Don’t assume that persons with disabilities do not want to work.
- Don’t assume that alcoholism and drug abuse are not real disabilities, or that recovering drug abusers are not covered by the ADA.
- Don’t ask if a person has a disability during an employment interview.
- Don’t assume that certain jobs are more suited to persons with disabilities.
- Don’t hire a person with a disability if that person is a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the public and there is no reasonable accommodation to reduce the risk or the harm.
- Don’t hire a person with a disability who is not qualified to perform the essential functions of the job even with a reasonable accommodation.
- Don’t assume that you have to retain an unqualified employee with a disability.
- Don’t assume that your current management will need special training to learn how to work with people with disabilities.
- Don’t assume that the cost of accident insurance will increase as a result of hiring a person with a disability.
- Don’t assume that the work environment will be unsafe if an employee has a disability.
- Don’t assume that reasonable accommodations are expensive.
- Don’t speculate or try to imagine how you would perform a specific job if you had the applicant’s disability.
- Don’t assume that you don’t have any jobs that a person with a disability can do.
- Don’t make medical judgments.
- Don’t assume that a person with a disability can’t do a job due to apparent and non-apparent disabilities.
- Don’t assume that your workplace is accessible.
CLICK HERE for tips on disability etiquette when communicating with persons with a disability.
Check out the below hiring resources for individuals with disabilities…
• Ability Jobs – https://abilityjobs.com/
• Able Trust – http://www.abletrust.org/
• Career Guide for Students with Disabilities – https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/students-with-disabilities-careers/
• Career OneStop – https://www.careeronestop.org/ResourcesFor/WorkersWithDisabilities/job-search.aspx
Bear in mind that employers are not obligated to hire an individual with a disability over another qualified candidate, but are obligated to select the most qualified candidate without discriminating against the one with the disability if they can perform the job functions with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Look for our next blog on ADA Compliant Job Descriptions.
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