Understanding Americans With Disabilities Act Compliance

The Americans With Disabilities Act Compliance protects persons with disabilities who are able to work from discrimination in the workplace. In 2010, the Department of Justice introduced a set of rules for employers to follows regarding design accommodations especially as it relates to access to electronics and information technology.

It is imperative for every employer to comply with the Act or face severe legal and other penalties. Before delving further into the compliance side of the Act, it is necessary to understand the Act and what it may mean for your business:

1. Who Is A Person with A Disability

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not have a specific list of disabilities but employs a legal test to determine whether a person can be legally defined as disabled. This test sets the following parameters for disability:

– A disability must pertain to a medical condition or disorder that results in impairment.

– The impairment must place substantial limitations on the disabled person.

– These limitations must restrict the ability to perform “major life activities”.

2. Does Every Employer Need to Comply with the ADA?

Only businesses with more than 15 employees need comply with the ADA whether these are full or part-time employees or if these employees are located at various sites.

3. Are There Any Exceptions to Compliance?

“Undue hardship” may be considered a reasonable accommodation for non-compliance with the ADA. Undue hardship can be defined as an accommodation for a disabled person that involves significant difficulty that will disrupt operations, that will ultimately change the nature of the business or simply be considered to be too expensive. If it can be proven that accommodation/s meet one or more of these stipulations, the ADA cannot enforce compliance.

The DOJ is still in the process of developing specific guidelines for employers to follow in order to be ADA compliant and what should and should not be done is therefore a little confusing. So, let’s look at what needs to be done to be compliant in the interim.

1. Physical Accommodations

These are physical accommodations that are made to a building or workplace to make it easily accessible to persons with disabilities. Modifications to bathrooms, work stations and installing ramps are a few examples of physical accommodations.

2. Accessible Technology

Technology needs to be accessible to those with disabilities in the following ways:

– Installing software that is accessible to the disabled.

– The installation of screen reader software.

– The use of videophones to improve communication for employees who are hearing impaired.

3. Communication Accessibility

There are two types of disabilities where communication may be challenging – for the hearing and visually impaired. For the visually impaired, documentation needs to be made available in large print or in braille. A sign language interpreter should be made available to the hearing impaired.

4. Policy Accommodations

There are a variety of different amendments that will need to be made to the policy and procedures of a company in order to comply with the ADA. Most significantly, accommodations regarding working times and schedules need to be made for people suffering with chronic illnesses where the symptoms or treatments may prevent them from adhering to a “regular” work schedule.

Accommodations should also be made in policy with regards to discrimination against the disabled by work colleagues, management, executives or any other person relative to the workplace. Rules and regulations as well as disciplinary action and penalties for those who contravene the policy should be put in place. Unfortunately, this is an area where many companies struggle to enforce policy and eliminate employee discrimination specifically related to the disabled in the workplace.