The ADA may sound familiar—but do you know what it is, exactly?
In today’s workforce, it is important for employers to establish the inclusion of people across the spectrum of diversity, including disability. Individuals with physical or mental impairments can find themselves limited when it comes to certain day-to-day tasks and activities. In order to accommodate employees with disabilities, employers and businesses must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Understanding what this act is, how it affects employers and how to comply with it can create a work environment suitable for everyone, regardless of their abilities.
What Is It?
The ADA is a law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination, giving them the same civil rights as everyone else. This law is split into five sections—referred to as titles—associated with different areas of public life. Title I addresses employment. The purpose of this title is to provide equal opportunities and benefits to those with disabilities in the workplace.
How Does it Affect Employers and Businesses?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers and businesses with 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. The purpose of a reasonable accommodation is to allow employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs with minimal limitations, as well as enjoy the same benefits as all other employees. Employees can make reasonable accommodation requests, which will then be evaluated based on each individual situation. An accommodation is considered reasonable if it does not cause the employer undue hardship.
Discrimination against qualified employees with disabilities is illegal. Employees who face discrimination have the option of filing a charge with the EEOC, who would then investigate the situation.
Are You in Compliance?
There are different ways employers and businesses can ensure they are in compliance with the ADA. Making sure employees know about reasonable accommodations—and how to ask for them—is one primary way to provide equal opportunities and benefits. Common accommodations include modifications of the workplace, such as different types of equipment or devices, alternative schedules and job restructuring.
Another important part of compliance is emergency preparedness. Employees with disabilities should feel as safe and secure as those without disabilities. It is vital to have emergency exits that are accessible to individuals with disabilities, and to make sure those employees know where they are. Developing a plan ahead of time can help workers know what resources are available to them.
Phyllis Rupert, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion at Highmark Health, recommends establishing a buddy system through which employees can designate a coworker to assist them in case of an emergency. It is also a good idea to make fire wardens aware of people with disabilities in the office so that they can be of assistance, if necessary.
Partnerships are effective when complying with the law. Establishing partnerships with organizations that value the inclusion of people with disabilities can provide additional support and resources. Examples of such organizations include the Job Accommodations Network, US Business Leadership Network (USBLN), National Disability Institute or the ADA National Network.
The Americans with Disabilities Act helps to decrease limitations of individuals with disabilities. Complying with this law is not only helpful to your employees, but it is helpful to your business because it enables the workforce to perform efficiently. If you have questions about legal requirements involving employment, you can reach out to the EEOC for more information.