The Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act of 1990 makes it ille­gal for com­pa­nies to dis­crim­i­nate in employ­ment against a qual­i­fied indi­vid­ual with a dis­abil­i­ty, accord­ing to the U.S. Equal Oppor­tu­ni­ty Com­mis­sion (EEOC). This leg­is­la­tion, which has been amend­ed in the years since it was orig­i­nal­ly signed into law, pro­vides guide­lines to employ­ers for accom­mo­dat­ing and being fair to the dif­fer­ent­ly abled.

There are lim­i­ta­tions to protection.

“An indi­vid­ual with a dis­abil­i­ty must also be qual­i­fied to per­form the essen­tial func­tions of the job with or with­out rea­son­able accom­mo­da­tion, in order to be pro­tect­ed by the ADA,” accord­ing to the EEOC. Specif­i­cal­ly, they must meet the require­ments set by the employ­er for edu­ca­tion, employ­ment expe­ri­ence, skills, licens­es, and oth­er job-relat­ed stan­dards. In addi­tion, they must also per­form their job oblig­a­tions with or with­out accommodations.

The job descrip­tion matters.

In the eyes of the law, the job descrip­tion mat­ters because it will be con­sid­ered proof of the require­ments and duties the employ­ee — regard­less of dis­abil­i­ty — must per­form. There­fore, HR lead­ers should care­ful­ly craft job descriptions.

This is actu­al­ly a good fit with a gen­er­al trend of greater trans­paren­cy and a hir­ing process that is more like­ly to help employ­ers find a good match in job can­di­dates to avoid attri­tion. Peo­ple should know what their days will be like, how they can suc­ceed on the job, and what tasks they will have to accomplish.

Accom­mo­da­tion is not as sim­ple as it sounds.

Rea­son­able accom­mo­da­tion refers to mak­ing a change or mod­i­fi­ca­tion to make it pos­si­ble for a qual­i­fied appli­cant or employ­ee, who is dis­abled, to apply for the job, do the job, and expe­ri­ence treat­ment equal to oth­ers. In the legal sense, this could mean pro­vid­ing devices, mak­ing the work­place accom­mo­dat­ing with struc­tures like door­ways wide enough for wheel­chairs, and pro­vid­ing interpreters.

There is a caveat to pro­vid­ing rea­son­able accom­mo­da­tion. Some might see it as a loophole:

“It is a vio­la­tion of the ADA to fail to pro­vide rea­son­able accom­mo­da­tion to the known phys­i­cal or men­tal lim­i­ta­tions of a qual­i­fied indi­vid­ual with a dis­abil­i­ty, unless to do so would impose an undue hard­ship on the oper­a­tion of your busi­ness,” accord­ing to EEOC. “Undue hard­ship means that the accom­mo­da­tion would require sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ty or expense.”

While employ­ers are not legal­ly required to make all the changes, many are try­ing to equip their work­place so it is more wel­com­ing to their diverse group of employ­ees. Some are mak­ing any con­tent on the inter­net acces­si­ble. Oth­er exam­ples might include remov­ing light­ing that would dis­turb those with pho­to­sen­si­tive conditions.

Be aware of the lim­its to your questioning.

HR pro­fes­sion­als should know that they can­not ask job can­di­dates if they are dis­abled or about the sever­i­ty of their dis­abil­i­ty. No one can require a med­ical exam before mak­ing a job offer. How­ev­er, HR lead­ers and hir­ing man­agers can ask about the per­son­’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions and abil­i­ties to do the tasks of the job.

The ADA works into DEI strategies.

The ADA pro­vides a kind of roadmap for employ­ers inter­est­ed in hir­ing and accom­mo­dat­ing dis­abled employ­ees. The work­force should reflect the out­side com­mu­ni­ty. Cer­tain­ly, dis­abled Amer­i­cans are in the real world, and they can con­tribute and excel. Ignor­ing their poten­tial sim­ply because of a dis­abil­i­ty is a missed opportunity.

One in four Amer­i­cans has a dis­abil­i­ty, accord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC). Yet, only about 19% of work­ers in the Unit­ed States are dis­abled. More HR lead­ers, how­ev­er, are rec­og­niz­ing that they should nev­er define a per­son by his or her dis­abil­i­ty. They should instead rec­og­nize the mer­its of their can­di­da­cy and con­sid­er them for jobs.

In fact, diver­si­ty in recruit­ment and hir­ing is a solu­tion to the labor short­age. The CDC also reports that more than 45% of dis­abled adults have func­tion­al dis­abil­i­ties. Now, many com­pa­nies can hire dis­abled peo­ple to work remote­ly, which would not require mak­ing changes to an office or work­space for accommodation.

Ulti­mate­ly, by con­sid­er­ing the require­ments of the ADA and rec­og­niz­ing what their com­pa­ny can do to accom­mo­date those with dis­abil­i­ties, HR pro­fes­sion­als can open a new pipeline of tal­ent. In addi­tion, they can extend their reach and con­tin­ue to diver­si­fy their workforce.

By Francesca Di Meglio

Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed on HR Exchange Network