What is Reasonable Accommodation? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Definition and Legal Basis
  • 0:46 Who May Need It?
  • 1:25 Examples
  • 5:23 No Unfair Advantages
  • 6:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson defines reasonable accommodation according to the current legal basis. In addition, it provides you with practical examples of situations when reasonable accommodation is in place.

Definition and Legal Basis

So you can have an overview of what reasonable accommodation entails, let's begin with its definition. The U.S. Department of Education defines reasonable accommodation as a change or adjustment to the way things usually are in order to attend the needs of individuals with disabilities. The reason for a change of adjustment is to ensure individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities as others to participate in job performance, the purchase of goods and services, and the services and programs the government enables. The legal basis for reasonable accommodation is mainly under the Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA), which was signed into law in 1990.

Who May Need It?

The definition of reasonable accommodation probably makes you wonder who are considered individuals with disabilities. It is important to understand that the ADA defines disability as 'a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.' While the law does not specify a list of physical or mental impairments, they include but are not limited to, autism, the inability to walk, chronic diseases, memory loss, hearing loss, blindness, etc. Organizations that specialize in disabilities have very long lists of more physical and mental impairments you may want to check.


Now that we have the definitions under our belt, let's take a look at some examples of reasonable accommodations:

Eliminating tasks that are not essential assists a disabled person who could, in exchange, do something else. For example, your employee has a speech impairment. It is not absolutely necessary she answers the phone. Thus, you eliminate this as a duty for her, who can instead do filing for her coworkers.

Having schedule flexibility means you might have to allow an individual with a disability to take reasonable time to attend a personal need that relates to the disability. For example: your student has a disease that requires special medication at specific times. Thus, you allow him to leave class in order to take his medication. Similarly, an employee may have to be absent for a day or two during the week to receive dialysis. You can accommodate for her or him by agreeing to a weekly 3-day work contract, or the employee could agree to recuperate the hours on weekends or work from home.

Allowing animals to enter a facility refers to service animals, which are those who assist their owner with a disability. For example, a teacher in your school suffers a respiratory condition and her dog carries a device that provides oxygen. Even though animals are not allowed on the school premises, your teacher has the right to have her service animal with her at all times.

Allowing personal assistants or devices has to do with cases when an individual needs an assistant or a device to minimize the limitations a disability imposes. For example, you have a student who has limited motor skills and a speech impairment. A personal assistant helps her to hold or reach objects whenever necessary. In addition, the student carries a speech synthesizer that allows her to communicate with others. Your school must accept the presence of the assistant and the usage of the speech device.

Having wheelchair access refers to the physical space a building should have in order to facilitate wheelchair access. For example, you would install a ramp to allow for wheelchair access in your business or work place.

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