Lita C. Wallace
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Appendix B: Disability Services Information
Reasonable accommodation includes making changes in a job to allow a person to perform the essential functions of the position--often at little or no cost.
Disability can include a wide range of conditions: hearing loss, vision loss, restricted mobility, AIDS, epilepsy, arthritis, amputation, etc.
Click here for information on the University of Minnesota Guidelines for Reasonable Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities.
Why Should I Make Reasonable Accommodations?
The University of Minnesota is required by federal and state laws to make reasonable accommodation to the known physical or emotional limitations of a qualified disabled individual.
A potential employer may NOT ask ANY questions about accommodation until a tentative offer of employment has been made. If a candidate has checked "YES" on the disability section of the application, DO NOT ask any questions about disability/accommodation, unless one is requested for the interview.
The fact that you know the applicant has a disability should not have any weight in your decision and should be ignored during the deliberation process. Base questions on the duties and requirements of the job. Ask the same questions of all applicants, disabled or not.
If the applicant brings up disability, we suggest you explain that the University is committed to considering reasonable accommodation after a tentative job offer has been made.
What If I Don't Select the Applicant?
Document the reasons for non-selection on the Applicant Referral Follow-Up Comparison Form, and forward it to UMD Department of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity. This information can be released to the federal or state government for a compliance review at any time.
How Does Reasonable Accommodation Work If I Hire the Applicant?
If, after a job offer, the applicant brings up the subject of accommodation, discuss with the person what is needed to do the essential duties of the position (for example, a light on the phone for someone with a hearing loss).If the person does not bring up the subject of disability/accommodation, generally assume none are needed, unless a need is apparent. Many disabilities are not obvious, such as diabetes, etc. Therefore, do not assume that because a person has a disability he or she will need to tell you or will need accommodation to successfully perform the job.
Where Can I Get More Information?
If you have questions regarding making accommodation, call Cathy Rackliffe at 218-726-6827.
The ADA prohibits any pre-employment inquiries about a disability.
This prohibition is necessary to assure that qualified candidates are not screened out because of their disability before their actual ability to do a job is evaluated.
Before making a job offer, an employer may ask questions about an applicant's ability to perform specific job functions; may make a job offer that is conditional on satisfactory results of a post-offer medical examination or inquiry; may not make an inquiry about a disability.
After making a conditional job offer and before an individual starts work, an employer may conduct a medical examination or ask health-related questions, providing that all candidates who receive a conditional job offer in the same job category are required to take the same examination and/or respond to the same inquiries.
The basic requirements regarding pre-employment inquiries and the types of questions that are prohibited on job application forms apply to the job interview as well.
The job interview should focus on the ability of an applicant to perform the job, not on the disability.
The interviewer may describe or demonstrate the
specific functions and tasks of the job
Questions may be asked regarding ability to perform all job functions, not merely those that are essential to the job.
Even where an applicant has a visible disability or has volunteered information about a disability, the interviewer may not ask questions about the nature of the disability, the severity of the disability, the condition causing the disability, any prognosis or expectation regarding the condition or disability, or whether the individual will need treatment or special leave because of the disability.
An interviewer may not ask whether an applicant will need or request leave for medical treatment or for other reasons related to a disability. The interviewer may provide information on the employer's work hours, leave policies, and any special attendance needs of the job, and whether or not the applicant can meet these requirements.
The employer must provide an accommodation, if needed, to enable an applicant to have equal opportunity in the interview process.
Before making a conditional job offer, an employer may not request any information about a job applicant from a previous employer, or other source, that it may not itself request of the job applicant.
Before making a conditional offer of employment, an employer may not ask previous employers or other sources about an applicant's disability, illness, and/or Workers' Compensation history.
A previous employer may be asked about job functions and tasks performed by the applicant, quality and quantity of work performed, how functions were performed, attendance records, and/or other job-related issues that do not relate to disability.
An employer may not require a job applicant to take a medical examination, to respond to medical inquiries, or to provide information about Workers' Compensation claims before the employer makes a job offer.
An employer may condition a job offer on the satisfactory result of a post-offer medical examination or medical inquiry if this is required of all entering employees in the same job category.
If an individual is not hired because a post-offer medical examination or inquiry reveals a disability, the reason(s) for not hiring must be related and necessary for the business. The employer also must show that no reasonable accommodation was available that would enable this individual to perform the essential job functions or that accommodation would impose an undue hardship.
A post-offer medical examination may disqualify an individual who would pose a "direct threat" to health or safety. Such a disqualification is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
A post-offer medical examination may not disqualify
an individual with a disability who is currently able to perform essential
job functions because of speculation that the disability
After a person starts work, a medical examination
or inquiry of an employee must be
Information from all medical examinations and inquiries must be kept apart from general personnel files as a separate, confidential medical record in the UMD Department of Human Resources and Equal Opportunity, available only under limited conditions.
Each disability may require different accommodations. While some conditions are readily apparent, others are hidden because they are not always visible to an observer. The major categories are:
Paraplegia, quadriplegia, amputation, and other mobility impairments are caused by such conditions as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, or by injury. Depending on the severity of the disability, individuals may have limitations in stamina, manual dexterity, speech, or ability to stand.
Visual impairments may range from a slight visual loss to total blindness (only 2% of the visually impaired population is totally blind). Some people can read using large print or a magnifier. Others need readers and textbooks on tape, while others may use Braille materials.
There is a great range in hearing loss. Many people can use hearing aids and hear sufficiently for classes, work, and social situations. Individuals with a greater hearing loss may rely on lip reading (which is 55% correct at best) or on a sign language interpreter. Some people can make use of specialized amplification devices for PA systems.
A learning disability affects the manner in which individuals take in information, retain it, and express the knowledge they possess. Learning-disabled people have normal intelligence and exhibit a discrepancy between ability and achievement. This discrepancy is not related to visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantages. The most serious and common deficits for people with learning disabilities are in reading comprehension, spelling, mechanics of writing, math computation, and/or problem solving. Less frequent, but no less troublesome, are problems in organizational skills, time management, and social interpersonal skills.
Epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and chemical dependency are conditions that can cause difficulties with medication, stamina, and absences. Individuals with these invisible disabilities may be reluctant to disclose their condition for fear of negative stereotyping and/or disbelief.
Psychiatric disabilities refer to conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorders, schizophrenia, etc. As with the systemic conditions, individuals may not choose to disclose the disability because of the stigmatization involved.
Individuals who have survived head injuries are a new group seeking reasonable accommodations for work and education. Cognition and behavior may be altered as a result of virtually all forms of head injury, including those which seem minor at the time. The head injury may affect one or more of the following areas: speed of thinking, memory, communication, motor, sensory, physical, and psychosocial abilities. There is great variation in the possible effects of a head injury on an individual.
The following is a list of common accommodations. It is not meant to be exhaustive; individual needs cause requirements to vary from situation to situation. The purpose of an accommodation is to remove barriers caused by inaccessible environments, allowing people with disabilities anequal opportunity to demonstrate their competency. Ideally, accommodations are mutually negotiated, flexible, and agreed upon in advance.
The ADA does not restrict an employer's authority to establish the needed job qualifications, including requirements related to: education; skills; work experience; licenses or certification; physical or mental abilities; health and safety; or other requirements, such as judgment, ability to work under pressure, or interpersonal skills.
The ADA does not interfere with an employer's authority to establish appropriate job qualifications to hire people who can perform jobs effectively and safely, or to hire the best qualified person for the job. It is designed to assure that people with disabilities are not excluded from jobs they can perform.
Qualification standards or selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability on the basis of disability must be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
Qualification standards or selection criteria must be legitimate measures for the specific job for which they are being used. It is not enough that it measures qualifications for a general class of jobs.
If qualification standards or selection criteria exclude an individual with a disability because of the disability and does not relate to the essential functions of a job, they are not consistent with business necessity.
An employer may require as a qualification standard that an individual not pose a "direct threat" to the health and safety of the individual or others, if this standard is applied to all applicants for a particular job. However, the employer must be prepared to show: significant risk of substantial harm; the specific risk is identified; it is a current risk, not one that is speculative or remote; the assessment of the risk is based on objective, medical, or factual evidence regarding a particular individual; and whether the risk can be eliminated or reduced below the level of a "direct threat" by reasonable accommodation.
The ADA requires an employer to focus on the essential
functions of a job to determine whether a person with a disability is
qualified. This is an important nondiscrimination requirement. Many people
with disabilities who can perform essential job functions are denied employment
because they cannot do things that are only marginal to the job.
If a person holding a job does perform a function, the next consideration is whether removing that function would fundamentally change the job.
ADA regulations list several reasons why a function could be considered essential: the position exists to perform the function; there are a limited number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the function can be distributed; a function is highly specialized, and the person in the position is hired for special expertise or ability to perform it.
An employer's judgment as to which functions are essential is important evidence.
A written job description prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for a job will be considered as evidence along with other relevant factors.
The amount of time spent performing the function would be evidence.
The consequences of not requiring a person in this job to perform a function is an important factor that will be considered. Sometimes a function that is performed infrequently may be essential, because there will be serious consequences if it is not performed.
Where a collective bargaining agreement lists duties to be performed in particular jobs, the terms of the agreement may provide evidence of essential functions.
The work experience of previous employees in a job and the experience of current employees in similar jobs provide pragmatic evidence of actual duties performed. The employer should consult such current employees and observe their work operations to identify essential job functions, since the tasks usually performed provide significant evidence of these functions.
The nature of the work operations and the employer's organizational structure may be factors in determining whether a function is essential.