The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in 1990, to give people affected by disabilities greater protection against mistreatment.
Since then, the ADA has stopped employers — across businesses of all sizes — discriminating against existing or prospective staff because of a disability. It’s crucial that you comply with the ADA’s regulations in every aspect of running your company, but what if you’re uncertain of your obligations?
Here’s a brief guide to fill you in.
Who does the ADA protect?
According to the ADA, the following individuals are classified as being disabled:
- Those with a physical and / or mental impairment
- Those with a record of being impaired physically or mentally
- Those who appear to have a disability which may not ‘qualify’ under the ADA’s provisions (such as having limited difficulties with walking, lifting, communicating etc.)
Bear in mind, only companies with 15 or more employees are required to adhere to ADA guidelines. However, your state laws may still demand you follow certain ADA rules even if you employ fewer people, so look into that if you have a small team.
Does the ADA impact my hiring process?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.
Before hiring, employers are prohibited from asking:
- whether an applicant has a physical or mental impairment
- how the disability was caused
- what (if any) medication they take
- about the candidates’ history of claiming compensation related to their disability
Any physical exams you ask applicants to undergo must be part of ALL hiring processes, rather than being restricted to those with disabilities only. If the exam proves their impairment renders them unsuitable for the role, the application may be denied, but ONLY if it will prevent them doing the job.
It’s vital to consult with an attorney specializing in employment law when creating policies relating to your hiring process. Know exactly what the ADA and general regulations require of you when screening candidates for a vacancy, especially those living with disabilities.
What accommodations must I make for employees with disabilities?
The ADA stipulates that ‘reasonable’ accommodations be made to facilitate employees with disabilities.
What does this mean? Basically, certain modifications or adjustments must be made to suit the requirements of said workers, to ensure they can undertake their duties in full. This may include flexible hours to accommodate treatment sessions, installing a specific type of chair to aid the individual’s comfort or anything else that could be considered ‘reasonable’.
Requests for accommodations may come from the employee themselves, a medical professional, a relative or anyone else concerned for the individual’s workplace accessibility. Handling requests and identifying their validity must be done with care, to avoid breaking any of the ADA’s rules on the matter.
Asking for documentation that proves an obvious disability is just one mistake, as is rejecting an accommodation that can be undertaken with ease. ‘Unreasonable’ requests are those which would prove too difficult and expensive, and an employer has a legal right to deny those.
Your business’s size and budget are obvious factors affecting this situation. Again, an attorney should be consulted to be sure.
If an existing or prospective employee is affected by blindness or visual impairments, an indoor navigation system is the ideal solution. RightHear is an innovative app users can install on their smartphone, enabling them to hear audio directions in the workplace (where traditional GPS is unavailable).
This increases their independence, boosts safety and enhances their entire everyday experience.
Want to discuss integrating RightHear into your business? We’re here to answer your questions!