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What is a reasonable accommodation under the ADA?

Whether a person is born with a disability or becomes disabled due to an illness or injury later in life, this doesn't mean that the person is totally unable to work. Many of these people want to work, in order to earn a living and contribute to society. Therefore, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers in Illinois and nationwide must make the reasonable accommodations necessary for a disabled worker to do their job, unless such accommodations would place an undue hardship on the employer.

A reasonable accommodation is simply a physical alteration to the workplace or a change in the way job tasks are performed that allows disabled employees to perform their jobs. For example, making the workplace wheelchair accessible might be a reasonable accommodation. Another example of what may be a reasonable accommodation is providing a blind worker with a reader, so the worker can do their job.

However, what is considered to be an undue hardship that would exempt the employer from the ADA's reasonable accommodation requirement? An undue hardship is one in which the accommodation would be prohibitively costly or difficult, given the employer's business needs, how big the employer is and the employer's financial resources. While providing a reasonable accommodation may cost an employer some money, if there is more than one way a reasonable accommodation can be provided, the employer may select which option they prefer.

So, while an employer is required per law to provide disabled workers with reasonable accommodations, there is an exception for undue hardships. Determining whether an accommodation constitutes an undue hardship can be a grey area. Therefore, it is important for those facing such situations may want to take the measures necessary to understand their rights, so they can make informed decisions moving forward. Speaking to an employment law professional may help.

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