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Small Business Toolkit: Offer Reasonable Accommodations

Discover how reasonable accommodations play a role in ensuring the productivity of all employees in a small business.

All employees need the right tools and environment to perform their jobs effectively. People with disabilities may need accommodations to maximize their productivity. An accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a person with a disability to apply for or perform a job. Examples include providing flexible hours for medical appointments to accommodate an employee with cancer, or dimmable lights to accommodate an employee with a migraine condition.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), covered employers must provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with known disabilities when requested, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. However, research indicates that the benefits of providing accommodations for workers with disabilities greatly outweigh the costs—if any are incurred at all. In a study of employers who provided information about the cost of accommodations:

  • 49.4% said the accommodation they made cost nothing; and
  • 43.3% said the accommodation incurred a one-time cost, with the median being $300.

Visit the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for more information and practical guidance on reasonable accommodations.

Visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to learn more about reasonable accommodations tips for small businesses.

Workplace Flexibility as a Reasonable Accommodation

While workplace flexibility is often associated with job locations and schedules, it also includes how work gets done. A business can change a job description to match an employee’s needs. One example is adjusting a D/deaf customer service worker’s position so that they respond to customer inquiries by chat or email only, rather than on the phone. Workplace flexibility also helps businesses address the needs of its customers in multiple ways. 

Small business owners benefit from having an adaptable, flexible, and capable workforce—which is what flexibility is all about. For example, a new parent may need to change to a part-time work schedule. A person with a mobility disability may need to telecommute, whether occasionally or full time, to mitigate transportation challenges. Regardless of the reason, strategies such as telework and flextime often lead to increased employee productivity.