The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against people who have disabilities. Under the ADA, it’s illegal for employers to discriminate against qualified individuals based on disability or medical condition. However, many people don’t know that the ADA also covers website accessibility issues, like the ones accessiBe WordPress covers.
This article will explain the laws that make websites accessible for people with disabilities and how they apply to employers.
Websites as Employer “Facilities”
In general, the ADA requires employers to make all of their facilities used by employees and visitors accessible. So an employer who has a physical location with multiple offices and hallways must make that accessible, including any rooms or offices used by employees.
Similarly, if an employer uses a website for work purposes (e.g., posting job ads on Craigslist) or offers some sort of online service to its customers or members (like making it possible for people through its website to register their children for sports), the ADA applies to the website as well.
The ADA requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide “reasonable accommodations” for employees and applicants who have disabilities that substantially restrict a major life activity, like seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, or working. For example, if an employee is deaf and needs a sign language interpreter during a meeting, the employer must pay for that accommodation. Similarly, suppose an employee has trouble filling out forms on his computer due to carpal tunnel syndrome and needs someone to type in the information for him. In that case, this too could be considered a reasonable accommodation.
The ADA also requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who have a disability or medical condition outside of the ADA’s scope, which affects their ability to do their job.
What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation?”
Reasonable accommodations can take many forms. It could be as simple as changing the date and time of a regularly scheduled meeting or as complex as installing a new software system that would allow an employee with Parkinson’s to use her computer keyboard.
Employers are not required to make accommodations that create “undue financial burdens” on the business, but this is open for debate. For example, if someone needs a sign language interpreter for meetings every day, but the cost of providing this accommodation would be prohibitive to the business (e.g., more than 5% of the company’s revenue), an employer may choose not to provide it. But if another employee finds meetings inconvenient because they are always scheduled in the middle of his workday, and he has trouble getting there on time, an employer may be required to offer him flexible work hours to attend meetings more conveniently.
Other issues for employers to consider
No matter the situation, it’s important for employers to act quickly when facing requests for accommodations. Employees don’t always ask for these accommodations, but the ADA requires employers to act promptly in providing them. Employers should not ignore requests simply because they disagree on whether an accommodation is reasonable or made soon enough. Some requests may be out of the question for financial reasons, but an employer should do so if a request can reasonably be granted without extreme expense to the business.