Spring is in full swing — and a number of signs are indicating an increase in hiring of people with disabilities in both the Federal and private sectors. With Federal Executive Order 13548 – Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities and the potential changes for Federal contractors in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, employers would be wise to review their “onboarding” processes.
The purpose of this process is the smooth integration of new employees into their positions and company culture. If you already have an onboarding process, does your process consider reasonable accommodation issues for your new employees who might have a disability? It should. Take a look at your process and see if you need to incorporate these reasonable accommodation considerations.
A key to the success of any process, including the accommodation process, is education and training for those responsible for implementing it. Know who these players are in your organization. Who sets up a new employee’s workstation? Who provides access to the facility and parking? If a new hire with a disability needs an accommodation to be an effective member of your team, who will make sure the accommodation is in place for the individual’s first day of work? Key players will certainly include your human resources (HR) department, as well as managers and supervisors. Don’t forget to include staff from information technology (IT), facilities, and security departments in this training. Also, when conducting training, be sure to make everyone aware of the need and requirement to keep all medical information confidential.
Once your staff is educated about your company’s accommodation process for new hires, the next step is to make sure new hires know that they can and should ask for an accommodation if they know or think they might need one. Many individuals who know they need an accommodation to do the job successfully will choose to make an accommodation request. However, others might fear the job offer will be rescinded if they do so, and some might not be sure if they need an accommodation, or know how to request what they need. To deal with these issues, the individual who makes the job offer can share information about the company’s desire to facilitate a smooth transition and integration for the new employee — and explain employment policies, including that for implementing effective reasonable accommodations.
Whoever is responsible for responding to an individual who has accepted a job offer should be prepared to describe to the new employee the office location and the type of equipment the company will provide. This need not be detailed, but should include information about the work location and work area, such as: Parking is provided onsite or no parking at the site; standard computer, telephone, cell phone provided; ID card needed to access building; desk workstation/cubicle environment, etc. Also, if the new employee needs to fill out forms before the start date, or to go to a location to obtain an ID, etc., explain this in advance, giving the employee the opportunity to address other potential needs. Having all this information enables new employees to consider if they need to request a reasonable accommodation.
Effective onboarding of employees might require these accommodations:
- Access to Website and online forms
- Print material in an accessible format, including providing media in alternative format as needed (large print, Braille, text file, etc.)
- Accessible parking and building access (keyless entry, security issues, rest rooms, break rooms, exercise rooms, etc.)
- Use of service animals in the workplace
- Computer and communication technology access (alternative input devices, screen reading software, screen magnification, telephone amplification, smart phone or tablet apps, etc.)
- Workspace modifications (furniture, lighting, space, noise abatement, etc.)
- Services or work-related assistance (sign language interpreters, readers, note takers, etc.)
- Emergency evacuation and shelter-in-place plan needs
You don’t need to have all of these accommodations in place for the first day of work; however, an awareness of the potential need and a willingness to implement accommodations as part of your company culture will help you onboard new employees successfully. To help you update your onboarding process if needed, here’s a sample onboarding accommodation assessment form.
Anne Hirsh, M.S., JAN Co-Director