The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to employees and applicants for employment. What are reasonable accommodations? A discussion with Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf
. This discussion continues in part 2 of ADA Reasonable Accommodations.
Interview recorded Sept 27, 2017.
Traynham: Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities and requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to employees and applicants for employment. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers". I'm Robert Traynham. Joining me is Howard A. Rosenblum -- he's C.E.O. of the National Association of the Deaf -- and an interpreter, Sandra Thompson. Howard, welcome to the program.
Rosenblum: Thank you for having me here on the program.
Traynham: Let's start first with -- What is an accommodation, specifically when someone is applying for a job or, perhaps, is already in the workplace?
Rosenblum: It could be either a person who is planning to apply for a job or already working there. The person must have the qualifications for the job, with or without the accommodation. So, if they can perform the job, the essential functions of that job with an accommodation, then it should be provided, if it's reasonable. If they can perform it without an accommodation, that's fine, as well. There is either route, but some people become disabled during the course of their work, and they might need an accommodation later -- not at the time of their application. Or the person can apply from the start and request those accommodations to be able to work there. And once they start work, then you need to have those accommodations ready.
Traynham: Howard, is it any different for a small-business owner -- perhaps maybe a mom-and-pop store on Main Street? Perhaps, maybe, they do not have the resources, or perhaps, maybe, the knowledge. Is there a special tax credit or perhaps training that perhaps they can go through to make sure they're accommodating a request?
Rosenblum: The Americans with Disabilities Act was written to not have that burdenism. The first rule under the Americans with Disabilities Act is that you have to have 15 or more employees, and then you are required to comply with ADA. So, that's one that covers employment, and, really, those mom-and-pop shops often have less than 15 employees, which means they do not have to comply with the ADA. Many states have human rights laws that are similar to the ADA, and they may have a level that signifies under 15 -- for example, Illinois being one. The employment civil rights law there says that if you have a staff of one or more, which means all employers must provide reasonable accommodations. There have been talks of if that is a burden, and there is a tax credit available under the ADA and the IRS code. There is a specific provision for that that provides a certain amount that they can deduct from their taxes for providing those accommodations. However, most accommodations are not expensive. Most businesses are aware of that, but they don't know that providing those accommodations don't cost as much as they think that it will. It's often at a low cost. Sometimes you have to get creative in providing that accommodation, rather than just providing one-solution-fits-all for every person. That's not the best way to go about it. Each person's gonna need something different. They're each gonna require a different accommodation.
Traynham: That's a perfect segue, Howard. Can you give us an example of what an accommodation might look like? I think for most Americans, they may not know what to look for or, quite frankly, what to ask for.
Rosenblum: I think it depends on the disability, really. For example, a person who has low vision -- maybe they're not completely blind, but with just large print for any type of reading that they need to do or a screen magnifier for their computers and the work that they would need to do on a computer. For those who are completely blind, there are different types of reading programs that they could use along with an earbud to hear what's happening on the computer screen. You have to understand what type of software that you're buying that has to be able to comply with whatever equipment you're providing for the person with the disability. More and more software producers that are out there now are realizing that they need to make sure that their software is compatible with those external devices for accommodation. For a deaf person, for example, they may need a special phone to be able to make phone calls. Most of the time,that kind of phone is actually free and provided by a company for the purposes of deaf people being able to make those calls. It could be something that's text-based, or it could be an auto-caption program where a person is speaking on their end of the phone and it's coming in as text. It could also be a video phone, where a person can use sign language. I would call you through a machine, but I would be using a relay operator, like the interpreter standing here today. I would sign to her just like I'm doing now on my video phone, she would see me signing, voice what I'm saying back to you, listen to what you're saying, and then sign back to me. We have those types of phone systems, and they're provided free of charge.
Traynham: Coming up in part 2 of my discussion with Howard, we expand our conversation about workplace adjustments for the deaf and how these modifications are boosting productivity and equal access.