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Reasonable Accommodations under ADA

by Mary Mazzoni on June 15, 2011

When our kids venture out into life beyond IEPs – and enter the workplace or postsecondary education – they step out of special education law (IDEA).

They may choose to disclose their disability and request “reasonable accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Disability Disclosure

Some people choose not to request accommodations because they do not want to disclose their disability.  Disability disclosure is a very personal choice.  The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) has developed a free, in-depth resource entitled 411 on Disability Disclosure, to help young people make informed decisions about when, if, and how to disclose disability.  There are youth and adult workbooks – pdf or audio format.

“Reasonable Accommodations”

Let’s assume your child does choose to disclose (and provide documentation of) disability, and request accommodations at work or in a postsecondary program.  The “reasonable accommodations” provided in these settings may be very different than those provided in school under special education law.

Part of transition planning is understanding the types of accommodations that can be expected in work and postsecondary settings.  And helping kids learn the skills they’ll need to succeed using the accommodations they can expect in these environments.

Where to start?

JAN – The Job Accommodation Network is an incredible tool.

Access JAN’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) to find examples of “reasonable accommodations” under ADA for work and postsecondary education settings.  You can search by disability type and by work or learning task and environment.  You can also ask questions of JAN staff via email, phone or online chat.  JAN works with employers, educators, and people with disabilities to find practical ways to accommodate the “functional limitations” of a person’s disability so they can meet the “essential functions” of a job or educational program under ADA.

The new terms in quotations above are from the law itself.  You can learn more about the ADA at JAN’s ADA Library.

Planning Ahead

By consulting JAN, the IEP team (including you and your child) can better understand the types of “reasonable accommodations” your child can anticipate receiving in the work or postsecondary learning environment of his/her choice.  With this information, the team can make informed decisions about what skills your child will need to learn so that s/he can be successful with these accommodations.

It is important for the team to consider gradually fading the accommodations provided in high school so that by the time your child graduates, s/he is accustomed to accommodations that are much like those that will be provided in a work or postsecondary education environment.

When it comes to postsecondary education or training programs – it will be important to speak directly with the disability support staff.  Some postsecondary programs provide supports above and beyond those required by ADA.

In regards to employment – it may be possible for your child to obtain funding for special employment services that offer job coaching and/or customized employment that provide supports beyond the “reasonable accommodations” employers must provide under ADA.

In any case, it’s important for you, your child, and the entire IEP team to understand the types of accommodations considered “reasonable” and required under ADA.  This information is critical to determining the skills your child will need to learn to be successful.

JAN – The Job Accommodation Network – is a key resource in planning for your child’s life after IEPs.

Any questions or comments?  We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. Or email me using the white envelope in the upper sidebar.

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Related post: What’s the 411 on Disability Disclosure? 


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