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Reasonable Accommodations Program

The Department of Commerce (DOC) is committed to providing reasonable accommodation to applicants and employees with disabilities unless the Department can demonstrate that providing a particular accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations are provided to remove barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from applying for jobs, performing the essential functions of the position held or desired, gaining access to the workplace, or enjoying equal benefits and privileges of employment as individuals without disabilities.

The Department’s reasonable accommodation policy is outlined in Department Administrative Orders, 215-10, Reasonable Accommodation for Employees or Applicants with Disabilities (DAO-215-10).

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or the way things are customarily done that would enable a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. There are three categories of reasonable accommodation:

  • Changes to the job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position the applicant desires. For example, providing a sign language interpreter for an interview for an applicant who is deaf or hard of hearing (hoh). 
  • Changes to the work environment, or to the way a job is usually done, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position. For example, adjusting a work schedule or telework flexibility to enable a disabled employee to attend medical appointments.
  • Changes that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment. For example, making adjustments to training or workshop materials for a visually impaired employee.

Who is a qualified individual with a disability?

A qualified individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment (or is regarded as having or has a record of such impairment) which substantially limits one or more major life activities, and who meets the skill, experience, education, or other requirements of a position that s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.

What are Personal Assistance Services (PAS)?

PAS are non-medical services that allow employees with targeted disabilities to fully participate in the workplace by providing assistance with activities of daily living, such as eating, drinking, using the restroom, and putting on and taking off clothing. For many individuals with targeted disabilities, i.e. paralysis or cerebral palsy, full participation in the workplace is impossible without such services. PAS allow these individuals to enjoy the opportunity and independence of employment.

To learn more about PAS, please review the Department’s DAO 215-10.

For assistance with requesting a reasonable accommodation or PAS, please contact a Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator. Click here for the full list of Reasonable Accommodations Coordinators.

What are the Accessibility Standards for Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal workplace?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires in part, that electronic and information technology (EIT) developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal Government after June 21, 2001, be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.  U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires, in part, that federally-sponsored or facilitated meetings, conferences, presentations and programs to which members of the public are invited or admitted must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.  It is the Department’s policy to provide individuals with disabilities full access to Departmental programs, information and services. 

Department of Commerce Administrative Orders

Laws

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-112) (Rehab. Act), as amended, as these sections appear in volume 29 of the United States Code, beginning at section 791. Section 501 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the federal sector. Section 505 contains provisions governing remedies and attorney's fees under Section 501. Relevant definitions that apply to sections 501 and 505 precede these sections.

Section 508 requires that Federal agencies must ensure comparable accessibility to persons with disabilities whenever that agency uses electronic or information technology, unless such access would impose an undue burden. This web site contains the text of Section 508, as amended, as well as other materials.

  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) - This law makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in employment (Title I), in public services (Title II), in public accommodations (Title III) and in telecommunications (Title IV). EEOC is responsible for enforcing Title I's prohibition against discrimination against people with disabilities in employment. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and qualified individual with disabilities unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.
  • Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 ADAAA -  This law made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” It also directed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to amend its ADA regulations to reflect the changes made by the ADAAA. EEOC provides information about the ADAAA.

Guidance and Regulations

  • Executive Order 13164 - Requiring Federal Agencies to Establish Procedures to Facilitate the  Provision of Reasonable Accommodation, October 20, 2000 

Additional Resources