This is the second in a series of articles on the Americans with Disabilities Act that will provide you with practical suggestions for providing reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee. In this article, some additional terms have been defined, as well as some guidance provided as to the initial steps in the reasonable accommodation process. WHAT IS REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION? "Reasonable accommodation" is determined on a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things usually are done that enables a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity. • It Must Be Effective. The accommodation must provide an opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same level of performance or to enjoy benefits, or privileges equal to those of an average similarly-situated non-disabled person. However, it does not have to ensure equal results or provide exactly the same benefits or privileges. • Need Not Be the Best Available. The accommodation need only enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, even though, there may be a better accommodation available. EXAMPLES OF REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION Although there is no comprehensive list of reasonable accommodations, the following are examples of accommodations that may be required to assist a qualified employee or applicant: • Alteration of facilities; • Reallocating or redistributing marginal job functions; • Providing part-time or modified work schedules; • Obtaining or modifying equipment or devices; • Providing qualified readers or interpreters; • Reassignment to vacant position; • Permitting use of accrued paid leave or unpaid leave for necessary treatment; • Providing reserved parking for a person with a mobility impairment; and • Allowing an employee to provide equipment or devices that an employer is not required to provide. MEET WITH APPLICANT OR EMPLOYEE The most important thing an employer should do is consult with the employee or applicant who has requested an accommodation: Damages for an ADA violation can be substantial, but if the employer can demonstrate that it consulted with the employee in good faith and attempted to identify a reasonable accommodation, a money award is not available to the employee, even if the employee prevails. During the consultation, find out the individual's specific abilities and limitations. Then, identify potential accommodations and assess how effective each would be in enabling the individual to perform essential job functions. The employer should carefully document what occurred during the consultations and what options were explored.