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A reasonable accommodation is an adjustment made in a system to accommodate or make fair the same system for an individual based on a proven need. That need can vary. Accommodations can be religious, physical, mental or emotional, academic, or employment related and are often mandated by law. Each country has its own system of reasonable accommodations. The United Nations use this term in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, saying refusal to make accommodation results in discrimination. It defines a "reasonable accommodation" as:
... necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
In Canada equality rights, as set out in provincial and federal anti-discrimination laws and in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, require that accommodation be made to various minorities. With a new addition being "family status" being included as well. (The origin of the term reasonable accommodation in Canadian law is found in its labour law jurisprudence, specifically Ontario (Human Rights Commission) v Simpsons-Sears Ltd,  2 SCR 536, and is argued to be the obligation of employers to change some general rules for certain employees, under the condition that this does not cause "undue hardship".)
In the United States, federal law requires that reasonable accommodations be made for employment, education, housing, courts, and public venues.
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The Americans With Disabilities Act, known as ADA, was signed into law on 26 July 1990. It carried forward material from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 'A reasonable accommodation' is defined by the US Department of Justice as "any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities."
In September 2012, Home Depot company agreed to pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for the alleged failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for a cashier with cancer at its Towson, Maryland, store, and then for purportedly firing her because of her condition.
State and local government services, programs, and activities
Title II of the ADA provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity". State and local governments must provide reasonable accommodations to ensure such access, unless a fundamental alteration would result.
Title III of the ADA requires private businesses open to the public and commercial facilities to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities to ensure that they have equal access to goods and services.
Under Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, codified in the United States Code at 42 USC §§ 3601–3619, and commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, virtually all housing providers must make reasonable accommodations in their rules, policies, practices, or services under certain circumstances. A reasonable accommodation must be granted when such an accommodation is necessary to afford a prospective or existing tenant with a disability an opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling (including but not limited to apartments, single family homes, and other types of private and public housing) to the same extent as a person who does not have that disability. The Fair Housing Act covers "dwellings", and in many situations that term encompasses such non-traditional housing as homeless shelters and college dormitories. It bears noting that in regard to larger dwellings such as apartment buildings, the right to a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act requires that housing providers grant a requested reasonable accommodation that is necessary to enable a disabled tenant to enjoy an indoor or outdoor common area to the same extent as a non-disabled tenant enjoys such areas.
The laws of England, Wales, and Scotland require employers to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, initially under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and now under the Equality Act 2010. Failure to do so can give rise to a complaint by an employee to an employment tribunal.
Employers and managers are often concerned about the potential cost associated with providing accommodations to employees with disabilities. However, many accommodations have a cost of $0 (59% in a survey of employers conducted by JAN), and accommodation costs may be offset by the savings associated with employing people with disabilities (higher performance, lower turnover costs).
- "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities". United Nations. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
- "Home Depot to Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit". The National Law Review. US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
- Civil Rights. (2012). US Department of Health & Human Services. Retrieved 28 January 2014 from https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/index.html
- Bonaccio, S., Connelly, C.E., Gellatly, I.R., Jetha, A., & Martin Ginis, K.A. (2020). The participation of people with disabilities in the workplace across the employment cycle: Employer concerns and research evidence. Journal of Business and Psychology, 35(2), 135-158.
- Job Accommodation Network (Updated October 21, 2020). Workplace accommodations: Low cost, high impact. Retrieved 06/16/2021.
- Fisher, S. L., & Connelly, C. E. (2020). Building the “Business Case” for Hiring People with Disabilities: A Financial Cost-Benefit Analysis Methodology and Example. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 9(4), 71-88.