Kentucky's Office for the
Americans with Disabilities Act

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ADA General Information

What does the ADA mean by "Accommodations"?

An individual with disabilities' right of access to "reasonable accommodation" is truly at the heart of the ADA.  In essence, an "accommodation" is a modification of established procedures or existing physical space to allow full access to and participation in those activities enjoyed by the general public.  Accommodations may be as simple as placing blocks of wood under a table's legs to make it high enough for use by a person who uses a wheelchair, or as complicated as widening doorways, or rewiring light switches so they can be lowered to wheelchair height.  It is important to note that accommodations need not be expensive, and as long as employers and others subject to ADA regulations made a reasonable effort to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities they will (usually) find themselves in compliance.  

* A discussion between the employer and employee regarding appropriate accommodations is important in order to initiate or maintain a positive work environment. It is essential to remember that accommodations will vary for every individual.  

Accommodations Costs

The following cost breakdown illustrates the overall 
inexpensive nature of providing accommodations.

% of Total Accommodations Cost of Accommodations




$1 - $500


$501 - $1,000


More than $1000

Sears indicated that pf the 436 reasonable accommodations provided between 1978 and 1992*:

% of Total Accommodations Cost of Accommodations




less than $1,000


more than $1,000

*Source: US DOJ ADA Fact Sheet

Flexibility and creativity are key when it comes to the development of mutually beneficial solutions to accessibility problems.

Challenging the Stigma of Assistive Technology

Workplace Accommodations: Inexpensive and Effective

A major goal of the ADA is to enable more people with disabilities to succeed in the labor force.  Employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" to employees and job applicants who have disabilities, so long as these accommodations do not impose an "undue burden" on the employer.  Despite the misconception that the cost of job accommodations is high, the facts indicate the opposite: The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), an information service sponsored by the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, reports that the cost of accommodations is typically very low, around $200 per employee with a disability. A recent Annenberg study of job accommodations made by Sears, Roebuck and Co. nationally found an even lower typical cost of less than $50.

Of the accommodations JAN recommends, many (17%) require no expenditure whatsoever. Such accommodations might include re-arranging an office to provide more maneuvering room, allowing a technician to sit for part of his work day, giving a job applicant with a learning disability extra time to take a test, or providing a reserved parking space to an employee with a mobility impairment. In the Sears study, a majority (69%) of accommodations incurred no direct cost, generally involving changes to work rules or schedules, job reassignments, or enhanced training or supervision.

 In addition to the 17% that cost nothing, a further 52% of JAN's recommended job accommodations cost employers less than $500. Examples include purchasing wrist pads for a computer user with repetitive stress injury, a phone amplifier for a hearing impaired employee, an ergonomic chair for a back problem, or a special computer screen for someone with a visual impairment. An employer might hire a sign language interpreter for a training session, install soundproofing to enable a worker with a brain injury to concentrate, or install a railing in the restroom.

The level of employer satisfaction with such job accommodations is striking. JAN's numbers reveal that 82% of employers found the accommodations they made to be "extremely effective" or "very effective."  More than half (53%) reported that they had been able to hire or retain a skilled employee, with the accommodation resulting in improved productivity. Many reported that the modifications they'd made had saved them the trouble and expense of hiring and training someone new. In general, employers reported substantial financial benefit as a consequence of small investments of time and/or money in accommodating workers with disabilities. At Sears, for example, administrative costs of replacing an employee average around $2000, a figure much greater than their typical accommodation costs.

Results from a 1995 Harris poll of employers confirm the low cost and high employer satisfaction associated with reasonable accommodations:

  • While 81% of employers have made accommodations for workers with disabilities (up from 51% in 1986), only 27% say that it costs more to employ a person with a disability than one without.

  • Fully 82% say that the ADA "is worth the cost of implementation," and 80% report that the cost of accommodating people with
    disabilities has increased "a little or not at all" since passage of the ADA.

  • A large majority (66%) also report that the amount of litigation has not increased as a result of the ADA.

Source: Excerpt: Disability Watch - The Status of People with Disabilities in the United States, complete text available from the Disability Statistics Center:


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Reviewed 08/26/2016



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