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Sunday, August 13, 2023

Workplace Accommodations

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the employment of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Wendy Lu at NYT:
The Americans With Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, bans discrimination against workers with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations that don’t pose an “undue hardship” — a tricky term.

“There’s a huge gap between what the law was intended to do and what the experience of employees with disabilities really are,” said Ms. Macfarlane, who is the incoming director of the disability law and policy program at Syracuse University College of Law.

Experts argue that in order to be more accommodating to workers with disabilities, employers need to lift antiquated barriers such as medical documentation requirements and long wait times. Instead, employers should establish policies that are accessible to as many people as possible while being flexible and open to improvements.


Despite legal obligations, employers are often hesitant to beef up their accommodations because of misconceptions that they are expensive and rarely needed. The median cost of an accommodation with a one-time expense is around $300, according to a recent survey by the Job Accommodation Network, and about half of employers reported that the accommodations they had established cost nothing. (Many accommodations, like remote work, also benefit nondisabled employees, including parents.)

Underlining the problem, many organizations do not have a standardized accommodation process or a centralized budget for it; often, they wait to address accessibility until an employee makes a request, said Shelby Seier, the founder of All Kinds, a consulting firm that evaluates companies for accessibility.

“Have an internal affinity group where you have individuals with disabilities talking with each other,” said Yvette Pegues, 45, the chief diversity officer of Your Invisible Disability Group and a board member for the Arc, a disability advocacy organization.