Reasonable Accommodations or Adjustments
Definition of Reasonable Accommodation
Reasonable accommodations are modifications and adjustments made to an existing system/environment to reduce barriers and unequal access to participation, work, and learning for persons with disabilities. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), reasonable accommodations provided should not “impose disproportionate or undue burden”.
The definition of reasonable accommodation adopted by Malaysia in the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act 2008 is the same as that in the CRPD.
Reasonable accommodation is also known as reasonable adjustment in some countries.
Interpretation of Reasonable Accommodation
The terminologies “reasonable”, “disproportionate burden”, “undue burden” (or hardships in some countries) are difficult to define. In the PWD Act 2008, these terminologies are not clearly defined.
In many countries, accommodation/adjustment is considered as reasonable if it does not result in excessive costs or difficulties for the party that is making the reasonable accommodation (i.e., employer, school, civil service provider, housing provider, etc.). And this is often considered based on the available financial resources of the organisation/service, financial support to make the adjustment, and practicality of making the adjustment.
Some countries also require that reasonable accommodation must be effective in enabling a person with disability to learn, carry out work-specific tasks, access a premise/service, and participate in activities.
Application of Reasonable Accommodation
Reasonable accommodation is most often discussed and practiced in relation to the workplace and educational settings. However, the provision of reasonable accommodation is necessary and relevant in all settings, including housing, civil service, medical, and community settings.
Failure to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities is an act of discrimination in many countries, including United States of America, United Kingdom, India and New Zealand.
Unfortunately, a request for reasonable accommodation can often be dismissed on the grounds that it is “unreasonable” or imposes “undue burden/hardship” to the setting (i.e., employer, school, housing provider, etc.).
In many countries, persons without a formal diagnosis of disability are not eligible for reasonable accommodations.
Why Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable accommodation was introduced to reduce inequality and barriers faced by persons with disabilities. This is because many existing systems and environment were made and built without considering the diverse needs of persons with disabilities.
Provisions of reasonable accommodation are necessary actions to make our existing workplaces, schools, housing, public services and community spaces become more accessible and inclusive to persons with disabilities.
Reasonable accommodation is also appropriate in contexts where the existing accessibility and flexibility provisions are not able to adequately support the needs of the individual with disability.
For example, a workplace is fully accessible in terms of its physical environment and even provides ergonomic workstation for all its employers. However, for a person with limited hand movement or fatigues easily, these provisions do not adequately support her/him to effectively perform work duties that requires long hours in front of a computer. In this case, provision of reasonable accommodations is necessary, such as keyboard/mouse alternatives (assistive technology), flexible break time, and change in workflow.
Ensuring Fair Provision of Reasonable Accommodation
For persons with disabilities, it is not a reasonable accommodation when a modification or adjustment:
- is made without the input of the person who needs reasonable accommodation,
- does not effectively address the individual needs of the person with disability,
- does not increase access of the person with disability to participate, work, or learn, and
- does not prioritise the needs of persons with disabilities,
Non-examples of reasonable accommodation include:
- adding a ramp with a gradient that is too steep,
- providing adapted keyboard but no adjustments to desk height,
- providing digital copies of documents but without appropriate structures to navigate between texts,
- providing inaccurate subtitles to pre-recorded videos, and
- adding grab-bars that are too far away from the toilet seat (WC).
*Note: Resources linked are in English and pdf or webpage format, unless stated otherwise.
The Concept of Reasonable Accommodation in Selected National Disability Legislation by UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Report on Reasonable Accommodation under the CRPD: The Georgian Context by Dr. Andrea Broderick for USAID
What Counts as Reasonable Accommodation? (Housing, US Context) by Foundation of Senior Living, Arizona
Workplace Adjustments: What Do We Mean by Reasonable? (UK Context) by Equality and Human Rights Commission, UK
Unreasonable Adjustments by Diary of a Disabled Person