Inside Look at an Outsider: Accommodations

When I attended a training for Inclusive Storytimes with the Santa Clara County Office of Education's Inclusion Support Warmline, I remember the introductory exercise, because it resonated with me.

The host split us up into groups based upon whether we needed to wear glasses, drink coffee to start our day, exercise before work, etc.  She wanted us to realize that each of us depends on some kind of support in order to get through the average work day.  The hope was that through this exercise, we would be more empathetic to those with disabilities who need accommodations at work.

When I think of people who use supports at work in a throughly efficient way, I immediately think of San Francisco 49er Quarterback Brock Purdy.  As football fans know by now, Brock Purdy was named Mr. Irrelevant because he came in last in the 2022 Draft due to an erroneous assessment of his abilities based upon his physical results in the NFL Combine.  His strength lies in his ability to accommodate his physical limitations with his superior intellect and processing.  As such, he was able to overcome a physical injury after the NFC Championship game in 2023 and lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl one year later.  Why?  Because he has managed to accommodate his physical form with his superior thinking skills.

Most people have to accommodate some limitation in order to do their job well.  For people with disabilities, these accommodations may be provided by a letter from an expert like a doctor.


  • According to ADA website, a disability is defined as:

"A person with a disability is someone who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
  • has a history or record of such an impairment (such as cancer that is in remission), or
  • is perceived by others as having such an impairment (such as a person who has scars from a severe burn).

If a person falls into any of these categories, the ADA protects them. Because the ADA is a law, and not a benefit program, you do not need to apply for coverage."

"Under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process. These modifications enable an individual with a disability to have an equal opportunity not only to get a job, but successfully perform their job tasks to the same extent as people without disabilities. The ADA requires reasonable accommodations as they relate to three aspects of employment: 1) ensuring equal opportunity in the application process; 2) enabling a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of a job; and 3) making it possible for an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

Reasonable accommodations should not be viewed as “special treatment” and they often benefit all employees. For example, facility enhancements such as ramps, accessible restrooms, and ergonomic workstations benefit more than just employees with disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodations include making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; changing tests, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters."

Examples of Accommodations or "Productivity Enhancers":

The US Department of Labor says that accommodations "are sometimes considered as productivity enhancers," as they are meant to equalize the work output for a person with disabilities with their peers.

"Here are some more examples. Many job accommodations cost very little and often involve minor changes to a work environment, schedule or work-related technologies:

  • Physical changes
    • Installing a ramp or modifying a rest room
    • Modifying the layout of a workspace
  • Accessible and assistive technologies
    • Ensuring computer software is accessible
    • Providing screen reader software
    • Using videophones to facilitate communications with colleagues who are deaf
  • Accessible communications
    • Providing sign language interpreters or closed captioning at meetings and events
    • Making materials available in Braille or large print
  • Policy enhancements
    • Modifying a policy to allow a service animal in a business setting
    • Adjusting work schedules so employees with chronic medical conditions can go to medical appointments and complete their work at alternate times or locations"

The Office of Disability Employment Policy, which is within the US Department of Labor, funds the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).  JAN is a technical assistance center that provides "free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations."

Job Accommodation Network

JAN's mission:

"JAN helps employers recognize the valuable contributions that qualified workers with disabilities add to the workforce by providing accommodation solutions, trusted strategies, and practical guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Job accommodations play a vital role in creating inclusive workplaces, advancing the goals of the ADA, and increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities."

If you are looking for accommodations, you can search in two ways: by list or by SOAR (Searchable Online Accommodation Resource.)

If you search by JAN's A to Z list, you can search by the following categories:

  • Disability
  • Limitation
  • Work-Related Function
  • Topic
  • Accommodation

If you search with SOAR, you can use phrases or a tag map for accommodations.

Books About Accommodations

cover of of Accessibility Under the Americans With Disabilities Act and Other Laws a Guide to Enforcement and Compliancecover of Disability a Reference HandbookCover of Disability Pride Dispatches From a post-ADA WorldCover of Disability Rights MovementCover of A Disability History of the United States