AHRQ Procedures for Providing Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities (2)

Reasonable accommodation procedures developed in compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance.

Reasonable Accommodations Agreement

Once an accommodation has been approved, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance and Operations Division (EEOCO) Reasonable Accommodation Specialist may recommend that both the supervisor and employee enter into a Reasonable Accommodation Agreement. Although not required, such an agreement serves to clarify the nature of the accommodation granted. Reasons for having such an agreement include the following:

  1. In some cases, the accommodated employee's functional limitations might increase or decrease, thus requiring periodic reviews and adjustments to the approved accommodation(s). For example, some disabilities are degenerative in nature and may require additional accommodation(s).
  2. Conversely, a disability may improve to the point that an approved accommodation can be ameliorated or removed.

Once an accommodation has been approved and a Reasonable Accommodation Agreement entered into, if requested, the Reasonable Accommodation Specialist or designee will review the accommodation on an as-needed basis with the supervisor and employee to determine if any changes are needed or if continued accommodation is required.

Such an agreement should contain the following:

  1. The approved accommodation.
  2. The responsibilities and expectations of both parties.
  3. The need for periodic evaluations/reviews, if applicable.

Once a permanent (long-term) impairment has been documented, the decisionmaker's request for further information should be limited to reasonable documentation on the need for further accommodation (if the need is not obvious) and not on the existence of the disability/impairment itself.

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Denial of the Reasonable Accommodation Request

The decisionmaker must consult with the Reasonable Accommodation Specialist before initiating the decision to deny a request.

At this point, if the decisionmaker has an alternative accommodation that has not already been offered to the employee, the decisionmaker may do so now. However, if the employee rejects it or the decisionmaker decides that the reasonable accommodation should be denied for other reasons, the decisionmaker must complete the "Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Request" form and give the completed form to the individual who requested the accommodation, as well as send a copy to the EEOCO Reasonable Accommodation Specialist. The explanation for the denial should be written in plain language, clearly stating the specific reasons for the denial. When the decisionmaker has denied a specific requested accommodation but offered to make a different one in its place, which the employee rejected, the denial notice should explain both the reasons for the denial of the requested accommodation and the reasons that the decisionmaker believes that the chosen accommodation would be effective. Reasons for the denial of a request for reasonable accommodation may include the following (however, the actual notice to the individual must include specific reasons for the denial; for example, why the accommodation would not be effective or why it would result in undue hardship):

  • The requested accommodation would not be effective.
  • Providing the requested accommodation would result in undue hardship. Before reaching this determination, the decisionmaker must have explored whether other effective accommodation options that would not impose undue hardship exist and therefore can be provided. A determination of undue hardship means that the Agency finds that a specific accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense, or would fundamentally alter the nature of the operating division's operations. When evaluating budgetary or administrative concerns to determine if undue hardship exists, AHRQ will follow the standards set forth in regulations and in "Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans With Disabilities Act" (available at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html).
  • Medical documentation is inadequate to establish that the individual has a disability and/or needs a reasonable accommodation.
  • The requested accommodation would require the removal of an essential function.
  • The requested accommodation would require the lowering of a performance or production standard.

The written notice of denial shall inform the individual that he or she has the right to file an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint and may have rights to pursue Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) procedures. The notice shall also explain the procedures available for appeal of a denial of reasonable accommodation.

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Appeal of a Denial of Reasonable Accommodation: Reconsideration

Individuals with disabilities can request prompt reconsideration of a denial of reasonable accommodation.

  • If an individual desires reconsideration, he or she should ask the decisionmaker to reconsider the decision. The individual may present additional information in support of the request. The designated manager will respond to the request for reconsideration within 5 business days.
  • If the decisionmaker is the supervisor, and he or she does not reverse the decision, the individual can ask the Office/Center Director to do so. The Office/Center Director will respond to this request within 10 business days.
  • If the decisionmaker is the Office/Center Director, and he or she does not reverse the decision, the individual can ask the AHRQ Deputy Director to do so. The AHRQ Deputy Director will respond to this request within 10 business days.
  • In all other circumstances, the request for reconsideration will be submitted to the original decisionmaker within 5 business days. If the original decisionmaker denies the request for reconsideration, the individual may present the request to the next level supervisor, who will respond to the request within 10 business days. If the original decision is not reversed, the request for reconsideration may be elevated to the next management official within the chain of command, who will respond within 10 business days.

At any point in this process, the individual may also contact EEOCO and initiate the Informal Mediation Process.

Pursuing any of the informal dispute resolution procedures identified above, including seeking reconsideration from the original decisionmaker and appealing to the next person in the chain of command, does not affect the time limits for initiating statutory claims. An individual's participation in any or all of these informal dispute resolution processes does not satisfy the requirements for bringing a claim under EEO or MSPB procedures.

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Information Tracking and Reporting

The decisionmaker will complete the "Reasonable Accommodation Information Tracking" form and submit it to the EEOCO Reasonable Accommodation Specialist within 10 business days of the decision. The decisionmaker should attach to the form a copy of all information received as part of processing the request, including medical information.

  • The EEOCO Reasonable Accommodation Team will maintain the records for the employee's tenure with AHRQ or 5 years, whichever is longer.
  • An annual report will also be provided to the HHS EEO Programs Group, along with the annual "Affirmative Action Program for Individuals With Disabilities Report."
  • The report will contain the following information, presented in the aggregate:
    • The number of reasonable accommodations, by type, that were requested in the application process and whether these requests were granted or denied.
    • The jobs (occupational series, grade level, and Agency component) for which reasonable accommodation has been requested.
    • The types of reasonable accommodation that have been requested for each of those jobs.
    • The number of reasonable accommodations, by type, for each job that were approved and the number of accommodations, by type, that were denied.
    • The number of requests for reasonable accommodation, by type, that relate to the benefits or privileges of employment and whether those requests were granted or denied.
    • The reasons for denial of requests for reasonable accommodation.
    • The amount of time taken to process each request for reasonable accommodation.
    • The sources of technical assistance that were consulted in trying to identify possible reasonable accommodations.
  • In addition, the report will provide a qualitative assessment of AHRQ's reasonable accommodation policies and procedures, including recommendations for improvement.

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Relation of Procedures to Statutory Claims

This policy is in addition to statutory protections for persons with disabilities and the remedies these protections provide for the denial of requests for reasonable accommodation, and does not take the place of these provisions. Requirements governing the initiation of statutory claims, including time frames for filing such claims, remain unchanged.

An individual who chooses to pursue statutory remedies for denial of reasonable accommodation must perform the following:

  • For an EEO complaint: contact an EEO counselor in the HHS's EEOCO within 45 days from the date of receipt of the written "Denial of Reasonable Accommodation Request" or reconsidered denial.
  • Initiate an appeal to MSPB within 30 days of an adverse action that can be appealed as defined in 5 C.F.R. §1201.3.

If a member of the HHS EEOCO has had any involvement in the processing of the request for reasonable accommodation, that staff member shall recuse him or herself from any involvement in the processing of an EEO counseling contact or complaint in connection with that request.

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Distribution and Inquiries

The AHRQ reasonable accommodation procedures shall be posted on the AHRQ Web site. These procedures will be provided in alternative formats when requested by or on behalf of any employee or applicant.

Any person wanting further information concerning these procedures may contact the HHS Reasonable Accommodation Team, EEOCO, at (202) 690-6555.

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 Appendix A. Readers, Interpreters, and Other Personal Assistants

AHRQ will make readers, interpreters, and other personal assistants available as appropriate. Other personal assistants perform physical tasks that an employee cannot perform because of a disability. For example, an investigator with limited or no upper extremity mobility may need assistance in physically organizing a file. The investigator would perform the essential functions of the position—that is, conduct the investigation and draft documents—and the assistant would perform only the physical task. In no case should a staff assistant be called upon, by management or by the employee(s) to whom he or she is assigned, to perform the essential functions of the job held by the employee with the disability.

Hiring Authority

Readers, interpreters, or other personal assistants hired to fill approved positions may be appointed under the noncompetitive Schedule A authority, 5 C.F.R. §213.3102 (ll). Persons with disabilities hired as readers, interpreters, or assistants may also be hired under the §213.3102 (u) authority.

AHRQ Interpreting Services Policy

Sign language interpreting is a reasonable accommodation that may be required by 1) individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing who want to participate equally in the workplace, 2) visitors entitled access to Agency programs that are offered to the public, or 3) applicants applying for a position within AHRQ. Upon request, the Agency will provide sign language interpreters for all AHRQ-sponsored events, including applicant interviews, orientations, meetings, functions, training, office parties, or other events taking place during regular business hours.

Work Events Outside of the Workplace

AHRQ will provide a sign language interpreter for an employee who is deaf or hard of hearing who, as part of his/her job, attends a meeting or event outside of the workplace. If the employee attends a conference or training program that is sponsored by an outside organization, the sponsoring organization is principally responsible for providing interpreters. AHRQ will provide interpreting services, however, if the sponsoring organization fails to do so.

Telephone Calls

Employees who are deaf or hard of hearing should schedule a sign language interpreter when services are needed to interpret business-related telephone calls. These employees may also request that the interpreters retrieve and report all voicemail messages. Telecommunication relay services are available to all employees to serve telephone needs when a sign language interpreter is not available.

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 Appendix B. Selected Reasonable Accommodation Resources

Computer Electronic Accommodations Programs (CAP)
AHRQ Contact: EEOCO Reasonable Accommodation Specialist, (202) 690-6555

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now has an Interagency Agreement with CAP to provide assistive technology, devices, and services to HHS employees with disabilities at no cost, as granted by the National Defense Authorization Act.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
1-800-669-6820 (TTY)
1-800-669-4000 (Voice)

The EEOC's Publication Center has many free documents on the Title I employment provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), including the statute, 42 U.S.C. §12101 (1994), and the regulations, 29 C.F.R. §1630 (1997). In addition, EEOC has published a great deal of basic information about reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. The two main sources of interpretive information are 1) the Interpretive Guidance accompanying the Title I regulations (also known as the "Appendix"), 29 C.F.R. Appendix to Part 1630 (1997); and 2) Chapter III of the ADA Employment Provisions (Title I) Technical Assistance Manual (1992). The Manual includes a 200-page Resource Directory of Federal and State agencies and disability organizations that can provide assistance with identifying and locating reasonable accommodations.

The EEOC has also discussed issues involving reasonable accommodation in the following guidance documents: 1) "Enforcement Guidance: Preemployment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations" (1995); 2) "Enforcement Guidance: Workers' Compensation and the ADA" (1996); 3) "Enforcement Guidance: The Americans With Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities" (1997); 4) "Fact Sheet on the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964" (1996); and 5) "Enforcement Guidance: Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans With Disabilities Act" (2000).

All of the above-listed documents, with the exception of the ADA Technical Assistance Manual and Resource Directory, are also available at http://www.eeoc.gov.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
1-877-781-9403 (TTY)
1-800-526-7234 (Voice)

A service of the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, JAN provides free information about many types of reasonable accommodation.

ADA Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs)
1-800-949-4232 (Voice/TTY)

DBTACs consist of 10 federally funded regional centers that provide information, training, and technical assistance for the ADA. Each center works with local business, disability, government, rehabilitation, and other professional networks to provide current ADA information and assistance, and places special emphasis on meeting the needs of small businesses. DBTACs provide referrals to local sources of expertise in reasonable accommodations.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID)
(703) 838-0459 (TTY)
(703) 838-0030 (Voice)

RID is a national membership organization of professionals who provide sign language interpreting/transliterating services for persons who are deaf and hard of hearing. Its goal is to promote the profession of interpreting and transliterating of both American sign language and English. RID's mission is to provide international, national, regional, State, and local forums an organizational structure for the continued growth and development of the professions of interpretation and transliteration of American sign language and English.

The RID national office has at its disposal a vast array of informational resources on the field of interpreting, including papers on "Interpreting Standards and Practices" and "How to Hire and Work With an Interpreter."

RESNA Technical Assistance Project
(703) 524-6639 (TTY)
(703) 524-6686 (Voice)

RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, refers individuals to projects in all 50 States and the six territories that offer technical assistance on technology-related services for individuals with disabilities. Services may include:

  • Information and referral centers to help determine what devices may assist a person with a disability (including access to large databases containing information on thousands of commercially available assistive technology products).
  • Centers where individuals can try out devices and equipment.
  • Assistance in obtaining funding for and repairing devices.
  • Equipment exchange and recycling programs.

USDA TARGET Center
(202) 720-2600 (Voice/TTY)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Target Center has a wide variety of assistive devices available for Federal employees to examine and test.

Rehabilitation Services Agencies

Rehabilitation Services Agencies are State agencies that provide support for the employment, economic self-sufficiency, and independence of individuals with disabilities. They are listed in the local phone book under "State Services" or as "Vocational Rehabilitation Offices."

Services for the Visually Impaired
(301) 589-0894 (Voice)

This organization converts documents to Braille for persons who have minimal or no vision. After arranging for payment, documents are sent to Services for the Visually Impaired as an Email attachment, and the Braille copy will be mailed to the requesting agency.

National Captioning Institute
(703) 917-7600 (Voice/TTY)

Federal law requires that all videos include captions, preferably open captions. The National Captioning Institute adds captions to videos.

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Current as of March 2014
Internet Citation: AHRQ Procedures for Providing Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities (2). March 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/policy/eeo/reasaccom/reasacc2.html