As any consumer knows, costs are continually rising. While I don’t want to reveal my exact age, suffice it to say that I remember when a candy bar could be purchased with just a few coins and going to the movies didn’t require advanced financial planning. From goods to services, it seems that prices only go in one direction − up.
Over the past year, however, one cost has held steady. A report released earlier this month by the Job Accommodation Network, known as JAN, revealed that the majority (57 percent) of job accommodations for employees with disabilities cost nothing. When an accommodation has a cost, it is typically only about $500 − an outlay that most employers report pays for itself in the form of reduced insurance and training costs as well as increased productivity.
The report, Low Cost, High Impact, is updated annually based on the experiences of employers who have used JAN’s services. The data in this year’s report do not represent any significant statistical differences from last year’s findings.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an accommodation is considered any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that enables a qualified person with a disability to apply for or perform a job. The term also encompasses alterations that allow a qualified individual with a disability to have equal access to rights and privileges in employment that employees without disabilities enjoy.
Over the years, I have heard many employers express trepidation about accommodations, assuming that they are complicated and expensive to implement. Clearly, their fears are unfounded. In fact, I prefer to call them “productivity enhancements” because that’s really what they are. After all, we all need the right tools and work environments to perform our jobs and maximize our efficiency. From technology to flexible work arrangements, accommodations are something most employers already provide employees − with or without disabilities − every day.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), JAN is the leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN provides assistance via phone at 800-526-7234 or 877-781-9403 (TTY) as well as online through AskJAN.org.
Kathy Martinez is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy.