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ADA compliance

For US companies, it's crucial to understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and how it applies to the workplace.

  • Definition

  • What is covered?

What is the ADA?

The Americans With Disability Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, and amended in 2008. By law, employers, government agencies, and other institutions are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities.

The ADA affirms the rights of people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination in:

  • Housing

  • Accommodation

  • Public services

  • Private services

  • Transportation

  • Education

  • Employment

The law also prevents employees from being fired for having a temporary or permanent disability and ensures that these people have the necessary accommodations to work. Relevant to international employers, all types of websites, including employee interfaces for remote workers, must be accessible to people with disabilities. 

Workplaces, , should also be inclusive and accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities, including people with physical, mental, and neurological impairments and disabilities. International employers with remote employees in the US also need to comply with the ADA to avoid fines, and to make sure all their employees are comfortably able to get their work done, despite having a disability.

What is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act?

Job discrimination is illegal in both public and private sectors, government agencies, labor organizations, employment agencies, and labor-managed committees. A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits a major life activity. 

Examples of disabilities include impairments of:

  • Speaking

  • Hearing

  • Seeing

  • Breathing

  • Walking

  • Learning

  • Bending over

  • Lifting

  • Working

To be covered under the ADA, employees must first be qualified for the job in terms of experience, skills, licenses, education, and qualifications. They also must be able to perform essential job functions either on their own or with the help of some reasonable accommodation. 

All such individuals who have a history of a substantial impairment are covered under the law in employment practices such as:

  • Hiring

  • Recruitment

  • Promotion

  • Training

  • Leave

  • Benefits

  • Job assignments

  • Compensation

  • Layoffs

  • Terminations

Compliance with the ADA means remote employers need to follow all of the relevant sections of the law and ensure all of their employees, even people with disabilities, have access to the equipment, tools, and software necessary to do their jobs.

Employers should be sure that their remote employees have the proper ergonomic equipment to do their jobs, all the necessary hardware someone with their disability may need, and all the necessary software required, such as text-to-speech software and keyboard navigation.

The following are just a few relevant details of the ADA of which remote employers need to be aware:

  • Employers cannot refuse a job applicant if their disability prevents them from performing essential job duties. 

  • Employers cannot require a physical exam before making a job offer.

  • Once an applicant is hired, a physical exam may be required only if everyone must take one. 

  • Employers can only decline employment after physical exam results if they can demonstrate the reasons are job-related and necessary for the job.

  • Medical examinations must be kept confidential. 

  • Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless they can prove it will create undue hardship, difficulty, or expense.

  • Employers cannot retaliate after an employee asserts their rights under the ADA. 

  • In addition to the ADA, internet guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) require that employers make it easy for people with disabilities to work online. 

Next steps
To make your workplace accessible and ADA-compliant, consider these best practices:
  • Ask employees if there is any way you can help them perform their job.

  • Don’t phrase any questions about disabilities; only ask if the employee can physically and mentally do the job without assistance. 

  • Never require a physical exam before making a job offer. 

  • If necessary, provide the employee with a medical certification form.

  • Allow everyone the option of working remotely.

  • Ensure that all systems and tools for remote positions are ADA-compliant.

  • Provide or modify equipment to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability. 

  • Provide captioned video conferencing for people who are hard of hearing.

  • Make sure your websites follow WCAG guidelines.

  • Provide reading and interpreting software, as necessary.

  • Make the physical workplace accessible and ADA-compliant for people who have trouble walking or maneuvering.

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