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Inclusion: The active engagement of people with disabilities as service members in all levels of national and community service

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Section VII: Accommodations

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Key Words and Terms

What are accommodations?

Accommodations refer to all of the technology, services, and changes in policy, procedures, and the built environment that enable individuals with disabilities to perform essential functions or to equally participate in events and programs. The list of potential kinds of accommodations is limited only by creativity An accommodation will vary depending on the individual need, the disability, the program, resources available, and the tasks that need to be completed.

Accommodations can be very inexpensive: printing a document in large, clear font, providing written instructions, purchasing a headset for a telephone. Approximately 80% of accommodations cost less than $500 (according to the Job Accommodation Network [JAN], www.jan.wvu.edu). Some accommodations are more expensive: providing interpreter services, installing a mechanical lift or purchasing new software. Accommodations that are part of an accessible environment are generally designed to assist a particular individual.

Types of accommodations

Example- Accommodations:
Jeremy has a visual disability and needed software to "read" text to him. The program purchased the software. Annette cannot drive and relies on a local transportation service that could not get her to her service site by 9:00 a.m. An adjustment was made to her schedule to accommodate the transportation need. Zach, who has a hearing loss, has trouble hearing in team meetings. The program borrowed an assistive listening device from the local independent living center.

When do I need to provide accommodations?

There are at least two common instances when you will need to provide accommodations. One is for public events and meetings that your program may sponsor, including service activities. In these cases, you should ensure that you provide members of the public an opportunity and a means to request accommodations.

A simple statement goes a long way in communicating to the public that you are striving to create an inclusive environment. It also gives you advance notice of a need for a particular accommodation so that you will have time to ensure that it is in place.

Insert in a brochure or flyer: This meeting will be held in a fully accessible location. Should you require other accommodations, please contact (insert your program contact name and number/email).

The second instance in which you will need to provide accommodations is when you have a request from a qualified individual with a disability in your program.
Here are some important points:

There is no obligation to provide an accommodation until you are asked.

How do I provide accommodations?

Once an individual requests an accommodation, the process of evaluating your ability to provide that accommodation begins. The first step is to open a dialogue with the individual to find out what functional limitations exist that might prevent the accomplishment of essential functions. In addition, discuss any existing barriers that might prevent or limit participation in the program or activity.

In many cases, individuals will know what they need and how to secure it. In some cases, individuals will not be certain what they will need. This is when technical assistance can be beneficial and costeffective.

In some cases, the need for an accommodation may not be obvious. Once a request is made, you may, under certain conditions, ask for documentation about the need for an accommodation. This can be a complex area so call upon the range of resources provided in this Handbook for more information and guidance on this issue. See the Legal Requirements section (Section XII) and Appendix Resources of this Handbook for further information.

What should I keep in mind about accommodations?

TIP- Retaining participants:
Be aware that people may ask for accommodations without using the word "accommodation." For example, a new service participant, who uses a wheelchair, informs his supervisor that the wheelchair cannot fit under the desk in his office. This is a request for an accommodation.

How do I determine whether I can reasonably accommodate a particular person?

There may be times when someone requests an accommodation that you feel is too expensive, unwieldy, or impacts your program's ability to meet its mission. Under these circumstances, it is always a good idea to contact technical assistance resources for guidance. There may be options neither you nor the participant thought about that might fully accommodate the person's functional limitations and allow him or her to perform the essential functions of the position- and do so less expensively, more efficiently, or more effectively. Technical assistance resources include:

It is important to maintain confidentiality about accommodations to the greatest extent possible.

Keep in mind that you are legally required to provide an effective accommodation, unless you can prove that doing so is an undue financial or administrative burden to your program. Simply because the accommodation may be difficult to achieve, time-consuming, or costly does not necessarily qualify as "an undue financial or administrative burden." Please see Section XII: Legal Requirements of this Handbook for further discussion on this topic.

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©The National Service Inclusion Project (NSIP) is a training and technical assistance provider on disability inclusion. NSIP partners with the Association on University Centers on Disability, National Council on Independent Living, Association on Higher Education and Disability and National Down Syndrome Congress to build connections between disability organizations and all CNCS grantees, including national directs, to increase the participation of people with disabilities in national service.