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Harvard University explores requests from faculty, staff, and job applicants with disabilities for workplace reasonable accommodations under the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended, and other applicable disability laws.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any reasonable change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a person with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by staff without disabilities. For example, a reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to: 

  • Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices 
  • Removing physical barriers in a work area 

How do you define a disability?

Under the ADA, a person is considered to have a disability if:

  • They have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or major life activity such as, but not limited to, hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, walking, caring for oneself, learning, or the operation of a major bodily function
  • They have a record of having such an impairment
  • They are regarded as having such an impairment

How to request an accommodation?

The ADA process is an interactive process that relies heavily on partnership of the employee, Human Resources and the department.

Employees may request an accommodation through the request form as linked below.

Employee Responsibilities:

It is the responsibility of the employee to obtain and submit signed medical documentation.

Employees should submit the Medical Documentation form for completion to their provider. This may then be returned to Human Resources or included as an attachment on the request form.

The medical documentation must:

  1. Establish that the employee has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity
  2. Identify functional limitations related to the job and the duration of those limits.

We recognize that not every condition has a determined end date. That said, a date must be provided in the documentation. A date indicating a follow-up appointment for review is sufficient.

A provider’s recommendation of accommodations to support limitations and restrictions are always welcome. We recommend that an employee share their job description with their provider.

Next Steps:

Once the completed accommodation request form and the necessary supporting documentation is provided, HR will partner with your department and other relevant personnel to determine what, if any, accommodations can be offered in line with employee and business needs.

Important Reminders

  • Under the guidelines of the ADA, what is reasonable by a way of accommodation is typically a fact-specific injury, informed by job requirements, and an accommodation that does not create undue financial, administrative, or business hardship for the employee.
    • Note: essential functions of a position cannot be removed or shifted as it relates to a reasonable accommodation.
  • Dependent on business needs and other factors, approval of accommodations may be made at any time and require to consider reasonable alternatives.