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Determining Qualified Individual with Disability under ADA
March 29, 2006
How do you determine if an individual with a disability is "qualified" under the ADA?
There are two basic steps:
- Determine if the individual meets necessary pre-requisites for the job, such
- work experience
- certificates, and
- other job-related requirements, such as good judgment or ability to work with other people
- Determine if the individual can perform the essential functions of the job,
with or without reasonable accommodation.
This second step is a key aspect of nondiscrimination under the ADA. It also
has two parts:
- Identify the "essential functions of the job"
- Determine whether the person with a disability can perform these functions, unaided or with a "reasonable accommodation."
The ADA requires an employer to focus on the essential functions of a job to determine whether a person with a disability is qualified. A job description may contain some itemized responsibilities that are optional and not essential to the position itself. Essential job functions are fundamental to the position itself—the reason that the job exists in the first place. Other job duties may be “marginal”—duties that the employee may be called upon to do sometimes but are not specifically tied to the position itself. For example, a file clerk job description may include answering the telephone. But if the basic functions of the job are to file and retrieve materials, and telephones usually are answered by other employees, a person whose hearing impairment prevents use of a telephone by voice, and who is qualified to do the basic file clerk functions should not be considered unqualified for this position. Answering the telephone is a marginal function. [TAM I-2.3(a)]
The second part is determining if the individual can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations.
In determining if an individual with a disability is qualified, the employer should focus on the purpose of the function and the result to be accomplished, rather than on the manner in which the function presently is performed. Bear in mind that, even though it may be essential that a function be performed frequently, it is typically is not essential that it be performed in a particular way.
For example, in a job requiring use of a computer, the essential function is the ability to access, input, and retrieve information from the computer. It is not "essential" that a person in this job enter information manually, or visually read the information on the computer screen. Instead, adaptive devices or computer software can enable a person with physical disabilities or someone who has a visual disability perform the essential functions of the job. [Reference: TAM I-2.3(b)]
The Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) is authorized by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to provide information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities that are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) under Grant #H133D010207. However, you should be aware that NIDRR is not responsible for enforcement of the ADA For more information or assistance, please contact the Southeast DBTAC via its web site at www.sedbtac.org or by calling 1-800-949-4232 (TTY/voice).