Accommodating

The ability to hit a target at ranges up to 500 yards is essential to becoming a Marine. Every aircraft mechanic or truck driver who aspires to be a Marine recognizes that first and foremost he or she is a rifleman cable of dropping tools, picking up and firing a rifle with effect. That is why the Marines devote weeks in boot camp to marksmanship training.

Recruits learn to master themselves and their rifles, including the ability to adjust the rifle's sites for wind and distance. When aiming the rifle, the recruit has to look through the site with his or her right eye, keeping the left eye closed.

While exploring the National Museum of the Marine Corps, I learned that my husband (who served in the Corps) does not have the ability to keep his left eye closed when his right eye is open. He can do the reverse -- left open, right closed. He explained that when he was on active duty, he had to wear an eye patch when he shot a rifle.

"Why is it that I never knew this about you?" I asked. "And what were you supposed to do in battle?" (Note: Fortunately, he never had to fight in battle.) "I always carried an eye patch with me," he said. Keep in mind that we married (years ago) while he was in the Marines – on active duty, and I never knew he had an eye patch. I never saw one even though he always carried it in his pocket.

I was fascinated to discover this. I wouldn't consider my husband to be an individual with a disability because he cannot shut his left eye and keep his right eye open, but he did lack an important ability needed to perform an essential job function -- firing a rifle with effect.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, requires employers to make a reasonable accommodation for qualified applicants and employees so they can perform the job's essential functions. Companies that do business with the federal government must also comply with Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which has the same requirement. The key issue is that the individual must be qualified to perform the essential job functions with or without an accommodation.

· Both law prohibit discrimination against those individuals qualified to perform a job's essential functions. There is no requirement for employers to lower their standards or to hire individuals who do not meet a position's minimum education, skill, and knowledge requirements.
· Discrimination includes, but is not limited to, questions about the nature of a disability during a job interview; failure or refusal to consider a request for accommodation of the disability; refusal to hire, demotion, placement on an involuntary leave, termination, harassment, denial of any other term, condition or privilege of employment.

A reasonable accommodation allows a qualified individuals to perform the essential job functions unless it creates an undue hardship. A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are done.

Accommodating a disability need not be an extensive or expensive endeavor. Sometimes a simple eye patch is all that is needed -- so simple that someone close to the individual is not aware that an accommodation has been made.

You can learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act and the ADA Amendment Act in The Big Book of HR.


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