The Interactive Process

Your request for a reasonable accommodation can be verbal or written. Sometimes the process can be very informal. You ask for an accommodation and the employer gives it to you. However, the process of asking for a reasonable accommodation can also be more formal.

The interactive process is an ongoing dialogue between the employer and the jobseeker or employee so that together they can find an effective reasonable accommodation. Sometimes you and the employer will find more than one accommodation that would work well. If that is the case, the employer may choose the accommodation that is less costly or that is easier to get.

If you personally don’t request an accommodation, another employee, your spouse, a family member, a health care practitioner, a case manager, or an advocate can make the request on your behalf. If your employer is aware that you need an accommodation, even if you don’t directly request it, your employer should begin a “good-faith” interactive process without delay. For example, if an employee uses a wheelchair and access to a part of the employer’s building is inaccessible by wheelchair, the employer should begin the interactive process to decide how to accommodate the employee.

The exact steps of the interactive process can differ by organization, department, or specific circumstances of the person with a disability. Here are the most common steps:

  1. You request a reasonable accommodation.
  2. You and your employer identify the needs and limitations related to your disability.
  3. Your employer may ask your medical provider or other professional to document your disability or medical condition.
  4. You and your employer identify the nonessential and essential functions of your job.
  5. You and your employer find possible accommodations based on your knowledge and experience, outside research, and recommendations by medical providers or other professionals.
  6. You and your employer agree on the best accommodation(s) based on the essential functions of the job, your preferences, and the employer’s potential financial costs and administrative burden.
  7. Your employer must follow through, supply the accommodation, and ensure its effectiveness.

Changes may need to be made to the original accommodation. Therefore, both the employer and employee should keep an open dialogue about whether the selected accommodation is working and, if not, whether changes to the accommodation or new accommodations are needed.

Documenting the Process

Even if your employer has no official steps in place for employees to request accommodations, you should still keep a written record of your accommodation request. For example, you can request your accommodations by email and, if there is any verbal communication about your accommodation, you should verify the conversation afterwards by email and ask your employer to let you know in writing if they have a different understanding of the conversation. This creates a written record that can be useful at a later time.