The Interactive Process

When you request a reasonable accommodation, you can ask for it either verbally or in writing. Sometimes the process can be very informal, where you request an accommodation and the employer gives it to you. Or, the process can be more formal.

One way of requesting a reasonable accommodation is called the “interactive process.” The interactive process is an ongoing communication between the employer and the jobseeker or employee with a disability to identify the most appropriate reasonable accommodation.

If you use the interactive process to ask for an accommodation, you will communicate directly with your employer or potential employer to figure out what information is important. Neither person should delay or interfere with this communication process. Sometimes you and the employer will find that more than one accommodation would work. If that is the case, the employer may choose the accommodation that is less costly or easier to get.

It is possible for an employer to become aware that you need an accommodation, even if you don’t directly ask for it. If your employer knows about your disability or medical condition, he or she may be able to figure out that you need an accommodation. Or, another employee or your spouse can make the request on your behalf. If your employer realizes that you need an accommodation, even if you don’t request it, he or she is required to begin a “good-faith” interactive process without delay.

The exact steps of the interactive process can be different for different organizations, departments, or circumstances of the person with a disability. Here are the most common steps:

  • You request a reasonable accommodation.
  • You and your employer identify the needs and limitations related to your disability.
  • Your employer may ask your medical provider or other professional to provide information about your disability or medical condition.
  • You and your employer identify the nonessential and essential functions of your job.
  • You and your employer figure out possible accommodations based on your knowledge and experience, outside research, and recommendations by medical providers or other professionals.
  • You and your employer agree on the most appropriate accommodation based on the essential functions of the job, your preferences, and the employer’s potential financial costs and administrative burden.
  • You and your employer follow through and get the accommodation.
Documenting the Process

To protect your right to a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and to prevent future discrimination or retaliation, you should consider keeping your own written record of an accommodation request. If your employer has specific steps and forms related to requesting an accommodation, keep a record of these steps and copies of each form you submit.

Even if your employer has no official steps in place to ask for 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. This creates a written record.