What is an employer’s responsibility to provide an accommodation for driving, and what are some accommodations available for driving? These are common questions that we receive at the Job Accommodation Network. To answer these questions, we need to consider that there are many different reasons that an individual may need an accommodation for driving. Some people may need accommodations related to their commute to work, others might need accommodation for on-the-job travel such as site visits in the field, and still others may be professional drivers who are responsible for transporting persons or material as an essential function of their jobs.
In addition, there are many different impairments that may interfere with a person’s ability to drive. For example, an office worker with a back condition who has difficulty sitting for long periods may be unable to handle a long commute. Or, a social worker who does home visits may experience a sudden spinal injury with paralysis and may need to have modifications to a work vehicle or find an alternative means of transportation. Or, a professional driver may have a seizure disorder and be temporarily disqualified from driving. As you can see each case is individual and may require different accommodation solutions.
Driving Related to Commuting to and from Work
Let us start with accommodation for driving to and from work. Many employees drive as a part of their commute to work and some may need to drive for a long time during their commute. Commuting to work can be a problem for many reasons, for example employees who have sitting restrictions due to a disability, employees with bowel and/or bladder issues that require frequent use of a restroom, employees who cannot operate a foot pedal due to limitations in the use of their lower extremities, employees who have difficulty operating a steering wheel due to limitations in the use of the upper extremities, and employees with medical conditions such as severe epilepsy that may limit their ability to operate a vehicle safely.
Employers, when faced with a request for accommodations related to an employee’s commute, might think that they are not responsible for the employees commute because it is outside of the work environment. To a certain extent that is true; employers do not have to provide transportation to and from work and/or pay for modifications for an employee’s personal vehicle as an accommodation under the ADA, unless they provide transportation or vehicle modification for all employees in general.
However, even though employers do not have to provide transportation to and from work, there are accommodations that employers must consider such as modifying an employee’s schedule so she can use public transportation or allowing an employee to work at home to avoid commuting all together. The reason employers must consider these types of accommodations is because employers control the time and location of an employee’s work as part of the work environment.
For more information, see:
- Accommodations Related to Commuting To and From Work
- Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation-Fact Sheet
Finally, another possible accommodation issue that may come up related to an employee’s commute to work is allowing the employee to park in an accessible parking space at work if the employer provides parking for employees. This might mean reserving the closest spot available to entrance. For individuals who use mobility devices, accommodations could include room to transfer in and out of the mobility device and access to a ramp and an accessible entrance. For more information about parking as an accommodation, see JAN's A to Z: Parking.
Driving Related to Job Performance
Employees with disabilities sometimes need accommodations for driving on the job. An employer’s responsibilities to provide an accommodation for on-the-job driving are greater than for commuting to work because clearly the driving is a part of the work environment. The first thing employers need to do is determine whether driving is an essential function of an employee’s job. For more information about how to determine when driving is an essential function, see: EEOC Informal Guidance Letter: ADA/Drivers License/Essential Functions/Reasonable Accommodation.
If driving is not an essential function, then the employer needs to consider accommodations such as providing alternative transportation or performing the job in another way that does not require travel. If driving is an essential function, then the employer needs to try to provide accommodations that would enable the employee to drive. For example, in the case of a professional driver where driving is clearly an essential function of the job, the employer may need to consider accommodations such as limiting hours or driving distance (if such accommodations would help) or allowing leave time until the employee can drive again. Or, depending on the employee’s limitations, it might be possible to modify the vehicle to enable the employee to overcome his limitations related to driving. For a list of products that may be useful for modifying a vehicle, see JAN's SOAR.
When considering modifying an employee’s work vehicle, an employee and employer may benefit from a referral to a certified driver rehabilitation specialist. Here is link to the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.
With professional drivers who are responsible for transporting people or materials, there are often federal requirements related to a driver receiving a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Under the ADA, employers do not have to disregard such federal standards. However there may be waivers, exemptions, and/or pilot programs through which employees with disabilities who do not meet these qualifications could still get their CDL. You can find out information regarding these waivers at: U.S. Department of Transportation's Waivers, Exceptions, and Pilot Programs.
Finally, there may be some situations where the employer may need to consider reassignment as an accommodation. This may be the case where, for example, driving is an essential function of the job, the employee is unable to drive due to a disability, and there is no accommodation that the employer can provide to enable the employee to drive. For information about reassignment, see: EEOC's Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship.
As always, the best accommodation will depend upon the employee’s abilities, the essential functions of the employee’s job, and the employer’s capacity to provide the accommodation without incurring an undue hardship. If you have any questions, please contact JAN. You can contact us through phone, chat, or e-mail.