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The ABCs of Back to School

Information on accommodations for teachers

From the desk of Melanie Whetzel, M.A., CBIS, Lead Consultant – Cognitive/Neurological Team


If you are an educator with a disability, now is the time to consider how accommodations might be helpful in the new school year. Know your ABCs for back to school.

A is for Accommodation

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applicants for employment, unless to do so would cause undue hardship. An accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. Reasonable accommodations include:

  • modifications or adjustments to a job application process that enable a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position;
  • modifications or adjustments to the work environment, or to the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position; or
  • modifications or adjustments that enable an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.

Although many individuals with disabilities can apply for and perform jobs without any reasonable accommodations, there are workplace barriers that keep others from performing jobs they could do with some form of accommodation. These barriers may be physical obstacles (such as inaccessible facilities or equipment) or they may be procedures or rules (such as rules concerning when work is performed, when breaks are taken, or how essential or marginal functions are performed). Reasonable accommodation removes workplace barriers for individuals with disabilities.

Reasonable accommodation is available to qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must be provided to qualified employees regardless of whether they work part- time or full-time, or are considered probationary. Generally, the individual with a disability must inform the employer that an accommodation is needed.
There are a number of possible reasonable accommodations that an employee may need in connection with modifications to the work environment or adjustments in how and when a job is performed. These include:

  • making existing facilities accessible;
  • job restructuring;
  • part-time or modified work schedules;
  • acquiring or modifying equipment;
  • changing tests, training materials, or policies;
  • providing qualified readers or interpreters; and
  • reassignment to a vacant position.

B is for Backpack

It’s hard to picture working without the tools we need. Imagine a student without a backpack to carry around all his needed supplies, books, homework, etc. He needs a backpack in order to keep it all together and do his best to succeed in his assignments. In order for you as an educator to do your best in understanding and requesting accommodations, you will need a backpack full of tools. Look no further! See the following JAN resources for the information you need to succeed in your assignment. 

C is for Classroom

Accommodations are considered and provided on an individual basis. There may be some accommodations that could be routinely applied across the board to all teachers with disabilities, but for the most part each teacher is an individual with different limitations resulting from their impairment. Each teacher is in a unique setting in his or her own classroom, with particular job tasks depending on grade levels and subject matter. Therefore, a really important factor in considering and determining appropriate and effective accommodations is to evaluate which job tasks are the most problematic, based on the limitations each educator experiences.

D is for Disclosure

Disclosure is the divulging or giving out personal information about a disability. Consider if and when the time is right to disclose your disability to your employer. An employer is not required to provide accommodations if a disability hasn’t been disclosed. It is important for the employee to provide information about the nature of the disability, the limitations involved, and how the disability affects the ability to learn and /or perform the job effectively. Ideally, employees will disclose a disability and request reasonable accommodation before performance problems arise, or at least before they become too serious. Although the ADA does not require employees to ask for an accommodation at a specific time, the timing of a request for reasonable accommodation is important because an employer does not have to rescind discipline (including a termination) or an evaluation warranted by poor performance or misconduct.

Need help with any of your ABCs? Contact a consultant at JAN for assistance.