Skip to main content

Reasonable Accommodation

Basics of Reasonable Accommodation
  • A modification or adjustment to a job application process that enables a qualified applicant with a disability to be considered for the position.
  • A modification or adjustment to the work environment that enables an employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of that position.
  • A modification or adjustment that enables an employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as employees without disabilities.

PAS is assistance for individuals with targeted disabilities with performing activities of daily living that an individual would typically perform if he or she did not have a disability. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Assistance with removing and putting on clothing
  • Eating
  • Using the restroom.  (29 CFR § 1614.203)

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. (29 CFR § 1630.2(g)

A disability designated as a “targeted disability or health condition” on OPM SF-256 or a disability falling under one of the first 12 categories of disability listed in Part A of question 5 of the EEOC’s Demographic Information on Applicants Form. (29 CFR § 1614.203)

With respect to an individual with a disability, someone who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position such individual holds or desires and, with or without RA, can perform the essential functions of such position. (29 CFR § 1630.2)

Reasonable Accommodation Process


Applicants or Employees may request reasonable accommodation for assistance, when applying or competing for a job, performing a job, or ensuring equal access to the benefit of employment, due to their medical condition.



Requests for reasonable accommodation may be made either in writing or orally at any time during the application process or while employed.



Requests for reasonable accommodation can be submitted to the employee’s supervisor, manager, Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator (RAC), Human Resources office, or contact identified in a vacancy announcement.

Types of Reasonable Accommodations
Equipment such as a larger or specialized computer monitor for an employee with a visual impairment or a motorized scooter to help an employee navigate a large office building or other facilities; Making existing facilities physically accessible such as installing doors that automatically open and close;
  • Readers and sign language interpreters; and Accessible locations for recruitment, interviews, testing, and other components of the application process.
  • Screen magnification software, voice activation software, readers;
  • Sign language interpreters;
  • Workplace changes such as lowering the paper towel dispenser in an employee restroom or adjusting the lighting at an employee’s workstation; and
  • Telework.
Roles and Responsibilities
  • For assistance with the application process, contact the Human Resources Specialist listed on the vacancy announcement as quickly as possible.
  • For assistance with participating in the interview process, notify the person arranging or conducting the interview.
  • For other RA requests, contact the agency’s Reasonable Accommodation Coordinator or point of contact for processing.
  • Request
    Request Reasonable Accommodation (RA) or Personal Assistance Services (PAS) orally or in writing (can also be done by someone on his/her behalf).
  • Provide
    Upon request by the Reasonable Accommodations Coordinator, provide medical documentation.
  • Engage
    Engage in the interactive process. Talk to your supervisor or RAC about limitations and needs.
  • Work
    Work with your supervisor to identify possible accommodations.


  • Respond to the employee’s or applicant’s RA or PAS request in a timely manner.
  • Work with the employee and the RAC throughout the process.
  • If medical documentation is needed, refer the employee or applicant to the RAC.  Do not request or accept medical documentation
  • Identify essential functions of the employee’s position.
  • Actively participate in the interactive process to assist with finding an RA for the qualified applicant or employee
  • Discuss with the employee their limitations and needs.
  • Implement an effective RA or PAS for approved applicants and employees, when applicable.
  • Implement an effective RA or PAS for approved applicants and employees, when applicable.
  • Provide justification for accommodation denials.
  • Be flexible and abide by confidentiality requirements.


  • Respond to the employee’s or applicant’s RA or PAS request in a timely manner.
  • Provide and receive required documentation for the requested RA or PAS.
  • Request medical information, if needed.
  • Determine if employee or applicant is eligible for an accommodation.
  • Assist supervisor and employee with the interactive process, if needed.
  • Assist supervisor and employee with identification of possible effective accommodations, if needed.
  • Maintain RA documentation and medical information in a secure manner.
Interactive Process

Once a request for an accommodation is received, the employee/applicant and the employee’s supervisor or Hiring Official will engage in an interactive process to determine what the individual needs and identify appropriate an effective reasonable accommodation(s) and personal assistance services.

The purpose of the interactive process is to determine what, if any, accommodation(S) should be provided.

Actively engaging in the interactive process will ensure timely and efficient processing of  a Reasonable Accommodation and Personal Assistance Services requests.

  • Interacting in communications through ongoing engagement between the individual, their immediate supervisor, manager, deciding official and RA Specialist. This communication may be oral, written or both.
  • Engaging managers and employees according to the prescribed timelines involved with the RA process.
  • Explaining the various roles and responsibilities of the RA Specialist, individual and the supervisor.
  • Explaining the RA process, from start to finish, including the accommodation of last resort, providing for, and including teaching moments for all parties involved.
  • Explaining the need for proper medical documentation and essential functions.
  • Understanding the difference between hidden disabilities, known disabilities, and obvious disabilities.
Supervisors and Managers Do’s and Don'ts for RA


  • Engage in the interactive process
  • Try to resolve at lowest level
  • Contact the RAC
  • Act promptly to a RA request



  • Discuss with others unless there is a need to know
  • Treat the employee differently
  • Ask for specific illness or medical documentation
  • Ignore the request
  • Ignore timelines


Medical Documentation Must Explain
  • The nature of the individual’s disability (diagnosis and prognosis).
  • If known, must state whether the RA is indefinite or temporary.
  • The individual’s need for an RA.
  • How the requested accommodation will assist the individual in performing the essential functions of a job.
  • The RAC may request relevant, supplemental medical documentation if the information submitted by the requestor does not provide adequate information to meet the requirement stated above.
Timeframes: RA
  • The time limit for processing a request for RA Starts when a written or oral request is made to the hiring official, supervisor, manager, or RAC.
  • If a request is made to a supervisor or manager, the supervisor or manager must promptly confirm the request and forward the request to the RAC within 5 business days.
  • Absent extenuating circumstances, a request for RA must be formally acknowledged by the RAC within 5 business days of the request using the AD-1163 form with a copy to the employee, or their representative.
  • When applicable, the RAC will request relevant and necessary medical documentation from the requestor within 10 business days of receiving the request.
  • Absent extenuating circumstances, Management must provide written notice of approval or denial to the requestor no more than 30 business days from the date the request was made.
  • Where an RA can be provided in less than the maximum time permitted, failure to provide the accommodation in a prompt manner may result in a violation of Federal law and USDA policy.
  • When there is a delay in either processing a request, or providing an RA, the agency must promptly notify the employee of the reason for the delay, including any extenuating circumstances that justify the delay.
  • When the facts and circumstances known to the agency make it reasonably likely that an employee will be entitled to an RA, but the RA cannot be provided immediately, the agency must provide an interim accommodation that allows the employee to perform some or all of the essential functions of their job, if it is possible to do so without imposing undue hardship on the agency.
Essential Functions

In narrative form, describe the work of the position.

  • Be specific to include if this work is sedentary or not.
  • Explain if an office setting is required.
  • Determine the physical effort required to perform the work.
  • Provide information about the amount of computer use involved, including the level of availability and responsiveness to leadership and customers electronically and via telephone.

Co-location: Indicate if employees of the unit are co-located and if the customer base served by the unit is co-located as well.

Explain if it would be obvious whether the work accomplished by the employee is being performed at a USDA facility or from a remote site (telework).

Outline if any of the duties would preclude the employee working from an alternate location, including a home office.

Include any exceptions to working remotely such as mandatory off-site training to maintain certifications).

Confidentiality Requirements
  • A request for RA is strictly confidential.
  • Any medical documentation obtained in connection with the request is confidential and maintained by the RAC.
  • RA documentation must be stored separate from an employee’s personnel file.
  • The RAC may share certain information, without disclosing a disability, with an employee’s supervisor, manager or other agency official(s), as necessary, to make appropriate determinations on a request.
Determining an Undue Hardship
  • Factors to be considered in determining if an accommodation would impose an undue hardship.
  • The type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the job structure and functions of the workforce of such entity, and the geographic separateness and administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility.
  • The nature and net cost of the accommodation needed, taking into consideration the availability of funding the overall financial resources of the agency.
  • The impact of the accommodation upon the operation of the agency, including the impact on the ability of other employees to perform their duties and the impact on the agency’s ability to conduct business.
Animals in the Workplace as an RA
  • A request to bring a service animal or emotional support animal (including a comfort or therapy animal) to work is a request for RA.  It is a request for the agency to modify its no-animals-in-the-workplace policy.
  • Although not specifically addressed in the employment provisions of the ADA (Title I) and the Rehabilitation Act (Section 501), the EEOC maintains the position that allowing an individual with a disability to bring a service animal or emotional support animal to accompany them to work may be a RA.
  • A service animal performs a function or job for a person with a disability that is related to the individual’s disability, such as assisting with navigation or alerting an individual of a potential seizure.
  • An emotional support animal provides a comforting presence.
  • The Agency does not have to train or care for the service or emotional support animal.
  • The Agency may have to allow the employee to take leave to train the animal or take the animal to a vet appointment, or when the animal is not available.
  • If the presence of the animal in the workplace affects another employee because of their disability, the Agency may have to provide an RA to the other employee.
  • Best practices include:
    • Treat the request to bring a service or emotional support animal to the workplace as a request for RA;
    • Determine whether the animal would disrupt the workplace by suggesting an office demonstration to test how the animal would behave in the workplace; and/or
    • Consider a Trial Period.