Do businesses have to provide assistive technology (i.e. screen enlargement, voice recognition software) to employees with disabilities taking business-related distance learning trainings?

Generally, the ADA requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which took effect July 26, 1992, prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

An employer is required to make an accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.

Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities
  • Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position
  • Adjusting or modifying training materials
  • Adjusting or modifying policies and procedures
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters

If completion of the distance learning course is a requirement of the job position, a qualifying employer is required to offer an accommodation that will meet the employee's needs,. If more than one accommodation meets the employee's needs, then the employer may choose which one to provide. An employee cannot insist on a specific accommodation based purely on personal preference.

However, even if it is not the legal obligation of the organization to provide assistive technology specifically, it is the responsibility of the distance learning course provider to make sure that users with disabilities who use assistive technology have access to the web-based information.