Does a state or local governmental institution have to provide specific hardware or software (assistive technology) requested by a disabled employee to access information technology provided by the employer?

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.

For example, an employee might request that the institution purchase a specific kind of assistive technology, such as screen enlargement software, as an individual accommodation so the employee could access the web for work-related activities, such as filling in online timesheets or job-related forms. While the institution may be required to provide an accommodation, it does not necessarily need to provide the individual's requested aid or service if an alternative is generally regarded by knowledgeable experts as effective in the context in which it will be used. (OCR 09-97-2002.RES)