What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The ADA is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1990 and went into effect beginning in 1992. Its purpose is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment (Title I). Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

How do I know if I have rights under Title I of the ADA?

In general, Title I protects “qualified” “employees” with “disabilities.” The term “qualified” means that you satisfy the skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position sought or held, and can perform the essential job functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

The term “disability” is defined in general terms rather than with a list of medical conditions. The definition of disability includes: (1) a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) a person with a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and (3) a person who is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

What is the responsibility of the employer?

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is required to provide effective, reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.  The university can expect that staff and faculty be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.

JHU will engage in an interactive process to collaboratively explore accommodation solutions with individuals with disabilities who request accommodations.  Any time an employee indicates that he/she is having a problem and the problem is related to a medical condition, the employer should consider whether the employee is making a request for accommodation under the ADA.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation may include but is not limited to: making facilities accessible, adjusting work schedules, telework, restructuring jobs, the reallocation or redistribution of non-essential, marginal job functions, providing assistive devices or equipment, and modifying work sites. A leave of absence may also be considered where necessary, in conjunction with the FMLA policy, short and long term policies, and JHU’s sick leave policy, as well as any collective bargaining agreements and past practice for faculty.

How do I know when to request an accommodation?

Employees can request an accommodation at any time during the application process or while employed. You can request an accommodation even if you did not ask for one when applying for a job or after receiving a job offer. In general, you should request an accommodation when you know that due to a disability, there is a workplace barrier that is preventing you from competing for a job, performing a job, or gaining equal access to a benefit of employment like an employee lunch room or employee parking. As a practical matter, it is better to request an accommodation before your job performance suffers or conduct problems occur because employers do not have to rescind discipline that occurred before they knew about your disability.

Interactive Process

Step 1: Recognizing an Accommodation Request

Employee requests for accommodation are submitted to The Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). The interactive process starts with an accommodation request from an employee with a disability.  An employee with a disability may request an accommodation by completing the Accommodation Request form on the OIE website www.accessibility.jhu.edu   An employee may also make a request for accommodation from Human Resources, supervisors, Occupational Health Services (OHS), or the Employee Assistance Program (JHEAP). An employee does not specifically need to ask for an accommodation, but by asking for “help” with tasks, equipment, time, environment, or other assistance should be directed to OIE.

Step 2: Gathering Information

Once an accommodation request has been received, JHU will gather the necessary information to consider the request. Necessary information may include documentation (inc. nature, severity, duration and impact to the essential functions of the job) of the functional limitations of the disability and need for reasonable accommodation. In some cases, the employee’s disability and need for accommodation are obvious and no additional information is needed. For example, if an employee who recently started using a wheelchair indicates that he needs a ramp to get into the workplace, the disability and need for accommodation are obvious.  This step will likely also include a conversation with the employee and OIE.

Step 3: Exploring Accommodation Options

After JHU has identified the employee’s limitation that requires accommodations, JHU will explore accommodation options with the employee and other resources as appropriate. This may include reviewing the job description.

Step 4: Accommodation

Once accommodations have been explored, OIE will work with the supervisor to discuss approving the appropriate accommodations. If there is more than one option, the employer should consider the preference of the employee. However, the employer may choose among effective options.  JHU strives to implement all reasonable accommodation requests. 

Step 5: Implementing the Accommodation

OIE will work with an employee’s department, Human Resources, Department of Health, Safety and Environment and others as needed to implement all approved reasonable accommodations. This includes arranging any needed training for the employee or others in the department, installation of technology, revisions of schedules, or environmental changes. This step is very important to the success of an accommodation. If the accommodation is a reassignment, then the employee may need time to acclimate to the new job.

Step 6: Monitoring the Accommodation

Because changes occur, employers may need to periodically check on the ongoing effectiveness of accommodations. The most important way to monitor accommodations is to encourage ongoing communication. Employees who are receiving accommodations need to understand that they should let their supervisor/manager, Human Resources, or OIE know if there are changes or problems with the accommodation and who specifically to contact.


An employee:
  • Need not specifically use the words “accommodation” or “disability”.  A request for “help” or for a workplace adjustment or technology change, for example might trigger obligations under the ADA. Must disclose the need for accommodations.
  • Must follow the university’s process regarding the provision of accommodations.
  • May choose to discuss his/her situation and accommodation request with the supervisor, Human Resources, OHS, JHEAP, or OIE.
  • Provide requested documentation for review.
A supervisor must:
  • Inform the employee of the process for receiving accommodations if the employee discloses their disability to the supervisor.
  • Provide information concerning the employee’s essential job functions and the job description when requested.
  • Provide feedback concerning the request including comments concerning the reasonableness of the request.
  • Make a good faith effort to provide reasonable accommodations to an individual covered by the ADA.

To start the accommodations process, or for general questions, please contact the appropriate office listed below:

Office of Institutional Equity
Email: OIEDisability@jhu.edu
Website: http://oie.jhu.edu/index.html  

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Email: worklife@jhu.edu
Website: https://hr.jhu.edu/benefits-worklife/support-programs/

Occupational Health Services
Homewood Campus: 410-516-0450
East Baltimore: 410-955-6211
Website: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hse/occupational_health/

JH at Eastern – Central Human Resource Business Services
Serving Homewood schools, Sheridan Libraries, Peabody, SAIS, Academic Centers and University Administration
1101 E. 33rd Street, Suite E001, Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: 443-997-2157
Website: http://hrnt.jhu.edu/

Health Sciences Human Resources
Serving School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health, & School of Nursing
98 N. Broadway, 3rd Floor, Baltimore, MD 21231
Phone: 410-955-2990