84 Pages Posted: 6 May 2008
Courts and agencies interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally assume that workplace accommodations benefit individual employees with disabilities and impose costs on employers and, at times, coworkers. This belief reflects a failure to recognize a key feature of ADA accommodations: their benefits to third parties. Numerous accommodations - from ramps to ergonomic furniture to telecommuting initiatives - can create benefits for coworkers, both disabled and nondisabled, as well as for the growing group of employees with impairments that are not limiting enough to constitute disabilities under the ADA. Much attention has been paid to how the integration of diverse groups of people helps to ameliorate discriminatory attitudes through contact. But integrating people with disabilities also means integrating accommodations. These accommodations affect and benefit third parties in the workplace and thus shape attitudes toward both disability and the ADA. An understanding of third-party benefits is crucial to designing and disclosing accommodations in ways that will best promote the aims of the statute and the prospects of disabled people.
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