Even when an employer knows that its employee is disabled, the employer is not automatically required to find out whether the employee requires an accommodation. Instead, the burden is on the employee to make an initial request for an accommodation. The employee does not need to use the term accommodation, but needs only to inform the employer of the disability and that he or she needs some assistance in performing job duties. Once he or she has made the request, the employer is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee, to determine whether an accommodation is actually needed, and if so, what accommodation might be appropriate. Both parties have a responsibility to cooperate in finding a reasonable accommodation. For example, if the employee refuses to provide any medical evidence of his or her disability or specifically notify the employer of the essential job functions that he or she is having difficulty performing, the employer cannot be held liable for failing to provide an appropriate accommodation. Likewise, the employer cannot make a single offer of an inadequate accommodation and, if the employee refuses it, decline to search for other alternatives.
An employer may also be required to make reasonable accommodations for a job applicant, if the accommodations are necessary for the applicant to participate in the application process. An applicant who believes that he or she may need an accommodation must, like an employee, inform the employer of the need for accommodation, and then work with the employer to find an effective accommodation, if one exists. An example might be moving a typing test to a room that the applicant can reach or allowing the applicant to bring adaptive equipment to the interview, such a special keyboards. An applicant with hearing or visual impairments may be accommodated by allowing an interpreter to accompany the applicant to the interview. An employer who responds to a request for accommodation by telling the applicant that if he or she cannot participate in the interview process because he or she obviously cannot perform the job may be violating the law.