Disability Assessment

Definition - What does Disability Assessment mean?

Disability assessments are a type of assessment used to determine the nature of an individual’s physical or mental limitations if any exist. They are used in occupational contexts to determine how a worker’s disability would affect his or her ability to perform a specific job.

For safety-sensitive positions, these assessments can determine whether or not an individual’s disability disqualifies them from a position due to the physical limitation resulting in an increased level of safety risk.

Safeopedia explains Disability Assessment

In most advanced countries, disabled individuals are protected under “equal employment” and anti-discrimination laws that limit an employer's ability to deny an individual a job based on a physical or mental impairment. These laws impose certain obligations upon employers that prevent disability assessments from being used to provide a pretext to deny employment to an individual. A safety-sensitive position cannot be denied to a disabled individual unless the assessment actually demonstrates that the individual would not be able to fulfill the role safely.

Disability assessments, also called “fit to work” assessments, take place within a great deal of legal context that is designed to prevent unfair discrimination against disabled workers. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents employers from seeking any information about a disability until after a conditional employment offer has been made. Once an offer has been made, disability assessments may be conducted only if all prospective candidates are tested in the same way and to the same standard.

If an employee has been working at a position for an extended period, his or her employers are usually unable to seek information about whether he or she is disabled. An employer may only request a disability assessment if it directly relates to an employee being able to perform a function that is necessary for that job.

Furthermore, employers must provide disabled employees with any “reasonable accommodations” that may exist that would allow them to perform a job that their disability would otherwise preclude them from. Disability assessments are also used to provide information that determines what reasonable accommodations are appropriate to mitigate the impact of a specific disability.

In hazardous workplaces with disabled individuals, a disability assessment may be carried out to determine if and how an individual's disability exacerbates the level of risk associated with a hazard. For instance, EU employers face a specific obligation to review the particular risks faced by any disabled person in the workplace (Framework Directive 89/391/EEC) and must provide reasonable accommodations in the form of additional or alternate risk controls that reduce risk to the employee to an acceptable level. An employee may also initiate a disability assessment to demonstrate that he or she has a disability that the employer has a duty to accommodate.

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