Individuals with Disabilities

Office of Equal Employment and Supplier Diversity

OEESD works closely with managers, employees, applicants, and affiliated staff (e.g. interns, research associates, fellows and volunteers) to facilitate the employment of people with disabilities. We facilitate the employment of people with disabilities by assisting with the identification and provision of reasonable accommodations and monitoring the Smithsonian’s workforce, personnel policies and employment practices to eliminate barriers to the full participation of people with disabilities in the Smithsonian’s workforce. The Smithsonian Special Program for the Recruitment, Hiring, Advancement, and Retention of Persons with Disabilities provides information on efforts to enhance employment opportunities. Members of the public may request copies of the submission in accessible formats by contacting the Office of Equal Employment and Supplier Diversity at

The Smithsonian is committed to promoting diversity and ensuring that all employees, applicants for employment and affiliated staff (e.g. interns, research associates, fellows and volunteers) are treated equitably in an environment that is free from discrimination. This commitment includes our goal to attract and retain qualified individuals with disabilities, especially those with targeted disabilities.

Rehabilitation Act

Qualified employees and applicants with disabilities are protected from employment discrimination on the basis of disability by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. This law requires the Smithsonian Institution to provide reasonable accommodation for the known physical or mental limitations of qualified employees and applicants with disabilities, unless to do so would cause undue hardship - that is, it would require significant difficulty or expense.

Reasonable Accommodation

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodation include:

Providing or modifying equipment or devices; Providing readers and interpreters; Modifying work schedule; and, Adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies. Qualified Individual with a Disability

Who is considered "an individual with a disability" and "a qualified individual with a disability"?

The law defines an individual with a disability as one who:

Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the person's major life activities; Has a record of such an impairment; or, Is regarded as having such an impairment.

A major life activity is a function that the average person in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty. Major life activities include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, reading, concentration, thinking, communicating and working. A qualified individual with a disability has the skills, experience, education and other requirements of the job and can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.

Requesting an Accommodation 

How can an individual request a reasonable accommodation?

An employee may request a reasonable accommodation orally or in writing from his/her supervisor, another supervisor in his/her immediate chain of command, sponsor, or the Accommodations Coordinator in the Office of Equal Employment and Supplier Diversity (OEESD). Applicants may request a reasonable accommodation from the Human Resources Specialist, the Accommodations Coordinator, or other individuals involved in the hiring process. A family member, health professional, or other representative may request an accommodation on behalf of an employee or applicant. (However, the discussions about accommodation will always be held with the employee unless he/she is incapacitated and cannot participate adequately.)

A request does not have to use any special words. To the extent possible, the request should include a description of the precise job-related limitations imposed by a disability and how those limitations could be overcome by a reasonable accommodation. Employees, applicants and affiliated staff (e.g. interns, research associates, fellows and volunteers) may consult the Accommodations Coordinator for further information on requesting or processing a request for reasonable accommodation.

The Smithsonian Reasonable Accommodation Procedures are followed for Personal Assistance Services and pregnancy-related requests. 

Helpful Links Smithsonian Accessibility Program Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Disability Employment page Federal Government Information on Disability Programs and Services Federal Disability Workforce Consortium


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