The concept of reasonable accommodation is fundamental to theAmerican disability law regime, yet it has proved as slippery as theconcept of disability itself.
Underlying much of the difficulty is dis-agreement over the appropriate relationship between an accommoda-tion and the disability-related obstacles it is aimed at removing. Just as it is not illegal to discriminate against a member of a protected classfor reasons unrelated to her protected status,
the Americans with Dis-abilities Act
(ADA) does not require accommodations that are not re-lated to a person’s disability. But this seemingly simple concept hasproduced a muddled, often self-contradictory body of case law. Dis-ability statutes provide little guidance to the judges who must decidewhether a dog is properly understood as a needed therapy animal or ahousehold pet,
whether an alternative examination method is an in-novative accommodation for dyslexia or a clever way of gaming thetest,
and whether a request to transfer to a different work setting isgenuinely related to the disabling aspects of posttraumatic stress disor-der.
This Note seeks to classify the various approaches that courtshave brought to the so-called “nexus requirement,” to examine the be-liefs about disability that are implicit in these approaches, and to offersome ways in which courts might reconcile those beliefs with the reali-ties of disability.A reasonable accommodation is an alteration to some element of the status quo that is intended to enable a person with a disability toparticipate in work, higher education, residential living, or public lifeto the same extent as the nondisabled. The range of possible accom-modations is in theory limited only by the human imagination: it caninclude changes to physical environments and time schedules, adjust-ment of requirements and policies, and provision of assistive devices,
For a philosophical and sociological exploration of the concept of disability, see N. AnnDavis,
, Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc.,
) (emphasizingthat workplace harassment is not actionable under the Title VII prohibition of sex discriminationunless it is motivated by the victim’s sex).
Americans with Disabilities Act of
, Pub. L. No.
(codified asamended at
& Supp. V
Prindable v. Ass’n of Apartment Owners of
Stern v. Univ. of Osteopathic Med. & Health Scis.,
Felix v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth.,