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Overview of Disability Employment Resources

Understanding Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (OEODM) staff has decades of experience in the field of disability employment policy. We can help you learn more about rights and responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as well as relevant Executive Orders and other directives.

If you are an employee with a disability or a manager of an employee who happens to be disabled, you might have lots of questions concerning your rights and responsibilities. OEODM can help you gain a fuller understanding of disability issues in the workplace, and address the concerns you might have, such as:

  • Am I obligated to tell my manager about my disabling condition or illness?
  • Am I required to do anything "special" for my disabled employee?
  • What is a "Reasonable Accommodation" and how do I know if my employee is entitled to one?
  • How do I ask for a Reasonable Accommodation?
  • I have an employee who is going blind. How can I help him/her continue to work effectively?

Learning about the Reasonable Accommodation Process

The reasonable accommodation process generally begins when an employee discloses a disability to a manager or supervisor. An important first step in the reasonable accommodation process is communication between the employee with a disability and his or her manager. The OEODM can facilitate this communication in providing disability-specific information to the manager as it relates to the employee's job functions and in providing solutions to workplace barriers to the employee with a disability.

For many managers, this experience can trigger a myriad of questions. The OEODM Disability Branch is available to provide answers to these questions using NIH's policy guidance, in addition to fact sheets, and technical assistance resources - many of which are published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Navigating through the reasonable accommodation process can be confusing if you're not sure what you or your employee needs. The OEODM staff is available to help facilitate communication, conduct needs assessments, identify resources, and procure assistive technology or services as needed.

Disability-Specific Information

Just as there are different skin tones within any group of individuals within our society, there is great variation within each specific disability group. For example, two individuals with the same level of hearing loss may require different types of amplification and may function very differently in the workplace. Similarly, there may be two individuals who use wheelchairs. However, they may have different disabilities and certainly may have different job responsibilities. The OEODM can work with you in offering general guidelines on how to work effectively with employees with disabilities based on the individual's functional abilities and job responsibilities. With that information in hand, we can facilitate positive communication to you and your workgroup that may lead to improved acceptance and understanding by all employees in the NIH workplace.

Etiquette and Cultural Issues

“Is it OK to use words like ‘look’ or 'see' when talking with a blind person?”

“How do I get a Deaf person's attention?”

“If I see a woman in a wheelchair struggling to get through a doorway, what should I do?”

These are three very common questions often asked by people who are unfamiliar with disability etiquette or disability culture. OEODM can help answer your questions about working or interacting with people with disabilities. We can work with you as an individual or schedule training for a group of employees.


All aspects of the Reasonable Accommodation process are protected by the Privacy Act and should be treated with confidentiality. It is important for managers and their employees to know:

  • How to safeguard the privacy of the affected employee.
  • Who should or should not be "in the loop" on the Reasonable Accommodation process.
  • Procedures for safeguarding records or confidential documents.

Information pertaining to an employee's request for accommodation cannot be maintained in the Official Personnel File. OEODM will help you understand the need for confidentiality and make it easy for you to do your part.

Facility Accessibility and Emergency Procedures

Although OEODM cannot pay for facility modifications within NIH, we can advise you and your local facilities team on accessibility requirements or on how to improve access for persons with disabilities at your location. We can also provide assistance with understanding and employing safe evacuation techniques for individuals with disabilities, and can help you customize a plan that works best for the employees at your facility.

Resource Library

The OEODM maintains a resource library with materials focusing on disability issues related to employment and transportation. The library includes videos, books, brochures, and CD-ROMs on the following topics: Accessible Design, Blindness/Low Vision, Cancer, Communication, Deafness/Hard of Hearing, Disability Awareness, Disability Rights, Ergonomics, General Disability Resources, Hidden Disabilities, Learning Disabilities/Attention Deficit, Physical Disabilities, Technology Resources, and Transportation. We can also recommend additional resources to help you gain insight into your areas of concern.