Do You Need a Doctor’s Note When Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation?

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The issue of reasonable accommodations has been in the news frequently lately. There are millions of individuals with disabilities and they are protected by a wide variety of laws on the local, state, and federal levels. As a result, many individuals and companies alike are anxious about accommodating people with disabilities. Companies want to avoid lawsuits and provide the best service possible for their employees and customers. People with disabilities want to make sure that they are having their needs served adequately. It is essential to learn all of the laws and requirements surrounding doctor’s notes before dealing with one of these requests.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a change in policy from a company, business, or housing agency that can help an individual with a disability. Accommodations are different from modifications. A modification would involve some sort of construction to help customers or employees navigate their experience with a company or institution. Accommodations are often just modifications of policies and practices to allow a person with disabilities full enjoyment of a company’s services or work environment.

One of the most frequent accommodations is the allowance of a service animal or emotional support animal in public or private spaces. There are numerous laws that govern the usage of these animals and where they can be allowed. A number of companies have faced lawsuits and public controversies surrounding these laws. As a result, HUD and other government organizations have published and frequently updated guidance about these rules.

The doctor’s note is a key part of the accommodations process as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act and related laws. These notes are only required in certain instances and they cannot provide sensitive medical details. But they can be used as proof that a substantial amount of money must be spent in order to provide accommodations to a person who is disabled.

What to do

Any individual who needs to secure a reasonable accommodation only needs a doctor’s note in certain instances. They do not need a doctor’s note if their disability is obvious to the person in charge of a company, business, or housing complex. There is a reasonable person standard by which a person who can reasonably determine a person’s disability should grant the reasonable accommodation. If not, the company or business owner may legally request a doctor’s note.

This doctor’s note does not have to divulge personal medical details. It only needs to state that a person has a disability and that the disability could be managed or have its impact lessened by the reasonable accommodation. In that case, the company needs to make the determination whether or not the accommodation is reasonable. Accommodations are mostly paid for or covered by the company while modifications are sometimes charged to the person requesting them.


Reasonable accommodations can be essential for people enjoying their homes and workplaces. But they can sometimes cost thousands of dollars and can be a point of stress and conflict between individuals requesting accommodations and companies granting them. Knowledge and understanding are essential for avoiding these pitfalls and ensuring that the accommodations process goes as smoothly as possible.

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