The Law and Economics of Disability Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act provides a clear mandate that disabled workers be provided with “reasonable” accommodations, but does not meaningfully articulate the standards by which reasonableness ought to be measured. Until now, neither courts nor commentators have provided a systematic model for analyzing accommodation claims. This Article articulates an initial law and economics framework for analyzing disability-related accommodations. In doing so, it demonstrates how accommodations span a cost continuum that can be divided into areas of Wholly Efficient and Semi-Efficient Accommodations to be funded by private employers, Social Benefit Gain Efficient Accommodations where the costs should be borne by the public fisc, and Wholly Inefficient Accommodations that ought not be provided. It also delineates the boundaries between each category, and explains why the entities designated should bear the accommodation costs assigned to them. The analysis of disability accommodations uses, questions, and at times goes beyond the neoclassical economic model of the labor market, and also engages arguments from the jurisprudence of social justice. By utilizing both these fields, this Article stakes out a unique perspective on disability accommodations, and provides an avenue for continued discussion and debate over how disability accommodations ought to be measured.