According to the ADA, the candidate can request the employer to provide reasonable accommodations for her disability, unless it represents an undue hardship for the employer, i.e. if it would require significant difficulty or expense. I want to replace verbal communication with written communication completely or nearly completely.

As an employee with social anxiety disorder working as a software engineer is this a reasonable accommodation?

If not, why?

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    @XenoMind Thank you for the additional information. However, I feel that this sort of question is inherently limited to specific disorders. Referencing examples in these comments, a deaf and dumb employee might absolutely require written communication, as verbal communication flat-out cannot work for them. For an employee who is capable of verbal interactions, but prefers other types, written-only communication could be an accommodation but not necessarily a reasonable one (again, depending on the specific reason an accommodation is being sought).
    – Upper_Case
    Jun 4, 2019 at 20:31
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    Reasonableness also must be weighted against the job requirements. If a job requires certain functions or skills (i.e. a certain communication method), it may be clearly unreasonable to request something not compatible with that requirement - regardless of what your disability is. Again, the discussion is very difficult without being specific.
    – dwizum
    Jun 4, 2019 at 20:33
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    In many cases, the accommodation will need be specified, prescribed or at least supported by a medical professional. You should take to your medical professional and see what they recommend.
    – Hilmar
    Jun 5, 2019 at 0:10
  • I think @Hilmar has the basis of a proper answer to the question as it currently stands. If OP wants to take a stand on medical grounds (ie: disability) then they'll need medical documentation - of some description - to support that claim.
    – Steve-O
    Jun 5, 2019 at 13:27
  • With respect, I think you should address this question to a local Commission on Disabilities, or some other organization with experience in this area. If you're not sure who to ask, call the office of your local municipal health department, or your state representative, and ask for an appropriate referral.
    – O. Jones
    Jun 5, 2019 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


Sometimes what a person wants is not what is best for them. As an employer, you don't know what treatment a person with social anxiety disorder may be getting, but it is entirely possible that their therapist would consider reducing spoken communication as stepping backwards in their treatment.

And, since you are not the therapist, the best thing is for the employee to request specific accommodations with a note from the therapist/doctor. Once the employer gets this request, then they need to decide if they are reasonable, if spoken communication is an essential job function, and the job cannot be done in any other way.

For a software engineer, a lunch-and-learn where they have to present to their teammates is not usually an essential job function. Talking to customers to figure out exactly what is needed might be considered essential, and might not be. That can depend on the level of their written communication, as well as that of the customers. If the customers are unable to write clearly, and requirements gathering is an essential function, then at least listening to the customer may be an essential job function. If someone else can do the requirements gathering, then perhaps it could be a reasonable accommodation. It very much depends of the specific company and people within it.

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    I have worked with a deaf software engineer. Even face-to-face, we both typed everything. It felt like a normal conversation with questions and explanations. Jun 5, 2019 at 4:03

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