Disability Discrimination

Disability discrimination can occur whenever a qualified individual with a disability is denied the same equal opportunities as other university students, faculty and staff because of their disability status.

Under applicable disability laws, an individual with a disability is a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Temporary, non-chronic impairments that do not last for a long time and that have little or no long-term impact usually are not disabilities. The determination of whether impairment is a disability is made on a case-by-case basis.

What is a “major life activity” under the law?

To be considered a person with a disability, the impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities. Examples of major life activities include walking, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, learning and caring for oneself.

What does “qualified” mean?

To be protected, a person must not only be an individual with a disability, but must be qualified. For students, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers; or the provision of auxiliary aids or services, meets the essential requirements for the receipt of services or participation in programs or activities provided by the university.

For university employees, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position and who, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

For university students

A reasonable accommodation is a reasonable modification in policies, practices, or procedures, when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of a university service, program or activity. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • note taking services
  • text conversion to alternative accessible formats
  • audio and video tapes
  • qualified interpreter services
  • adjusting time limits on tests
  • making facilities and/or programs readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities

For university employees

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, employment practice, or the work environment that makes it possible for a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity. The university will provide a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • job restructuring
  • modified work schedules
  • obtaining or modifying equipment or devices
  • modifying examinations, training materials or policies
  • providing qualified readers and interpreters
  • making facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities

When and how does the university provide reasonable accommodations?

The university is obligated to make a reasonable accommodation only to the known disability of an otherwise qualified employee or student. In general, it is the responsibility of the employee or student to make the disability status and subsequent need for an accommodation known to the appropriate university official. Students may request accommodations through the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities and employees may make a request through their supervisor or the ADA Coordinator in the Office of Institutional Equity. Contact information for these offices is provided in Section XIX.

Once on notice of the need for accommodations, it is the responsibility of the university official and the individual with a disability to discuss possible accommodations and assess the reasonableness and effectiveness of each potential accommodation. Determinations regarding accommodations on campus will be made on a case-by-case basis. Determining a reasonable accommodation is very fact-specific. In general, the accommodation must be tailored to address the nature of the disability and the needs of the individual within the context of the requirements of the job or the program of study. If there are two or more possible accommodations, and one costs more or is more burdensome than the other, the university will give primary consideration to the preference of the individual with a disability; however, the university may choose the less expensive or burdensome accommodation as long as it is effective.

See examples of prohibited discrimination for examples of the types of disability discrimination prohibited by the university.

Hostile Environment
Disability Harassment

The university will not tolerate the creation or existence of an environment that is hostile on the basis of disability. Such a hostile environment is defined as harassing conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic or written) related to disability that is sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent so as (1) to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the university’s programs and activities or (2) to unreasonably interfere with an individual’s work or academic performance by creating an objectively intimidating, hostile or offensive work or learning environment. Whether the harassing conduct is considered severe, persistent or pervasive depends upon the context in which the behavior occurred. For further discussion of what constitutes a hostile environment, please refer to the discussion of hostile environment in Section XIII.

Where to go for Help

If you believe you are experiencing disability discrimination or harassment, you are encouraged to contact the appropriate university official (dean, director, HR Representative, etc.) and/or the Office of Institutional Equity (see contact information in Section XIX). There are also many resources on campus that provide assistance, support and information to individuals experiencing disability discrimination or harassment. A list of these offices and a brief description of their services appear in Section XIX. If you are unsure which office to contact, contact the office that seems most appropriate, and that office will either assist you or help you make contact with a university office that can.