The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute which provides civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, State and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA was designed to remove barriers which prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. Similar protections are provided by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and by the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.
The ADA provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of the University of Michigan.
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 an impairment is a disability is made on a case-by-case basis.
How do you define "a person with a disability"?
Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who has: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or 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 an 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 useable 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
- reassignment to a vacant position
- 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 for Institutional Equity.
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.
Campus Commitment: Learn more about 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.
See Campus Commitment to learn more about Hostile Environment Harassment.
What should departments do when hosting a public event?
The sponsoring department is responsible for ensuring that events are open to all members of the public. This means conducting events in accessible locations and may mean providing sign-language interpreters, printed material in Braille, or alternative formats such as audio recordings if requested in advance. Departments should include an accommodation statement in publications inviting participation in university-sponsored events.
The following language or something similar is suggested:
“If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to (language can be specific: attend this performance, participate in this conference, attend this seminar, participate in this event, etc.) please contact (office name and/or phone number of event sponsor) at least (number of weeks/days depending on how much advance notice there is regarding the event) in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the University to arrange.
Service Animals and the ADA
Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually training to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Refusing Access to a Service Animal
Under the ADA, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.
A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) the dog is not housebroken.
Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.