About Disability Laws & Accommodations

About Disability Laws 

There are many disability rights laws within the United States which promote the rights of individuals with disabilities in almost every aspect of everyday life.  A Guide to Disability Rights Laws  provides a detailed guide of those laws, their application, and regulatory agency.

The Office of Disability Resources is responsible for adherence to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, amended 2008 (ADA)

These are federal civil rights laws that protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of a disability and promote the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in programs, services and activities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a non-discrmination law which protects qualified individuals with disabilities.  Title I of the the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in recruitment, hiring, promotions, training, pay, social activities, and other privileges of employment.

What is a disability?

According to the ADA disability means, a person who: 

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; 
  • Has a record of an impairment (such as cancer which is in remission); or 
  • Regarded as having an impairment (such as a person who has severe scars).

Major Life Activities: include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

Major Bodily Functions: a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Mobility disabilities such as those which require the use of a mobility device (cane, wheelchair, walker, etc.)
  • Cognitive disorders (ex. learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, etc.)
  • Attentional disorders
  • Low vision or blindness
  • Chronic health conditions (ie, Diabetes, Migraines, Cerebral Palsy, HIV, etc)
  • Mental health conditions (ie, Major Depressive Disorder, etc.)
  • Deafness or hearing loss
  • Pregnancy related conditions (ie; pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, etc.)

What does having a disability mean?

Meeting the definition of a disability establishes protections from discrimination based on disability status. 

Individuals with disabilities are intended to have the same opportunities as everyone else. This includes:

  • employment opportunities,
  • the ability to purchase goods and use services, and 
  • to participate in programs, services and activities.

Additionally, if appropriate and necessary individuals may also be eligible for reasonable workplace accommodations, modifications to policies and procedures, appropriate academic adjustments, auxiliary aids and services. 

What are accommodations?

Accommodations include academic adjustments, auxiliary aids/services, modifications to policies/procedures, and reasonable workplace accommodations. 

Not all individuals with disabilities experience the same functional limitations or disability related barriers so not everyone needs accommodations.

Accommodations are:

  • determined on an individualized, case by case basis, 
  • intended to minimize the effects of the impact of specific limitations caused by a disability, 
  • to ensure equal access and opportunity for participation,
  • to provide full and meaningful experiences like nondisabled peers by removing disability related environmental, workplace, programmatic or curriculum barriers.

Accommodations do not:

  • lower production standards, 
  • waive or lower essential requirements of courses, programs or degrees, 
  • remove essential job functions,
  • guarantee success or an identical result or level of achievement as individuals without disabilities,
  • include personal use items/devices needed in accomplishing daily activities such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, wheelchairs, etc.

Accommodations are not reasonable if they are determined to be a fundamental alteration or are an undue administrative or financial hardship.  


Reasonable workplace accommodation: employment term to refer to modifications or adjustments to a position, an employment practice or the work environment which makes it possible for a qualified individual with a disability to perform essential job functions or enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

Examples include: Relocation to physically accessible work location or modified work schedule.

Reasonable modifications: modifications to policies, practices, or procedures when such are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability.

Example: Modifying the no pets aspect of the University Housing Contract to permit an assistance animal for an individual with a disability within University Housing.

Academic adjustments: adjustments or modifications in how students participate in or complete academic courses and programs. Academic adjustments assist students in meeting essential requirements and standards, but do not change them.

Example: Providing a student with extended test time on a timed assessment to ensure that an assessment measures knowledge and skills rather than the disability.

Auxiliary aids and services: ensure effective communication and include qualified sign language interpreters, notetakers; real-time captioning; closed captioning, alternate formats, accessible electronic and information technology, etc.

Example: Providing accurate closed captioning of video content to individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing to have access to the same information in an equally integrated manner.

Qualified individual with a disability: A person with a disability who meets the requisite skill, experience, education and other related requirements of the program or employment position and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can meet all the essential requirements or functions of such.

Example: Students must be able to meet University standards for behavior (ie: Code of Student Conduct) and academic achievement (ie, GPA, program requirements).

Employees must meet requirements for the position, such as education requirements.

Fundamental alteration: a change that is so significant or substantial that it alters the essential nature of the course, program, service, or activity.

Example: Request for a waiver of an essential program requirement, such as student teaching for an education major.

Equal access and opportunity: the opportunity for a qualified person with a disability to participate in or benefit from educational aid, benefits, or services that is equal to and as effective as the opportunity provided to others.

Substantially limitingsignificantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which an individual can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which the average person in the general population can perform the same major life activity.

Undue Hardshipan accommodation or action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as the University's size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation. Undue Hardship also refers to an accommodation that is unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or one that would fundamentally alter the nature of the position.