Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information

This site contains information related to the University's workforce as it relates to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

ADA Accomodations Plan

Accommodation Requests


Related Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of disability?
Under the ADA, a person has a disability if he/she 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. Only people in the first or second categories are entitled to reasonable accommodation.

Can employers request medical documentation?
To determine whether an employee has a disability, an employer may request medical documentation that shows whether the employee has an impairment and whether that impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.

An employer may require that the documentation about the disability and limitations come from an appropriate health care or rehabilitation professional. Appropriate professionals include, but are not limited to, doctors (including psychiatrists), psychologists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists, and licensed mental health professionals.

What is an impairment?
The first step in determining whether an employee has a disability is to determine whether the employee has a physical or mental impairment. A physical impairment means any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine. A mental or psychological disorder includes conditions such as intellectual disability (formerly termed "mental retardation"), organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

What are major life activities?
Major life activities include functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.

Major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function, including functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin; normal cell growth; and digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions. The operation of a major bodily function includes the operation of an individual organ within a body system.

These lists are not exhaustive lists; they are representative of the types of activities that are major life activities.

How does an employer determine whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity?
If the employee has an impairment, the next step is to determine whether that impairment substantially limits the employee in one or more major life activities. When examining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity:

  • Compare the employee to most people in the general population.
  • Remember that the impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the employee from performing a major life activity.
  • Consider the limitations as if the condition is in an active state.
  • Ignore the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures.

What are mitigating measures?
Mitigating measures include things such as medication, medical supplies, equipment, hearing aids, mobility devices, the use of assistive technology, reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids or services, prosthetics, learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications, psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, and physical therapy. Mitigating measures do not include ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses.

What are reasonable accommodations?
If an employee has a disability and needs an accommodation because of the disability, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation, unless the accommodation poses an undue hardship. In general, an accommodation is any modification or adjustment in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an employee with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. A modification or adjustment is "reasonable" if it seems reasonable on its face, meaning feasible or plausible. In addition to being reasonable, an accommodation also must be “effective” in meeting the needs of the individual. An accommodation is effective when it enables the employee to perform the essential functions of the job or to enjoy equal access to the benefits and privileges of employment that employees without disabilities enjoy.

In many cases, a reasonable accommodation will be obvious and can be made without difficulty and at little or no cost. Frequently, the individual with a disability can suggest a simple change or adjustment based on his or her life or work experience. An employer should always consult the person with the disability as the first step in considering an accommodation. In many cases the employee will be able to provide accommodation ideas. However, when an employee does not know what accommodations are appropriate, the employee’s doctor may be able to provide useful accommodation suggestions.

What is undue hardship?
Undue hardship means significant difficulty or expense and focuses on the resources and circumstances of the particular employer in relationship to the cost or difficulty of providing a specific accommodation. Undue hardship refers not only to financial difficulty, but to reasonable accommodations that are unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business.  An employer must assess on a case-by-case basis whether a particular reasonable accommodation would cause undue hardship.