Implementing Reasonable Accommodations in the Classroom

Faculty and Instructors

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, along with the Amendments Act of 2008, which was signed into law on September 25, 2008 and became effective January 1, 2009, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states: “[n]o otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States… shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance”… An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as “. . . a person who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such impairment.”

The term “qualified,” in post-secondary education, means that the student meets the academic and technical standards required for participation in the class, program, or activity but has a physical and/or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activity, including, but not limited to, caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, and working. Major life activities may also include schoolrelated tasks such as learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Major life activities also include the operation of “major bodily functions,” including, but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Thus, colleges and universities are required to make Reasonable Accommodations in their practices, policies and procedures, and to provide auxiliary aids and services for persons with disabilities, unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations they offer, or would result in an undue financial or administrative burden on the institution.

The offices of disability services work closely with students to help them understand their rights and responsibilities. Some of those rights are covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99). The offices of disability services will be unable to discuss a specific student circumstances or record with anyone (including parents or guardians) without that student's express permission. FERPA however allows schools to disclose education records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

  • School officials with legitimate educational interest
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
  • Accrediting organizations
  • Parties identified in a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
  • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law