- What is the University policy on protections for persons with disabilities?
- What is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA?
- What is the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, or ADAAA?
- Who is “a person with a disability”?
- What is a “major life activity” under the law?
- What does “qualified” mean?
- What is a reasonable accommodation?
- How do you determine if a reasonable accommodation is appropriate?
- Is there ever a reason why a reasonable accommodation request would not be granted?
- What if I don’t want an accommodation?
- What are the steps involved in the accommodation process?
- I am applying for a job at UT Austin and I need to request a sign-language interpreter for my interview. Who should I contact to facilitate this request?
- I am a professor and I have a student who is requesting accommodations. Who can I contact for help with this request?
1. What is the University policy on protections for persons with disabilities?
The University of Texas at Austin does not discriminate on the basis of disability in its programs, services, and activities.
2. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the ADA?
The ADA is federal civil rights legislation protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It was passed in 1990. Title I of the ADA addresses employment protections. The ADA employment provisions apply to all state and local government employers, regardless of size.
3. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, or ADAAA?
The ADA was amended in 2008 and is known as the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). The ADAAA did not change the actual definition of disability – the definition is exactly the same as it was. However, the Amendments to the ADA make it easier to prove you are a person with a disability because it states that mitigating measures other than “ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses” shall not be considered in assessing whether an individual has a disability. For example, prior to the Amendments, if you were a person with epilepsy and you were taking anti-seizure medication (which mitigated or diminished your seizures), you were not considered a person with a disability. Another example is an individual who wears a hearing aid. Prior to the Amendments Act, the use of your hearing aid may have precluded you from protection under the ADA. Additionally, the Amendments to the ADA clarifies that an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active. Examples of conditions that may be episodic or go into remission include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
4. Who is “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. An impairment is a disability if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population. An impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered substantially limiting.
5. What is a “major life activity” under the law?
To be considered a person with a disability under the ADA, 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, caring for oneself and working.
6. What does “qualified” mean?
To be protected by the ADA, a person must not only be an individual with a disability, but must be qualified. 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 a position.
7. What is a reasonable accommodation?
A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job, an 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 shall 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.
8. How do you determine if a reasonable accommodation is appropriate?
The decision as to the appropriate accommodation must be made on a case-by-case basis. The principal test is that of effectiveness; that is, whether the accommodation will provide an opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same level of performance and to enjoy benefits equal to those of an average similar-situated person without a disability.
9. Is there ever a reason why a reasonable accommodation request would not be granted?
Yes. As noted, whether or not an accommodation is reasonable is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the employee’s disability and the essential functions of their position. Accommodations that remove essential functions are not considered reasonable. As an example, telecommuting is a popular request. However, telecommuting would not be considered a reasonable accommodation for an employee whose essential job functions involve such tasks as opening and closing the office, greeting visitors, and other tasks that require the individual to be present in the office.
10. What if I don’t want an accommodation?
That is your choice. If you do not want to go through the accommodation process then you do not have to.
11. What are the steps involved in the accommodation process?
- Initiation: University Employees seeking workplace accommodation(s) are responsible for initiating contact with and requesting information regarding accommodations. Employees interested in a workplace accommodation can call or email the University ADA Coordinators to request the paperwork to start the accommodation process.
- Processing: When an employee indicates there is a need for an accommodation, the University ADA Coordinators will provide the individual with the necessary paperwork to be completed. University employees can also access and print the necessary paperwork for an ADA accommodation by visiting the Accommodation Request Forms.
- Interactive Process: After an employee submits their completed paperwork, the University’s ADA Coordinators will reach out to schedule a meeting. After meeting with the employee, the University’s ADA Coordinators will meet with their supervisor, and sometimes their HR Representative.
- Determination: After meeting with both the employee and their supervisor separately, the ADA Coordinators will make a determination as to whether the employee is a qualified individual with a disability and whether the requested accommodation(s) is reasonable. They will draft a letter of accommodation for the employee that details the approved accommodations and any associated workplace expectations. A copy of this letter will be sent to the employee’s supervisor.
12. I am applying for a job at UT Austin and I need to request a sign-language interpreter for my interview. Who should I contact to facilitate this request?
Contact the Human Resource Service Center at 512-471-4772 or 1-800-687-4178. Applicants can also submit the Applicant Reasonable Accommodation Request Form online.
13. I am a professor and I have a student who is requesting accommodations. Who can I contact for help with this request?
If you are a professor or teaching assistant: Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) offers guidance to faculty and teaching assistants on making appropriate accommodations to students with disabilities.
If you are a student with a disability: SSD also coordinates the planning and implementation of services for students needing reasonable accommodations. Graduate students who are both students and employees of the University (e.g., work as a teaching or research assistant) may be jointly served by SSD and the University ADA Coordinators.