Frequently Asked Questions
Students and the Americans with Disabilities Act
An Overview of UNF's Legal Obligations to Qualified Students with Disabilities in their University Experience.
Students with Disabilities PowerPoint Presentation
The two primary laws that govern UNF's obligations to qualified students with disabilities are:
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA); and
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
- Modeled after Section 504, the ADA was implemented with a much broader intent than Section 504 as it applies to both the public and private sectors. (Section 504 only applies to entities receiving federal funds.
- The ADA consists of Title I through V addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation and communication.
- Title II of the ADA is the controlling portion of the ADA regarding UNF's obligations to its students.
The United State Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
The OCR enforces the requirement that: "no qualified person with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination" under any program or activity which receives federal financial assistance or by an public entity, respectively.
- Individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity;
- Individuals who have a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited one or more of the individual's major life activities; and
- Individuals who are regarded as having such an impairment, whether they have the impairment or not.
Physical impairments include:
- Physiological disorders or conditions;
- Cosmetic disfigurement; or
- Anatomical loss.
Common Examples include:
- Cebral Palsy
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Heart Disease
- HIV Disease
- Drug Addiction
- Orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments
Mental or physical disorders, such as:
- Mental Retardation
- Organic Brain Syndrome
- Emotional or Mental Illness
- Specific Learning Disabilities
Some of the more common examples at UNF include:
- Reading Disabilities
- Math Disabilities
A physical or mental impairment must also "substantially limit major life activities" thus, not all impairments meet the definition of a "disability" as defined by law. Examples of "major life activities" include:
- Caring for oneself
- Performing Manual Tasks
The law requires a subjective approach toward determining whether an individual meets the definition of having a disability. The overall effect of the impairment on the individual's life activities will be the determining factor; therefore
assume that because someone has an "impairment" the person also has a "disability" as defined by law.
A "qualified individual with a disability" is defined by Section 504 and the ADA with respect to postsecondary education as a "disabled person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the recipient's program".
- UNF is required to make "reasonable modifications" to its "programs and services" by modifying its policies, practices or procedures to make them "readily accessible" to qualified students with disabilities.
- As a result, UNF is required to provide students modifications of courses, procedures, or other University experiences, through the use of auxiliary aids and services, to allow qualified students with disabilities to effectively participate in UNF's offerings.
- The primary limitation from a procedural perspective when reviewing a student's request for modification is that a requested modification "cannot fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity" or the requested modification is not required by law.
- Prospective students must meet admission criteria, but may seek modification of the criteria if the student's disability impacted performance on required areas such as GPA, SAT or ACT.
- If a prospective student seeks a modification regarding admission criteria, s/he must provide medical and/or psychological documentation certifying disability to UNF's Disability Resource Center (DRC) and then the information is reviewed by the Disabled Student Admission Committee (DSAC) to determine whether the applicant's admission to UNF is appropriate.
- To be eligible for consideration for modification of course procedures because of disability, qualified students must first register with DRC.
- When registering with DRC, students must provide DRC with medical documentation of disability in addition to medical documentation regarding any request for a modification, or adjustment, of course procedure.
- After receipt and review of required healthcare documentation regarding a student's request for modifications, DRC determines the appropriate auxiliary aids and services to be provided to the student and forwards the information to the faculty who will be instructing the students.
- Significantly, DRC does not "automatically" provide services based on a student's apparent need for a modification based on disability as it is the student's responsibility to request a modification. Accordingly, the student must take the initiative to request modifications s/he may desire. UNF cannot and should never unilaterally decide what the student needs.
Instructors must allow the use of approved auxiliary aids and services.
- Questions often arise when a student uses a tape recorder and faculty assert recording lectures is an infringement upon their own or other students' academic freedom, restrains free speech, or constitutes copyright violation. This is incorrect.
- The instructor may not forbid a student's use of an approved auxiliary aid if such a prohibition limits the student's participation in a UNF program or activity.
- In order to allow a student with a disability the use of an effective aide and, at the same time, protect the instructor, UNF may request that the student sign an agreement regarding non-infringement of a potential copyright.
- Disability information is confidential by law and instructors should avoid inquiring into a student's disability, or asking for documentation or disability from a student.
- If an instructor has questions about a student's modifications and whether they are reasonable, the instructor should contact DRC and not address the issue directly with the student.
- Instructors should not allow the use of auxiliary aids or services or provide modifications based on disability unilaterally that have not been approved by DRC.
This is significant as the student may not meet the requirements to be a "qualified" student with a disability and providing modifications without appropriate documentation may result in liability to UNF by allowing the student to argue s/he was "regarded as" being disabled by the instructor's conduct.
- If an instructor suspects that a student may have a mental or emotional disability based on the student's conduct and/or performance, the instructor should contact DRC for guidance in addressing the situation. This will protect the instructor from any potential discrimination claim.
- Qualified Interpreters
- Note Takers
- Written Materials
- Assisted Listening Devices
- Closed Captioned Decoders
- Video Text Displays
- Exchange of Written Notes
- Communicated Aided Transcription Services
- Telephone Handset Amplifiers
- Telephones Compatible with Hearing Aids
- Open and Closed Captioned Telecommunication Devices for Deaf Persons (TDDs)
- Qualified Readers
- Taped Text
- Audio Recordings
- Braille Materials
- Large Print Readers
- Assistance in Locating Items
- Computer Terminals
- Speech Synthesizers
- Communication Boards
- The type of auxiliary aides and services to ensure communication will vary in accordance with the length and complexity of communication involved as well as the individual's particular disability.
- To reiterate, UNF must make its services, programs, or activities, when viewed in their entirety, readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities.
- However, even if a separate or special program for individuals with disabilities is offered, UNF cannot deny a qualified individual with disabilities participation in its regular program. Qualified individuals with disabilities are entitled to participate in regular programs, even if UNF reasonably believes that the student could not benefit from the regular program. Students with disabilities are entitled to do poorly or fail courses in the same manner as non-disabled students.
- Students and/or their parents may file a complaint with the OCR if they believe the student is being discriminated against on the basis of disability.
- Students and/or their parents may also seek judicial relief through filing a lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in a court of competent jurisdiction.
The University's Disability Resource Center should be the primary contact with any questions regarding the practical applications of the ADA and/or Section 504 at http://www.unf.edu/dept/disabled-services/
If you have any legal questions regarding the ADA and/or Section 504, please contact Marc Snow at UNF's Office of the General Counsel at (904) 620-2866 or firstname.lastname@example.org.