Disability Services: Frequently Asked Questions
Disability Services

Q1 What is the purpose of Employee Disability Services?
  Services are available to faculty, staff, departments, and applicants in need of accommodations and in matters related to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ( ADA ) and University employment. Services include ADA procedures, assistance in determining essential job functions, and identifying reasonable workplace accommodations.

Q2 What qualifies as an ADA disability?
  According to the Federal law, an individual with a disability is anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts conditions, manner or duration under which an average person can perform one or more major life activities.

Q3 What qualifies a Major Life Activity?
  Under the ADAAA, a Major life activities include, but are not limited to, “working, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, bending and lifting, and major bodily functions.“

Q4 What does “Regarded as” refer to?
  This refers to individuals who are “perceived” to have a physical or mental impairment. Under the ADAAA, individuals who fall into the “regarded as” category are protected under the law from employment discrimination, the same as individuals who have a disability. Employers, however, are not required to provide workplace accommodations to individuals who fall solely into the “regarded as” category.

Q5 What does “substantially limit” mean?
  • Impairment limits one or more major life activity .

  • Under the ADAAA, “[a]n impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would limit a major life activity when active.”

  • Length of time the health condition or disability will last or is expected to last. Most short-term or temporary conditions do not qualify as ADA disabilities.

Q6 How are individuals with disabilities protected from employment discrimination?
  If an individual satisfies the required skills, education, experience, and other job-related requirements for a position, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential job functions of the position, must be given full consideration.

Q7 What are essential job functions?
  Essential job functions are the basic duties an employee must perform, with or without an accommodation. Two questions need to be considered. Are employees in the position required to perform these functions and would removing that function fundamentally change the job?

Q8 How are essential functions identified?
  If the position exists to perform this function, the function is most likely essential. Also, if a function is highly specialized and the person is hired because they have those specialized skills or expertise, the function is probably essential.

Q9 What evidence is used to identify essential job functions?
  Generally, the employer makes this determination and it is backed up with a written job description. The amount of time spent performing a function is also part of making the essential determination. In determining what is essential, one might ask what are the consequences of not requiring the employee to perform the function.

Q10 What is an ADA reasonable accommodation?
  The law does not define reasonable. However, the University is committed to making modifications to the academic or work environment to create equal employment or educational opportunities for persons with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are generally determined on a case-by-case basis using an interactive process involving the employee, the supervisor and the University’s Employee Disability Coordinator. Reasonable accommodations are those modifications that are effective with some consideration given to cost versus benefit.

Q11 What should I do if I need a workplace accommodation due to a disability?
  See “Request and Accommodation” (hyperlink to page)

Q12 What are some examples of reasonable workplace accommodations?
  • Work Environment: office arrangements, ramps, hand rails, lighting, ergonomic furniture, light versus sound alarms, modified workstations, air purifiers, parking.

  • Schedules/ Procedures: flexible work hours, work days, lunch hours/breaks, part-time hours, additional training, modified approach to task completion, change in communication methods.

Q13 How is the right accommodation determined for an employee?
  An interactive process with the employee, supervisor, and Employee Disability Coordinator is most desirable to make decisions for accommodation requests. A limited number of individuals on a “need to know” basis are involved in the process. Conversations need to be kept as confidential as possible and disability files are kept separate from the employee’s personnel file.

Q14 Who is responsible for the expense associated with a workplace accommodation?
  In most cases, the expense for workplace accommodations is the responsibility of the employee’s department. If costs are an issue, some cost-sharing may be available by working with Employee Disability Coordinator and the Vice President for Administration and Finance.

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Date Updated: December 14, 2010