ADA: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the campus policy on protections for persons with disabilities?
- What is the Americans With Disabilities Act?
- What is the purpose of the ADA?
- 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?
- What resources are available?
- What should departments do when hosting a public event?
- Where can I get help?
What is the campus policy on protections for persons with disabilities?
Vassar College does not discriminate on the basis of disability in its programs, services and activities.
What is the Americans With Disabilities Act?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute which provides civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA was designed to remove barriers which prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. Similar protections are provided by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and by the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.
What is the purpose of the ADA?
The ADA provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of Vassar College.
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. Temporary, non-chronic impairments that do not last for a long time and that have little or no long term impact usually are not disabilities. The determination of whether an impairment is a disability is made on a case-by-case basis.
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.
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 college 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. For students, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices, the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids or services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by the college.
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 its possible for a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity. The college 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. Examples of reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:
- job restructuring
- modified work schedules
- obtaining or modifying equipment or devices
- modifying examinations, training materials or policies
- providing qualified readers and interpreters
- making facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities
A reasonable accommodation is a reasonable modification in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of a college service, program or activity. Examples of reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to:
- note taking services
- text conversion to alternative accessible formats
- audio and video tapes
- qualified interpreter services
- adjusting time limits on tests
- making facilities and/or programs readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities
The college is obligated to make a reasonable accommodation only to the known disability of an otherwise qualified employee or student. In general, it is the responsibility of the employee or student to make their disability status and subsequent need for an accommodation known to the appropriate college official.
Once on notice for the need for accommodations, it is the responsibility of the college official and the individual with a disability to engage in dialogue to identify possible accommodations and assess the reasonableness and effectiveness of each potential accommodation. Determinations regarding accommodations on campus will be made on a case-by-case basis. Determining a reasonable accommodation is very fact-specific. In general, it must be tailored to address the nature of the disability and the needs of the individual within the context of the requirements of the job or the program of study. If there are two or more possible accommodations, and one costs more or is more burdensome than the other, the college will give primary consideration to the preference of the individual with a disability. However, the college may choose the less expensive or burdensome accommodation as long as it is effective.
What resources are available?
- If you are a professor: The Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO) provides consultation and offers guidance to Vassar faculty on making appropriate accommodations to students with disabilities. More information is available on the AEO website at: http://aeo.vassar.edu/
- If you are a student with a disability: AEO also coordinates the planning and implementation of support services for students needing reasonable accommodations.
- If you are an employee with a disability: Qualified individuals with disabilities may seek reasonable accommodations in consultation their department head or supervisor. Employees may also contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for more information.
- If you are a supervisor: Requests for information or assistance regarding your responsibility as a supervisor to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee or applicant may be addressed to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
- If you are an applicant for employment: You may request a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process by contacting the relevant unit or department on campus or by contacting the Office of Human Resources.
What should departments do when hosting a public event?
The sponsoring department is responsible for ensuring that events are open to all members of the public. This means conducting events in accessible locations and may mean providing sign-language interpreters, printed material in Braille, or alternative formats such as audio recordings if requested in advance. The Office of Campus Activities publishes a Programming Resource Guide each year which contains helpful information for event planners on accommodating guests with disabilities. Event planners or individuals with disabilities should contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for additional information regarding this section.
Where can I get help?
The director of EOAA is the college’s ADA coordinator, and may be contacted to help determine which offices would be helpful in a particular case, based on the circumstances and your status as a student, faculty member, or staff employee.