Guidance for Faculty on Student Requests for Disability Accommodations 2018-2019

I. The Scope of Our Legal Obligation

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits recipients of Federal funds from discriminating against program participants on the basis of disability.
    Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits places of "public accommodation" (including private colleges) from discriminating against any individual on the basis of disability.

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA) is a funding statute enacted to assure that all disabled children have individualized education and related services in grades K-12.

W&L has no obligation to seek out/identify students with disabilities, but must assure them an equal opportunity to participate and to achieve once they have self-identified and requested accommodation(s), if W&L finds they have a qualifying disability.

II. Policy Overview and Considerations in Application

  • Important that faculty not act independently on direct student requests, but refer students to accommodation policy and the appropriate administrator. This ensures consistent handling and appropriate verification of a qualifying disability.
  • Mechanics of implementing offered accommodation(s) -- Letter of Approval for Disability Accommodations

III. Related Obligation of Confidentiality

  • Confidentiality of Accommodation/Disability/Medical Information -- share only on a "need to know" basis - - communicate with the appropriate administrator and let him/her handle third party communications

IV. Short-Term Non-Disability Assistance/Adjustments

  • In some circumstances not involving disabilities (e.g., broken leg, acute trauma over family death or sexual assault, short-term depressive episode), Health and Counseling staff may contact the Title IX Coordinator and Director of Disability Resources or the Assistant Dean for Law Student Affairs on behalf of a student for short-term assistance, or the appropriate administrator may work with a student to craft appropriate short-term adjustments. If faculty are contacted directly, they should refer the inquiry to the appropriate administrator.
  • Such short-term non-disability assistance/adjustments should not be used in place of formal disability accommodations process, but only in situations that do not suggest the presence of a qualifying disability, but which the appropriate administrator believes warrant assistance.

V. Some Critical Definitions

1. Disability

  • Impairment (Physical or Mental)
    E.g., "learning disability" and "hearing loss" are impairments,
    BUT they do not necessarily rise to the level of a "disability"
  • Substantially limits
    Involves considerations of nature, severity, duration of impairment
    Evaluate in non-mitigated state: without treatment, medication, etc.
    Comparison to Average Person in General Population
  • Major Life Activity
    These include caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
  • Record of/Regarded as
    Don't create a disability where there isn't one! If you treat a person as disabled even if they are not (e.g., allowing  a requested accommodation without verification of disability), the person may be considered "regarded as" disabled under 504/ADA protections, so that a later denial of formal accommodations through the official process could give rise to a legal claim or complaint to the Office for Civil Rights.

2. Qualified Person

  • Meets basic eligibility standards with or without reasonable accommodations
  • Is not a "direct threat" to others:
    • Requires objective evidence of substantial risk of significant harm
    • Not mere subjective concern or speculation

3. "Reasonable" Accommodation/Modification

  • Must make reasonable modifications to program requirements as necessary so that requirements do not have the effect of discriminating on the basis of disability OR when necessary to afford students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate and to achieve in programs and services provided.
  • No need to make substantial or fundamental program changes. Requirements that university can demonstrate are essential to a program will not be regarded as discriminatory.
  • No requirement to assure disabled student success, nor to grant modification of student's choice.

    July 2018