UAlbany’s Statement on Reasonable Accommodations for Students

Introduction  

Since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 became law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, University at Albany students have become more aware of their needs and rights. As a result, the requests for reasonable accommodation at the University also increased. 

This webpage outlines the University’s policies and procedures for managing these requests in a fair and effective manner. 

 

Definitions of ADA/504 Terminology  

Both the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protect any individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits that person in some major life activity, and any individual who has a history of, or who is regarded as having, such an impairment.  

These terms are further defined as follows: 

  • Physical or mental impairment: Physical or mental impairment means (a) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and/or endocrine; or (b) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. 
     

  • Substantially limits: Impairment substantially limits an individual in a major life activity if the person cannot perform the life activity at all or if the individual is limited in the condition, manner or duration of that activity. 
     

  • Major life activity: Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working.
     

  • Qualified person with a disability: Qualified individual with a disability means an individual with a disability who — with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices; the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers; and/or the provision of auxiliary aids and services — meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity. 

Note: The ADA excludes from its protection people who currently use illegal drugs but prohibits discrimination against recovering (non-active) drug addicts and alcoholics. To encourage individuals to end substance abuse, the ADA provides civil rights protection for individuals who have successfully completed rehabilitation. 

For more information regarding definitions and terminology, please visit ADA.gov and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights website

 

ADA Compliance Committee  

Reasonable accommodations are meant to be individualized and flexible based on the nature of the disability and the academic environment.  

Most requests for reasonable accommodation can be both recommended and met by Disability Access & Inclusion Student Services (DAISS).  

Other accommodations can be more involved, necessitating an ADA Compliance Committee to review the request. The committee’s members include: 

  • Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education, or their designee 

  • Vice Provost of Graduate Education, or their designee 

  • The relevant Department chair, or their designee 

  • DAISS director  

  • UAlbany’s designated ADA Compliance Officer 

  • A student representative, jointly recommended by the DAISS director and the ADA Compliance Office 

  • Relevant professionals from Counseling & Psychological Services, Residential Life and other administrative areas 

The ADA Compliance Committee determines and recommends reasonable accommodations to the appropriate Vice President(s). 

It also serves as an appeal body for individuals who wish to review a decision made by DAISS. In these instances, the DAISS director would sit with the committee to supply information but would not vote. 
 

Guidelines for Compliance Committee Review

Reasonable accommodations should ensure that academic evaluations measure student achievement, rather than unnecessarily reflecting the impact of a student’s disability.  

They are not designed to give students unfair advantages over other students. The University is obligated to make reasonable accommodation only to the known limitations of an otherwise qualified disabled student. 

The language used in the ADA focuses on accommodations being reasonable, so long as they do not pose an ”undue hardship” when compared to the entity’s total operating budget, facility size, number of employees, etc. 

Court decisions and agency rulings have held that requests related to students’ needs are not reasonable, and therefore accommodation need not be provided, under the following circumstances: 

  • The student is not qualified when compared to other applicants or participants in a program. 
     

  • The accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration of the program or a dilution of standards. 
     

  • The institution is being asked to address a personal need (for example, attendant care). 
     

  • The accommodation would impose an undue financial or administrative burden on the organization when compared with its total operating budget. 
     

  • The accommodation poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

 

The Review Process

Students making reasonable accommodation requests should follow these three steps:  

  1. Students seeking reasonable accommodations under the ADA or Section 504 are responsible for notifying the University of their disability. Students should self-identify and register with DAISS as soon as possible after admission.  
     

  2. Students must make a formal request for reasonable accommodation. Requests can be made to a DAISS professional in-person or in writing. Please note that, while students can request specific accommodation, the University determines how to meet the student’s particular need(s). Therefore, the University may recommend alternative accommodations that are more cost-effective or efficient. 
     

  3. Students must supply current documentation of disability that supports their accommodation request. This documentation will be kept on file with DAISS.
     

UAlbany’s Rights & Responsibilities

The University at Albany has the right and responsibility to: 
 

  • Inform applicants and students about the availability and range of accommodations 
     

  • Evaluate applicants based solely on their abilities (If an evaluation method or criteria have a negative effect on an applicant with a disability, the University must seek reasonable alternatives.) 
     

  • Ensure that all its programs are accessible architecturally and/or programmatically 
     

  • Make reasonable adjustments to a course’s instructional method and evaluation system when they have a negative effect on disabled students 
     

  • Adjust or substitute any requirement that has a negative impact on disabled students and is not fundamental to students’ academic program 
     

  • Identify and establish the abilities, skills and knowledge necessary for success in its programs and to evaluate applicants on this basis 
     

  • Establish, through the appropriate faculty members, the abilities, skills and knowledge that are fundamental to students’ academic programs and/or courses and evaluate students’ performance on this basis (Fundamental program and/or course goals are not subject to accommodation.) 
     

  • Request and review, when necessary, documentation that supports requests for accommodation and table any request that is not so supported by documentation 

Students’ Rights and Responsibilities

Students with disabilities are entitled to an equal opportunity to learn. They also have the same obligations as any other students to meet and maintain the institution’s academic and technical standards.  

Therefore, students with disabilities have the right and responsibility to: 
 

  • Identify themselves as needing accommodation in a timely fashion 
     

  • Demonstrate or document how their disability affects a particular delivery system, instructional method or evaluation criteria when requesting accommodation 
     

  • Participate actively in the search for accommodations and auxiliary aids (This responsibility extends to working with the institution to seek financial assistance from government and private sources, if needed.) 
     

  • Be evaluated based on their ability, and not their disability (If a student’s disability affects the outcome of an evaluation method, they are entitled to an evaluation by alternative means.) 
     

  • Access services, extracurricular activities and transportation at levels comparable to access by all other students (This is especially significant if location, delivery system or instructional methodology limit their access, participation or ability to benefit from the academic community.) 
     

  • Appeal the institution’s decisions concerning accommodation (Students can do so by writing a letter to the ADA Compliance Committee. If that fails, students may file a complaint with the New York State Division for Human Rights.) 

 

Recommended Syllabus Statement  

We strongly urge instructors to include the following statement in their course syllabi: 

Reasonable accommodations will be provided for students with documented physical, sensory, systemic, medical, cognitive, learning and/or mental health (psychiatric) disabilities. 

If you believe you have a disability and require accommodation in this class, please register with Disability Access and Inclusion Student Services (DAISS). You can contact DAISS at [email protected], 518-442-5501 or albany.edu/disability

Once you have registered with DAISS, they will provide you with an accommodation letter that you can send to your instructors to receive your approved accommodation.