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Disability Access & Accommodation

University policy, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADA), and Sections 504 & 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972, prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person’s status as a person with a disability, require equal opportunity and access, a process for a person with a disability to request a reasonable accommodation, and a grievance process for an individual to complain of discrimination.

The University endeavors to ensure that its campus and programs are accessible and in compliance with state and federal disability standards and to provide reasonable accommodations so as to remove a barrier that may prevent an individual with a disability from equally participating in academics, employment, or other University program. Reasonable accommodations may include specialized equipment, auxiliary aids, policy modifications, academic adjustments or other accommodation that is effective.

University policy, as well as state and federal law, strictly prohibit retaliation against an individual for requesting a disability accommodation or for participating in a disability discrimination complaint process.

REasonable workplace Accommodations

A Resource Guide for Faculty, Staff, & Supervisors

The ADA is a federal civil rights law that was passed in 1990 and went into effect beginning in 1992. Its purpose is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment (Title I). Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.  Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs and activities provided by state and local governments.  

The Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is the first federal civil rights law protecting the rights of people with disabilities.  It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance. 

The University of Utah policy, in compliance with state and federal law prohibits discrimination based upon disability, among other factors. 

The term "disability" is defined in general terms rather than with a list of medical conditions. A disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, that is not temporary or short-term in duration.  An individual is protected from discrimination if they (1) are a person with a disability, (2) have a record or history of having a disability, or (3) are regarded as having a disability.

For employees, university policy protects "qualified employees with disabilities." The term "qualified" means that you satisfy the skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position sought or held, and can perform the essential job functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.

The University is obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship on the University.

A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodations may include but are not limited to: making facilities accessible, adjusting work schedules, restructuring jobs, the reallocation or redistribution of non-essential, marginal job functions, providing assistive devices or equipment, and modifying work sites.  A leave of absence may also be considered where necessary, in conjunction with the FMLA policy and the University of Utah’s Medical Leave of Absence policy. 

An employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that would cause an "undue hardship" to the employer.  Undue hardship must be based on an individualized assessment of current circumstances that show that a specific reasonable accommodation would cause significant difficulty impact to business operations.  Generally, cost would not be considered in the evaluation of an undue hardship.  A determination of undue hardship should be based on several factors, including: (i) the nature of the accommodation needed; (ii) the type of operation of the department, including the structure and functions of the workforce, the geographic separateness, and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility involved in making the accommodation to the employee; (iii) the impact of the accommodation on the operation of the department.

An employer’s determination of whether an individual with a disability poses a direct threat to health and safety should be based on an evaluation of the individual’s present ability to safely perform the job and a consideration of the following four factors: (i) the duration of the risk; (ii) the nature and severity of the potential harm; (iii) the likelihood that the potential harm will occur; and (iv) the imminence of the potential harm. The determination that an individual poses a direct threat must be based on objective, factual evidence regarding the individual’s ability to perform essential job functions. If the employee with a disability poses a direct threat to the safety or health of staff members in the workplace, the employer must consider whether the risk can be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level with a reasonable accommodation.

The University of Utah is required to provide effective, reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.  The University can expect that a staff member be able to perform the essential functions of their job with or without reasonable accommodations.

The University will engage in an interactive process to collaboratively explore accommodation solutions with individuals with disabilities who request accommodations.  Any time an employee indicates that he/she is having a problem performing their job duties, and the problem is related to a medical condition, the employer should consider whether the employee is making a request for accommodation under the ADA, and engage in a good faith interactive process to determine what, if any reasonable accommodation may be available.

Employees can request an accommodation at any time during the application process or while employed. You can request an accommodation even if you did not ask for one when applying for a job or after receiving a job offer. In general, you should request an accommodation when you know that due to a disability, there is a workplace barrier that is preventing you from competing for a job, performing a job, or gaining equal access to a benefit of employment like an employee lunch room or employee parking.  As a practical matter, it is better to request an accommodation before your job performance suffers or conduct problems occur because accommodations are not retroactive, and employers do not have to rescind discipline that occurred before they knew about an employee’s disability.

A written letter or note from the appropriate medical professional should include the following information describing the current impact of your medical condition and functional limitations or you may ask your provider to fill out this medical form. 

Employees: The limitations caused by the condition and how those limitations impact the employee’s performance of the essential functions of the job (please refer to the position description)

  • Expected progression or stability
  • Functional living skills (i.e. orientation and mobility and activities of daily living (ADLs))
  • Notation of any medical equipment that is required
  • Notation of medications, if any, and potential impact on performing essential functions and/or side effects
  • Implications of existing co-morbid conditions
  • Additional observations and/or recommendations for appropriate accommodations


The appropriate medical professional is asked to complete a medical form in addition to a written letter that addresses the bullet points above.

For Blind and Low Vision and Deaf and Hard of Hearing

A recent report from your doctor must be provided.

Step 1: Recognizing an Accommodation Request

Employees of Main Campus and Health Sciences submit their requests to Campus/Health Science Human Resources.  Employees of Hospitals and Clinics submit their requests to University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics (UUHC) HR. 

The interactive process starts with an accommodation request from an employee with a disability.  An employee does not specifically need to ask for an accommodation, but by asking for “help” with tasks, equipment, time, environment, or other assistance related to a medical condition or disability the employee’s supervisor should recognize a possible request for accommodation and should direct the employee to the Campus/Health Science HR or UUHC HR.

Step 2: Gathering Information

Once an accommodation request has been received, documentation will be gathered to process the request.  Necessary information may include documentation (including the nature, severity, duration and impact to the essential functions of the job) of the functional limitations of the disability and need for reasonable accommodation. In some cases, the employee’s disability and need for accommodation are obvious and no additional information is needed.  For example, if an employee who recently started using a wheelchair indicates that he needs a ramp to get into the workplace, the disability and need for accommodation will be obvious and no documentation is necessary. 

Step 3: Exploring Accommodation Options

After medical documentation has been reviewed to determine how the individual's limitations are affecting their ability to perform the essential functions of the position, accommodation options with the employee and other resources as appropriate. This may include reviewing the job description.  This step will likely also include a conversation with the employee, their medical provider, and the supervisor.  It is helpful if the employee has suggestions for the accommodations they believe would be helpful for them to perform the essential functions of their position.  For accommodation ideas, check with the Job Accommodation Network (www.askjan.org) which provides a searchable database of disabilities and common accommodations.

Step 4: Accommodation

Once options have been identified, further discussion will occur with the supervisor to discuss approving the appropriate accommodations. If there is more than one option, the employer should consider the preference of the employee.  However, the employer gets to choose among effective options and cost effective options.  The University of Utah strives to implement all reasonable accommodation requests. 

Step 5: Implementing the Accommodation

Campus/Health Science HR and UUHC HR will work with an employee’s department, and others as needed to implement all approved reasonable accommodations.  This includes arranging any needed training for the employee or others in the department, installation of technology, revisions of schedules, or environmental changes.  This step is very important to the success of an accommodation.  If the accommodation is a job reassignment, then the employee may need time to acclimate to the new job.

Step 6: Monitoring the Accommodation

The accommodation process is ongoing and interactive.  The most important way to monitor accommodations is to encourage ongoing communication.  Employees who are receiving accommodations need to understand that they should let their supervisor/manager, Campus/Health Science HR/UUHC HR know if there are changes or problems with the accommodation or if it is no longer effective.

In the event that there is no reasonable accommodation which would allow an employee to perform the essential functions of their job, and the information from the medical provider indicates that the employee is not qualified, the University will work to reassign the employee to another position within the University.  An employee may withdraw their request for accommodation at any time prior to medical information being submitted to the OEO/AA.  If the OEO/AA receives medical information indicating that the employee is not able to perform the essential functions of their position with or without accommodation, the accommodation of job reassignment will be offered.

Job Reassignment is a type of reasonable accommodation available to an employee who can no longer perform the essential functions of their current position, with or without reasonable accommodation.  During Job Reassignment, an employee is placed on unpaid administrative leave for a period of up to thirty (30) days, and if there is a vacant position (at a lateral job grade or lower) that the employee is qualified for, and the employee can perform the essential functions of the vacant position, with or without reasonable accommodation, the employee will be reassigned to the vacant position without having to compete for the position. 

It is essential that the employee actively participate in the search for open positions by actively checking job postings and working with recruiters on campus to identify positions - throughout the entire reassignment period.

In the event that there is no vacant position for which the employee is qualified within the thirty day period, the employee may be released from their employment.

Decisions to deny an employee’s request for accommodation may be appealed to the Chief Human Resources Officer for Campus HR or UUHC HR, respectively.

Responsibilities

An Employee:

  • Need not specifically use the words “accommodation” or “disability”. A request for “help” or for a workplace adjustment or technology change, for example might trigger obligations under the ADA.
  • Must disclose the need for accommodations
  • Must follow the University’s process regarding the provision of accommodations
  • May choose to discuss their situation and accommodation request with the supervisor or the appropriate HR department.
  • Provides requested documentation for review.
  • Can expedite the process by submitting a doctor’s note or doctor’s information along with a written request clearly stating the doctor’s recommendation for specific accommodations and the medical reason behind that recommendation.

A Supervisor Must:

  • Inform the employee of the process for receiving accommodations if the employee discloses their disability to the supervisor.
  • Provide information concerning the employee’s essential job functions and the job description when requested.
  • Provide feedback concerning the request including comments concerning the reasonableness of the request.
  • Make a good faith effort to provide reasonable accommodations to an individual covered by the ADA.

Who is eligible to request an accommodation?

Faculty and Staff

Employees of the University of Utah or the Utah State Board of Regents (regardless of full-time, part-time, probationary or regular status) can request a modification or adjustment to job duties, schedule, or work environment or other reasonable accommodations that would enable the employee to perform essential job functions.  

Patients, Vistors, or Other Participants

Patients, visitors or other University program participants (with the exception of students) may request reasonable accommodations to allow the individual equal access to University programs, services, and facilities.

Students

Any student whose physical condition or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities may qualify for services.

request a reasonable accommodation

faculty member with two students looking at an aquarium

FACULTY & STAFF - CAMPUS AND HEALTH SCIENCE

Submit the PDF form or contact HR directly.

(801) 581-2169
hr-ada@utah.edu

VISIT HR

medical professional attending to a patient

FACULTY & STAFF - UUHC EMPLOYEES

Contact UUHC HR directly.

(801) 581-6500 
adarequest@hsc.utah.edu  

VISIT UUHC HR

woman holding a box of produce at a farmers market

PATIENTS, VISITORS, OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS

Complete the PDF form and submit to OEO/AA. You may also contact our office.

CONTACT OEO/AA

four students walking on campus

STUDENTS

Contact the Center for Disability & Access (CDA) to setup an intake appointment.

Learn More

Last Updated: 1/13/20