The Catholic University of America

ADA Guidelines

Reasonable Accommodation/Student


Reasonable Accommodation/Student

When Reasonable Modification is not Required

A reasonable accommodation in the student setting is a modification or adjustment to a class or program that will enable a qualified person with a disability to participate in the program or class or to enjoy the rights and privileges offered by the university. Modifications that impose an undue burden or pose a health or safely risk are not considered reasonable. The university is required to make modifications only to known and validated disabilities. The university requires the student to give reasonable notice of the request for modifications. The school or department must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities are not excluded, treated differently or segregated because of the absence of auxiliary aids or services. The school or department must coordinate the provision of modifications with the Office of Disability Support Services. Medical records supporting the need for an accommodation are submitted to the Office of Disability Support Services and not to the school in question. This arrangement is consistent with the confidentiality requirements of the law and with CUA policy.

Athletics: The modification or accommodation must be provided in the most integrated setting possible, however, in some instances, if the program cannot be made accessible, other similar opportunities may be offered. Issues arise as to whether or not the university should let a student with a pre-existing injury engage in certain contact sports. The earlier injury may or may not rise to the level of a disability. The CUA athletics policy requires clearance from a physician. If the student's participation creates a danger to the safety of the student or others, then participation should not occur. The danger must be a direct threat with a significant risk that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by modifying the program or activity. The determination must be based on an individualized assessment of the person's best ability, relying on reasonable medical judgments using the most current medical knowledge.

Individual Analysis: The modification offered must be appropriate to the needs of the individual, thus, in each instance, an individualized analysis must occur. The Office of Disability Support Services can devise a modification plan for the student.

Most Integrated Setting: Programs and activities must be offered in the most integrated setting appropriate. In other words, there should not be a separate intramural athletic team for those with disabilities unless the disabled student cannot be accommodated in any other way. If a separate program is offered, the disabled student may still choose to utilize the non-separate program.

Extracurricular Activities: The law requires that organizations that receive significant assistance from the university are also governed by the provisions of the ADA and Section 504. Extracurricular activities that are a part of the university are covered by the provisions of the law and should be scheduled at accessible locations if at all possible.

Courseload Modifications: The university is not required to eliminate academic requirements essential to the program of instruction or related to licensing requirements. However, reasonable modifications must be provided for qualified students with verified disabilities. Modifications for completion of degree requirements may include the following:

  • changes in the length of time permitted for completion of degree requirements;

  • substitution of specific courses required for completion of degree requirements;

  • reduced courseload; and/or

  • adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.

Examinations: Exam modifications may include the following:

  • changes in the length of time permitted for completion of an exam; or

  • adaptation of the manner in which the exam is given (for example, allowing a student to take the exam in a distraction-free testing room).

Auxiliary Aids and Services: This term refers to equipment or service providers that augment communication. Examples are sign language interpreters, notetakers, readers, computer aided transcription devices, assistive listening devices, telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD's), and Braille materials. The university pays for the cost of the auxiliary aid or service. If provision of a particular auxiliary aid or service would result in a fundamental alteration of the program or in an undue burden, i.e., significant difficulty or expense, the university will attempt to provide an alternative auxiliary aid or service. The university does not need to provide attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature. The university will give careful consideration to the requests of the affected disabled individuals, but is not required to give the disabled person the auxiliary aid of his or her choice. If a question arises about what should be provided, contact the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Disability Support Services or the Equal Opportunity Officer.

Physical Facilities: Under the ADA and Section 504, the university must make alterations to existing facilities if they are readily achievable. New construction is done in accord with the specific guidelines set forth in the ADA. Examples of alterations are removing architectural barriers in existing facilities, installing ramps, making curb cuts in sidewalks and entrances, repositioning shelves, and installing hand controls. See the ADA Q and A for more on physical facilities.

When Reasonable Modification is not Required

Fundamental Program Alteration: A university is not required to provide any aid or service or make any modification that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the program. For example, where a course requirement is essential to the program of instruction taken by the student, the university is not required to waive the requirement. In evaluating whether the requested program modifications would require substantial program alteration or would fundamentally alter academic standards or programs, the program administrator should consider the underlying academic reasons for the program components, the academic standards institutionalized in the program, how the challenged components are consistent with the program standards, and how the requested accommodations would be inconsistent with the academic goals and standards of the program.

Undue Burden: A university need not make modifications or provide auxiliary aids or services if it constitutes an undue burden. In determining whether or not an undue burden exists, the factors to be considered are the nature and cost of the action needed in the context of the overall financial resources of the university.

Direct Threat to Health or Safety: The university is not required to permit an individual to participate in or benefit from a university program or service when that individual poses a direct threat to health or safety. Direct threat means a significant risk to health or safety that cannot be eliminated by modification of policies, practices, or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services. In determining whether an individual poses a direct threat to health or safety, the university must make an individualized assessment, based on reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or the best available objective evidence, to ascertain:

  • the nature, duration, and severity of the risk;

  • the probability that the potential injury will actually occur; and

  • whether reasonable modification of policies, practices, or procedures will mitigate the risk.

This standard should be applied to all individuals, not just disabled individuals. Contact the Office of General Counsel for guidance in this area.

See "Disability Services" for further information.


Source: 28 C.F.R. § 36.201 et seq.; 28 C.F.R. § 36.303; 34 C.F.R. §§ 104.44, 45, and 47; 28 C.F.R. § 36.104; 28 C.F.R. § 36.208; 28 C.F.R. §36.302; and 34 C.F.R. §104.43.




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