The Catholic University of America

ADA Guidelines

Answer Guide to Self-Audit Checklist

II. Pre-Admissions/Admissions Checklist Questions 1-13

  1. Does your application conform to the requirement prohibiting certain questions to applicants by not requesting information on a disability?

    Any information on disability that an applicant voluntarily submits would be considered along with all other information put forward by the applicant.
  2. Do your brochures and any other recruitment literature explain who to contact for further information for applicants with disabilities?

    The applicants should be advised that once admitted, their early requests for necessary modifications will facilitate the process. The literature should refer students with further questions to the Office of Disability Support Services.
  3. If your application contains questions about alcohol and substance abuse, are the questions limited to behavior and conduct, and not status, treatment or history? If such questions are included, please attach a copy to this checklist.

    Current use of illegal drugs is not protected by the ADA. This exclusion does not apply to an individual who has a record of illegal use of drugs but no longer uses drugs illegally or who is erroneously regarded as engaging in such use. It is important to remember that a person who has a record of illegal drug use or who is erroneously regarded as engaging in such use is not automatically an individual with a disability. The school must still go through the process of determining whether or not an impairment exists. Alcoholism is a disability that is afforded some degree of protection under the ADA/504. However, the school may hold the alcoholic to the same performance standards and behavior as it holds other students even though the unsatisfactory performance is related to the alcoholism. Inability to perform at the required standard as a result of a disability may result in the student being found not "otherwise qualified." See Anderson v. University of Wisconsin, 841 F.2d 737 (7th Cir. 1988), where the University of Wisconsin was found not to have discriminated under Section 504 against Anderson on the basis of his disability of alcoholism when he failed to maintain the requisite grade point average. Limiting any questions to behavior or conduct rather than status or history affords the proper focus, which is not whether or nor a disability exists, but whether the person is "qualified."

  4. Does your application contain any questions about treatment for mental health or emotional problems? If so, please attach a copy of the exact wording for review by the Office of General Counsel to ensure the questions are not considered discriminatory under the ADA.

    This issue came up in connection with admission to the State of Virginia Bar and questions asked by the NCBE and State Board of Bar Examiners. Broad unlimited questions about mental health problems were found to be in violation of the ADA. The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners was enjoined from requiring applicants to answer a question which read, "Have you within the past five years been treated or counseled for any mental, emotional or nervous disorders?" The Justice Department took the position that all inquiries must relate to the "current impairment of ability to practice law" and that any questions must focus on conduct instead of status. It is not likely that a question about mental health problems would be considered appropriate on school applications. While it would seem to be acceptable to ask a question about interpersonal skills for certain programs, such as social work, or counseling programs, broad questions about "mental stability" might be found to be a violation of the ADA.

  5. Is training on the ADA/504 provided for employees involved in the recruiting and admissions processes, as well as any alumni who may be involved in the recruiting and admissions processes?

    Any school or department that conducts oral interviews, either through staff or through alumni, should make sure that those persons conducting the oral interviews have been alerted to ADA issues and have been provided guidance on what statements might be considered a violation of 504 or the ADA. Admissions professionals should be provided with training on the fine points of the ADA in the admissions context, and if possible, updated annually. This would include issues such as looking at the whole file when a disability is involved (e.g., teacher references, community experiences, etc.) rather than just grades and test scores; and knowing that the disability should be considered when readmission is the issue if the learning disability was recently discovered. Non-discrimination in admissions includes the recruiting, application, testing, interviewing and decision-making processes (34 CFR 104.42). A student's projected need for an accommodation or the anticipated cost of such an accommodation cannot be factors in the admissions decision.

  6. Do the admission applications contain a statement of CUA's non-discrimination policy?

    The following statement should be included in all catalogs and brochures:

    The Catholic University of America admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age or disability to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the university. It does not discriminate against students or applicants for admission, or employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, or on the basis of sex, age or disability, in the administration of its educational or admissions policies or in any aspect of its operations.

    Written advertisements used as a means of informing prospective students of its programs shall include the following reference to the university's statement of policy:

    The Catholic University of America admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age or disability.

    Questions about admissions information for applicants with disabilities should be directed to the Office of Disability Support Services or the Admissions Office.

  7. Do admissions materials include pictures of persons with disabilities?

    Including photos of persons with disabilities on admissions materials may be helpful in advertising CUA as a place that is non-discriminatory.

  8. Is the written policy for admissions consistent with ADA/504?

    The written admissions policy should be reviewed against the ADA/504.

  9. Do your eligibility criteria tend to screen out those with disabilities?

    Any admissions criteria should be written in a neutral manner, identifying essential qualifications.
    For example, the School of Nursing would be permitted to state the following as a criteria for participation in the clinical program: "the ability to understand oral communication from a patient and be able to attend to a patient's call for help."
  10. Is recent discovery of a learning disability a factor that is considered in a readmission decision? Are applicants for readmission made aware of such a practice in writing?

    In the readmission process, the newly-discovered evidence of a learning disability must be considered. See the GW University Medical School cases on this issue. Written notice of this policy should be given to students applying for readmission.

  11. Are the confidentiality requirements of the ADA/504 followed by all parties connected with the admissions process? What procedure is in place to ensure confidentiality?

    To the extent someone does volutarily disclose a disability, those who receive the information should be aware of the confidentiality obligations. Medical records are kept separate from the rest of the student's file, and professors are not given access to a disabled student's actual medical records. Steps should be taken to ensure that only those with a "legitimate educational interest" have access to student records. This term is defined in the CUA Student Records Policy, which can be found in the CUA Student Handbook. Reference may also be made to the Office of General Counsel's bulletin, Of Counsel which addresses the issue of student records. Admissions professionals and all parties who come into contact with student records should be provided with training on this issue and the importance of the confidentiality issue should be stressed, along with the potential liability for the university if the rules are not followed.
  12. What is your response if you receive a request for a catalogue or other admissions material in Braille or on tape?

    Even though it is not necessary to prepare admissions materials in Braille or on tape in advance of a specific request, the school or department should know who to contact or where to go if they need to respond to a specific request for materials in a more accessible format. The response should be made in a timely fashion. Arrangements may also be made for a student to dictate responses to an admissions application if necessary.
  13. How do you deal with an application when the applicant's recommendation mentions a disability and the applicant has not disclosed the disability?

    The disability could be considered as a factor, but the student should not be asked to explain, if the recommender has not waived confidentiality. If the disability seems to be an important factor, and there is not a confidentiality problem, then the applicant might be asked to address the matter.

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