The Catholic University of America

ADA Guidelines

Self-Audit Checklist

V. Reasonable Accommodations Checklist


Notice: The university is required to make modifications only to "known" and validated disabilities. The university requires that it be put on reasonable notice of the request for modification (34 CFR 104.44). The request for modification should be submitted in writing to the Office of Disability Support Services. The university will make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to ensure that no qualified individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of the university. The university will also 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.

Exceptions: The modification will not be required if the university can demonstrate that making the modification would fundamentally alter the program [see 28 CFR 35.130 (7)]. For example, a course requirement essential to the program of instruction taken by the student need not be waived. In evaluating whether the requested program modifications would require substantial program alteration or would fundamentally alter academic standards or programs, be prepared to demonstrate 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 modification would be inconsistent with the academic goals and standards of the program.

In addition, a modification that is so expensive that it constitutes an "undue burden" is not required. Note that "undue burden" is measured in the context of the financial assets of the entire university.

Note on Terminology: Title I of the ADA talks about reasonable accommodations in the employment setting, and Title III of the ADA refers to reasonable modifications in the services, programs or activities of "public accommodations" which includes private schools such as CUA. The phrase academic adjustment comes from 34 CFR 104.44, the regulations to 504, and while not specifically defined, is intended to include the area of academic requirements, other rules, course examinations and auxiliary aids. "Reasonable accommodation" is the phrase used most often, and it encompasses adjustments and modifications.

Adjustments to Academic Requirements

The school or department is not required to eliminate academic requirements essential to the program of instruction or related to licensing requirements (see 34 CFR 104.44). However, reasonable modifications must be provided for qualified students with verified disabilities. For more on essential functions and fundamental alterations, see the DSS web page on this topic.

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 course load in a given semester; and/or
  • adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.

Modifications to an examination may include the following:

  • changes in the length of time permitted for completion of an exam; and/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 or lowering a classroom table to make it wheelchair accessible).

The school or department is not required to provide services of a personal nature, such as a tutor, but if tutors are provided for non-disabled students, then they must also be provided to disabled students. Adjustments are not required if it results in fundamental program alterations or a lowering of standards.

Case Law: See Wynne v. Tufts University School of Medicine, 932 F. 2d 19, 26 (1st Cir. 1991), where the court held that the school must show undisputed facts indicating that relevant officials considered alternative means, their feasibility, cost and effect on academic program, and came to a rationally justifiable conclusion that the alternative would result in lowering academic standards or require substantial program alteration. See also McGregor v. Louisiana State University Law Center, 3 F. 3d 850 (5th Cir. 1993). In that case, the court held that the law school policy of not allowing part-time enrollment as a reasonable accommodation was not a violation of Section 504. The court found that this was an academic decision that should be left to the university. In another case on academic adjustments for students with learning disorders and ADD, the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts found that Boston University (BU) had violated the ADA and 504. The Court in Guckenberger v. Boston University, 974 F. Supp. 106 (D. Mass. 1997) made the following findings:

  • The court found BU violated the law by imposing a requirement that students with specific learning disabilities be retested every three years. A current evaluation of students with ADD or ADHD was found not to be a violation of the law because these conditions, unlike learning disabilities, change over time.
  • The court found that BU's policy of precluding evaluations of specific learning disabilities by professionals with master's degrees was in violation of the law. However, the requirement that a person with a doctorate evaluate those with ADD or ADHD was found to be in compliance with the law. The judge found this requirement to be reasonable due to expert testimony that a Ph.D. or an M.D. is more likely to distinguish between ADD/ADHD and medical or psychological conditions that present comparable symptoms.
  • The court found BU violated the law by implementing the new accommodation policy without any warning to the affected students. This resulted in delaying or denying reasonable accommodations.
  • The across-the-board denial of foreign language substitutions was found to be unreasonable.* However, the court found the students had not shown that the math requirement was unreasonable, and BU was allowed to keep that specific academic requirement in place.

* Subsequently, BU completed its court-ordered assessment and concluded that course substitutions for its foreign language requirement would fundamentally alter the nature of its liberal arts program. As such, they were not a reasonable accommondation for learning disabled students. Guckenberger v. Boston University, 8 F. Supp. 2d 82 (D. Mass. 1998).

Auxiliary Aids and Services

Definition: Auxiliary aids and services shall be considered reasonable modifications for qualified students with disabilities. These may include qualified notetakers, computer-aided transcription services, interpreters, written materials, telephone handset amplifiers, assistive listening devices, assistive listening systems, telephones compatible with hearing aids, closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDDs) videotext displays, or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments. For example, a flashing red light acting as a fire alarm for the hearing impaired might be an appropriate modification. Auxiliary aids may also include qualified readers, taped texts, audio recordings, Braille materials, large print materials, or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals with visual impairments. The term also includes acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, and other similar services and actions [34 CFR 104.44(d)].

Exceptions: If provision of a particular auxiliary aid or service would result in a fundamental alteration of the nature of the goods, services, facilities, or privileges being offered, or is an undue burden (i.e., a significant difficulty or expense), the Office of Disability Support Services will provide an alternative auxiliary aid or service if one exists. The university must pay for the auxiliary aids or services unless it results in an undue burden. 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 should 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.

Checklist Questions 35-50

35. What is the process utilized for verifying disabilities, including temporary disabilities that may or may not qualify under the ADA? Is the Office of Disability Support Services utilized in every instance?

36. Are all records regarding information about modifications provided to the student sent to the
Office of Disability Support Services? Is any information maintained in the school or department?

37. Does the School or Department have a procedure in place for early self-identification by the student as someone who needs reasonable modifications? Do your materials make it clear that it is the student's responsibility to provide documentation regarding the disability when requesting a modification, and that the documentation should be provided to the Office of Disability Support Services?

38. Have policies on financial aid, scholarships, scholarly journal eligibility, etc., been reviewed to see what effect a reduced course load or other modifications may have on participation by students?

39. Does the School or Department have in place a policy for explaining reduced course load to potential employers, should they happen to ask?

40. Does the School or Department have a method for evaluating the achievement of students who have a disability that impairs sensory, manual or speaking skills, to ensure that the evaluation accurately reflects the student's achievement in the class? (See 28 CFR § 36.309 Examinations and courses and 34 CFR 104.44.)

41. Are alternative exams offered at equally convenient locations, as often, and in as timely a
manner as are other examinations?

42. What is the School's process for evaluating requests for course waivers or substitutions due to a
learning or other disability? Is there a process for evaluating requests for modifications to
comprehensive examinations?

43. Is the School aware of the university's grievance or appeal procedure on denial of requests for modifications? If a student with a disability has an accommodation and nevertheless fails a course, and asserts that the failure was the result of improper administration of the accommodation, or some other discriminination on the basis of disability, what procedure exists for the student to request a review?

44. If qualified sign-language interpreters and qualified notetakers are provided through the Office of Disability Support Services, are transcripts of the notes provided in a timely manner? How are they evaluated? Is feedback obtained from the students who are the users of these services?

45. Do faculty indicate on their syllabi as well as orally how to go about obtaining reasonable
modifications, including auxiliary aids and services? Is any training offered to the faculty in this regard?

46. Is student input solicited on which auxiliary aids and services work best for them?

47. Is anyone in the School or Department current on the latest technological advances in the area of auxiliary aids and services for the disabled?

48. Are your professors and others who write grants made aware that all proposals for new
equipment should include requests for equipment that can be utilized by those with disabilities?

49. Does the School or Department have a clear written policy on how to handle requests for
recommendations to future employers or licensing authorities for all students?

Checklist Questions 35-49

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