To ensure the intellectual richness of research and education, the University of Chicago seeks to provide an environment conducive to learning, teaching, working, and conducting research that values the diversity of its community. The University strives to be supportive of the academic, personal and work related needs of each individual and is committed to facilitating the full participation of students with a disability in the life of the University.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit colleges and universities that receive federal funding from discriminating against qualified students with disabilities in educational programs and activities. A "qualified student with a disability" is a disabled student who, with or without reasonable accommodation (e.g., architectural access, communication aids/services, or modifications to policies and practices) meets the University's academic and technical standards required for admission or participation in the University's educational programs or activities. The University is committed to complying with Section 504, the ADA and amendments.
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, service, job, activity, or facility that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal educational opportunity, but does not lower or modify essential requirements, fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program or activity, or result in undue financial or administrative burdens.
A student who wishes to request an academic modification or adjustment should complete a Request for Disability Accommodations Form, available on the Student Disability Services website. The process of determining eligibility for, and the nature of, disability accommodations is an interactive and collaborative process, which requires the direct involvement of the student. Reasonable efforts are to be made both by the student requesting reasonable accommodation and Student Disability Services to complete the disability determination process and the consideration of any reasonable curricular or co-curricular modification or adjustment in a timely way.
The first step of the process is a determination of whether the student is disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. To be disabled under those laws, a person must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. Under those laws, to be "substantially limited" by an impairment means that the student cannot perform a major life activity that the average person in the general population can perform or that the student is significantly restricted in performing that major life activity compared to the average person in the general population. In making the disability determination, Student Disability Services considers:
- Is there a physical or mental impairment;
- Does the impairment limit a major life activity that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty (e.g. learning, reading, walking, hearing); and
- Does the impairment substantially limit the major life activity compared to the average person?
Disability determinations normally are based on information that the student provides during an intake meeting as well as current documentation from an appropriate professional regarding the nature and severity of the impairment and a description of the student's functional limitations. The documentation guidelines are available on the Student Disability Services website. Please review this information in advance of submitting disability documentation. Once Student Disability Services receives complete documentation, the University may consult with external medical professionals to review the assessment and any recommended accommodations.
The second step of the process is to determine any appropriate academic modifications or adjustments for which the student with a disability qualifies. To determine the appropriateness of a particular academic modification or adjustment, Student Disability Services considers:
- The functional limitations caused by the disability;
- The essential requirements/elements of the academic program, course and/or University-sponsored student life activity;
- The student's past performance with and without reasonable accommodation;
- The student's history of disability-related barriers to participating in academic and/or University-sponsored student life programs;
- Previous modification(s) or adjustment(s) received by the student in an educational setting; and
- A review of the recommended reasonable accommodation by the treating professional/evaluator.
Reasonable accommodations are modifications or adjustments that enable the student with a disability to have equal access to the student's educational program or to the student life activities for which the student is eligible. Academic modifications or adjustments are not predetermined but, instead, are individualized based on the functional limitations of a student's disability, as well as the nature of their academic program requirements and student life activities. If necessary, the staff of Student Disability Services will consult with disability liaisons (typically, staff in the area dean of students office) in the academic units and course instructors to understand the essential requirements/elements of a particular course and/or program. The academic modification or adjustment must be effective, but need not be state-of-the art or the student’s primary request. For example, if a student requests a peer notetaker, permission to record lectures may be provided as an effective alternative.
Provisional academic modification or adjustment may be given when: (i) a student has requested a reasonable accommodation; (ii) the student has previously received a reasonable accommodation in an educational setting; and (iii) the process to determine the appropriate academic modification or adjustment at the University cannot be completed before the start of the quarter. Usually, a provisional academic modification or adjustment is for one quarter only, though in exigent circumstances with prior approval, provisional academic modification or adjustment may continue into the next quarter. Receipt of provisional reasonable accommodation does not imply that the student will qualify for reasonable accommodation on a long-term basis.
At the conclusion of the reasonable accommodation assessment process, even if the student received provisional reasonable accommodation, it may be determined: (1) the student is disabled and a requested academic modification or adjustment will be extended; (2) the student is disabled and a requested academic modification is adjusted to avoid compromise of the essential elements of the academic program, course and/or University sponsored student life activity; (3) the student is disabled but the requested academic modification or adjustment is not reasonable; (4) the student does not have a disability within meaning of the law; or (5) that the student is not a qualified student with a disability.
Once eligibility for disability services and reasonable accommodations have been determined by Student Disability Services staff, they will collaborate with the student's academic unit disability liaison to implement the appropriate academic modification or adjustment. The provision of academic accommodations will align with essential course and program requirements. Both the student and their disability liaison will be notified in writing of the approved academic modifications or adjustments. Auxiliary aids and services extended to a student may be adjusted if the existing academic modifications are ineffective or if the student's condition changes. Student Disability Services staff members and the disability liaison will facilitate the implementation of reasonable accommodation(s).
A student who has concerns with their disability eligibility, a reasonable accommodation determination, the effectiveness of their approved accommodations, or disability discrimination is advised to first meet and discuss the concerns with the Director of Student Disability Services. The Director of Student Disability Services will follow up in writing within 7 business days of the date of the meeting. If further discussion does not resolve the matter, the student may make a request for review to the Associate Provost for Equal Opportunity Programs in writing within 10 business days of the date of the written notification.
The student may also request a review without first discussing the concerns with the Director of Student Disability Services. The student should make the request for the review to the Associate Provost in writing within 15 days of the date of the initial written notification of the disability eligibility and reasonable accommodation determination. The Associate Provost or their designee will review the appropriate records and documentation and will likely ask the student for a meeting to clarify the request. The Associate Provost or their designee will engage in a fact-finding process which may involve discussing the request with the Director of Student Disability Services, the academic unit disability liaison, and other appropriate professionals. The Associate Provost or their designee will communicate a final decision in writing as soon as practicable. The disability eligibility and reasonable accommodation determination remains in effect during the period in which the Associate Provost or designee reviews the student's request.