Definitions and Policy Information
The University of Tennessee does not discriminate on the basis of disability in its programs, services or activities.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person with a disability is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Whether a limitation is substantial depends on the nature, severity, and expected duration of the impairment. The determination of whether an impairment is a disability is made on a case-by-case basis.
Temporary, non-chronic impairments that do not last for a long time and that have little or no long-term impact usually are not disabilities. Examples of temporary injuries or impairments might include a broken leg, a short-term illness, recovery from surgery, etc.
However, while short-term limitations may not be disabilities, the University may still be able to provide some assistance such as the use of a T van pass to go from one on-campus location to another.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a federal anti-discrimination statute which provided civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA was designed to remove barriers which prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities. Similar protections are provided by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and by the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
For University of Tennessee purposes, the ADA means that no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of the university.
To be protected by the ADA, a person with a disability must not only be an individual with a disability, but must be qualified.
Employees: For university employees, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who satisfies the required skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the employment position and who, with or without reasonable accommodations, can perform the essential functions of the position.
Students: For students, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices, the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids or services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by the University.
A UT student’s first point of contact is with Student Disability Services (SDS).
A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, employment practice, or work environment that is intended to allow an employee with a known disability (or applicant for employment) to conduct the essential functions of his or her job. Accommodations are not required where they would impose an undue hardship, and any accommodation must be reasonable given the requirements of the job and the workplace. Some examples of reasonable accommodations at the workplace may include:
- Providing interpreters
- Providing extra lighting or magnifiers
- Providing a van pass for door-to-door service on campus
- Obtaining or modifying equipment or devices
- Allowing routine break times for medication purposes
- Making facilities readily accessible to and usable
- Modifying training materials or policies
Note: Students may need accommodations in two different areas: the academic setting and/or the workplace setting. Please consult the Student Disability Services (SDS) website for reasonable accommodations in the academic classroom setting. If a student (including GTA, GRA, or GA) has questions about accommodations in the workplace, they should consult with the Office of Equity and Diversity by calling 865-974-2498.
For Employees Seeking Accommodation
The university is obligated to consider reasonable accommodations only for the known disabilities of an otherwise qualified employee or student. In general, it is the responsibility of the employee or student to make their disability status and need for an accommodation known to the appropriate university official. Employees should contact OED (865-974-2498) or notify their supervisor and ask the supervisor to contact OED to begin an interactive process with all appropriate parties. Students should register with Student Disability Services (SDS).
The interactive process involves several steps.
First, the employee must make the need for an accommodation known, and must provide appropriate medical documentation to support the existence of a disability and the need for accommodation. Ideally, the employee’s physician or other health care professional will also provide suggestions for accommodation.
OED will assess the information and discuss it with the employee. If necessary, OED will also consult with the healthcare provider.
After that, OED will discuss the needs and recommendations with the employee’s supervisor in order to work out reasonable accommodations. Depending on the nature and essential functions of the job, the supervisor or department may have other suggestions for what types of accommodations might work.
The interactive process is meant to allow both the employer and the employee to work on solutions.