Eligibility: Who Qualifies

How does the Americans with Disabilities Act effect Higher Education?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990 provides comprehensive Civil Rights protection and is designed to remove barriers which prevent persons with disabilities from accessing the same educational and employment opportunities as persons without disabilities. The law also provides access to public accommodations, state and local government services, transportation, and telecommunications. The Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability with regard to admission to educational institutions or vocational training programs (public or private); employee compensation; job training; and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

Definition of a Disability

An "individual with a disability" is someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. A person is considered to be a person with a disability if he/she has the disability, has a record of the disability, or is regarded as having the disability.

  • Physical or mental impairment...any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genito-urinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine; "mental impairment" means any psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  • Substantially limits...means unable to perform a major life activity or significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which a major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person or to most people; the availability of some mitigating measure (such as a hearing aid for someone with a hearing loss that brings hearing acuity within normal limits) is not to be considered when determining if the disability substantially limits the individual.
  • Major life activity...means functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Note: Individuals who are current illegal users of drugs are not protected under the ADA. The legal use of a controlled substance under medical perspective is permitted. Addiction is considered a disability. A person who is addicted to drugs, but is not actively using drugs, is considered a person with a disability and is protected by the law. Alcohol is not considered a controlled substance.

No Requirement for Citizenship

The Americans with Disabilities Act covers all persons with disabilities in the United States, whether or not they are citizens and without regard to racial or ethnic origin.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation is the provision of an auxiliary aid, or modification to the course or program which will allow access to the job duties, the educational process, program and degree, or activity. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires an institution of higher education to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified individual with a disability provided that accommodation does not create an undue hardship. Some examples of reasonable accommodation are making existing facilities readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; flexible timeline for program completion; acquisition or modification of equipment or devices; appropriate adjustment or modification of examinations or policies; provision of qualified readers, note takers, and/or signed language interpreters; provision of print formats and so on.