Disability & Reasonable Accommodations

Disability & Reasonable Accommodation Definitions


It is important to remember that in the context of the ADA, “disability” is a legal term rather than a medical one. Because it has a legal definition, the ADA’s definition of disability is different from how disability is defined under some other laws, such as for Social Security Disability-related benefits.

The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.

Under the ADA, major life activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Lifting
  • Bending
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Thinking
  • Communicating
  • Working

Reasonable Accommodation

Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a course, program, service, or activity that enables a qualified student with a disability to have an equal opportunity to access and use benefits, privileges, and services that are available to similarly-situated students without disabilities.

An accommodation is typically considered reasonable if:

  • It is deemed to be effective in mitigating the effects of the student’s disability
  • It does not cause an undue financial or administrative burden
  • It does not cause an immediate threat to others
  • It does not cause a fundamental alteration to the student’s curriculum

Permanent Accommodations

When a student is approved for an accommodation, in most cases, they are approved for the duration of their time at UM-Flint. The only time this will change is if the student requests a change and it is replaced with a different accommodation, or if it is found to violate an essential function of a course or program.

Provisional Accommodations

At times, the process of obtaining documentation supporting a student’s disability may take some time. For example, an updated evaluation may be requested, or a student may have a delay in getting an appointment with their care provider. In these circumstances, at the Disability Services Coordinator’s discretion, provisional accommodations may be provided.

Provisional accommodations are a courtesy given to a student who is working on obtaining the proper documentation. They typically last until the end of the current semester. At that point, further documentation is required to continue with the accommodations.

Temporary Accommodations

Students who suffer a short-term injury, such as an injured hand that prohibits them from taking notes, may be eligible for temporary accommodations. The application process is the same and accommodations can be provided on a semester basis.