Essential Functions Review Procedure
The University Accessibility Center (UAC) provides academic accommodations, auxiliary aids, and services to students with disabilities and consults with the university community regarding disability access issues. The UAC reviews accommodation requests from students with disabilities on a case by case basis to determine if the requests are reasonable and engages in an interactive dialogue with each student to ensure that proper accessibility considerations are made. A reasonable academic adjustment or accommodation is one that does not require a substantial change in the curriculum or alter any of the essential elements, functions, or learning outcomes of the course, program, service, or activity. When considering the reasonableness of an accommodation, an individualized assessment of the student’s needs and an interactive dialogue between stakeholders is required. The UAC will use the following process to determine whether a requested accommodation requires a substantial change to an essential function of a course or program.
- If a faculty member believes that an accommodation requires a substantial change to an essential function or learning outcome of the course or program, the faculty member will contact the UAC coordinator who signed the student accommodation letter to discuss the situation. Most questions about accommodations are solved at this juncture.
- If no solution is identified, the coordinator will ask that the faculty member provide a copy of the course syllabus and a written explanation of how the accommodation alters an essential aspect of the course. This information is crucial to the review process.
To ensure a thorough review, the information obtained will then be reviewed by a committee that may be comprised of UAC personnel, the chair of the applicable academic department, and/or faculty members, in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel, to determine whether the accommodation alters an essential aspect of the course. The committee may consider the following questions, as well as any other questions, in reaching its determination.
- What are the essential learning outcomes stated in the syllabus?
- How would the accommodation in question prevent the student from reaching those learning outcomes?
- Is there an alternative way for the student to achieve those outcomes through the accommodation in question?
- Do other sections of the same course allow for the accommodation in question?
- Can the method of instruction or delivery be altered in any way?
- Would this accommodation prevent a student from meeting requirements for licensing or professional accreditation?
- The committee’s determination will then be shared with the faculty member.
- If, after a review of the information, the review committee determines that the accommodation requires a substantial change to an essential function of a course, then the course requirement will stand. At that point, the UAC will work with the student and the faculty member to determine if there is an alternative way to mitigate the impact of the disability without compromising the essential element(s) of the course or program.
- If, after committee review, it is determined that the accommodation does not require a substantial change to the essential function of a course, the UAC will inform the faculty member and discuss the best approaches for implementation. If the faculty member does not agree with the committee’s decision and has additional information to disclose, the committee will consider the additional information and review its prior determination.
- In order to maintain the “reasonable timeframe” expected for accommodation decisions, the committee will make a final determination with the information provided. The primary goal of these decisions is to maintain fairness for all, while protecting the university from legal action.
- The review process will be documented and maintained by the UAC for future reference. However, it is important to note that a determination made in one instance does not constitute a policy or universal decision for future accommodation requests.