University of Washington Policy Directory

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*Formerly part of the University Handbook
Student Governance and Policies

Student Policies

Chapter 208



Reasonable Accommodation of Students with Disabilities




1.  Policy

It is the policy of the University of Washington to reasonably accommodate qualified students with disabilities, and to afford them an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, University courses, programs, and activities. In accordance with Executive Order No. 31, Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action, the University is committed to providing qualified students with disabilities reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids necessary to provide equal access.

This policy covers individuals enrolled in any class, whether matriculated or nonmatriculated in any program of study.

This policy is in compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 as amended; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 93-11) and 45 C.F.R. Part 84; Fair Housing Act of 1968 42 U.S.C. Sec. 3601 et seq., Chapter 49.60 RCW; and Chapter 28B.10 RCW.

2.  Definitions

  A. Disability

The presence of a sensory, mental, or physical impairment (whether temporary or permanent) that:
  • Is medically cognizable or diagnosable, exists as a record or history, or is known or shown through an interactive process to exist in fact; and

  • Has a substantially limiting effect upon the student's ability to perform and complete the essential elements of the course, program, or activity.
  B. Qualified Student

A qualified student is a student with a disability who continuously meets essential standards of the relevant University course, program, or activity, with or without the benefit of reasonable accommodation.

  C. Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation means modifying or adjusting practices, procedures, or policies so that a qualified student with a disability receives equal access to a course, program, or activity. Reasonable accommodations will be implemented as long as:
  • They are medically necessary (i.e., there is competent medical evidence establishing a relationship between the disability and the need for accommodation); and

  • They do not impose an undue hardship on the University or result in a fundamental alteration to the nature or operation of the institution, program, course, service, or activity.
The University need not accept the student's requested accommodation if an alternative accommodation is determined to be equally effective.

  D. Health Care Professional

Health care professional means a person who is legally competent to diagnose and/or treat the particular medical condition or conditions which are the basis of the accommodation request.

  E. Undue Hardship and Fundamental Alteration

Undue hardship means that implementing a requested accommodation would be excessively costly, extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or result in a fundamental alteration of the nature or operation of the institution, program, or course. In determining whether a requested accommodation poses an undue hardship or fundamental alteration, the assessment may include, but is not limited to, evaluating the impact on the overall resources, standards, or structure of the course, program, and/or activity. Before concluding that a particular accommodation would impose an undue hardship or a fundamental alteration, the designated disability services office will consider alternative accommodations.

3.  Accommodation Process

  A. Request for Reasonable Accommodation

A student must make a request for reasonable accommodation and/or academic adjustments to the designated disability services office (See Section 9, Designated Disability Services Offices). In addition to traditional classroom activities, accommodations can be requested for, but are not limited to: placement exams, on-campus housing, study abroad programs, University events and activities, and clinical or internship placements.

Requests made directly to instructional or administrative personnel, even if implemented for a particular class, are not considered a reasonable accommodation under this policy. Instead, the designated disability office will conduct an individualized assessment of the request, determine whether accommodation is necessary, and reasonable accommodations are available. Instructional personnel may also refer a request for a reasonable accommodation to the designated disability services office.

  B. Medical Documentation

The designated disability services office may request that the student provide a verification and/or clarification by their health care professional of the need for the requested accommodation when the adjustments required to provide reasonable accommodation or the reasonableness of a requested accommodation are not readily apparent. The request for verification or clarification may ask for information about the diagnosis, nature, the extent of functional limitations, impact, and duration of a disability. To authorize the University to seek verification/clarification directly from the student's health care professional, the student will be asked to complete and submit the necessary release.

At its own expense, the University may obtain a medical assessment or medical documentation review from a health care professional of its own choice. Examples of the kind of assessment or review the University may request include but are not limited to:
  • Whether the student has a disability;

  • The medical necessity of requested accommodations;

  • Whether there may be equally effective alternative reasonable accommodations to those requested; and

  • Whether the student can perform particular tasks, functions, or activities with or without reasonable accommodations.
  C. Interactive Process

The designated disability services office will engage in an interactive process with the student to review the accommodation request(s) and identify necessary academic adjustment, auxiliary aids, and/or services, and determine what would be effective reasonable accommodation that will provide the student equal access to programs, services, and activities. The student's participation in the interactive process is essential for it to be effective and not doing so may delay or end the process.

Students are responsible for ongoing assessment of the effectiveness of their approved accommodation(s). Students with questions or concerns about their accommodation should contact their designated disability services office as soon as possible.

  D. Approval of Reasonable Accommodations

Following any consultation that may be needed with individuals involved in the particular course, program, or activity, the designated disability services office makes the final determination about the accommodation the University will provide in response to an accommodation request.

When a student's disability accommodation request is approved by the designated disability services office, the office will provide the student with written confirmation of the approval and a document that the student can provide to the instructor for any course where the requested accommodation may be needed. This document will describe the approved accommodation for the student, information for the instructor about how the approved accommodation is to be implemented, and a disability services office contact for the instructor to request assistance with implementing the accommodation, or if the instructor has questions, about the approved accommodation.

When accommodations are established, the designated disability services office documents their approval and discusses with the student how the accommodations can be implemented on a quarterly basis. The student is responsible for notifying instructional personnel of approved accommodations in a timely manner, and those individuals are responsible for implementation. Instructional personnel and/or other appropriate individuals are encouraged to consult with the designated disability services office regarding implementing approved accommodations.

4.  Confidentiality

All documentation submitted to the designated disability services office is kept separate from academic records and is considered a student record under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). On a need to know basis, disability services offices may share information about an accommodation request with other University employees to assess, manage, and implement the approved accommodations. This may include information about the impacts of the medical condition, the knowledge of which is necessary to evaluate and make determinations about reasonable accommodations and the qualified status of the student.

5.  Accountability for Conduct

Students may be held accountable for conduct that violates professional standards of their academic program or the Student Conduct Code for the University of Washington (Chapter 478-121 WAC), even if related to a disability. Once on notice that a student's conduct may be related to a disability, the University will engage in the interactive process to evaluate possible reasonable accommodations that will assist the student in adhering to the conduct standards and requirements.

6.  Health and Safety Risk to Others

The University may decide not to permit a student to participate in or benefit from the services, programs, or activities of the University when that student poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Evaluating whether a student's participation poses a direct threat is based on an individualized assessment, and includes current medical knowledge and/or the best available objective evidence about the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability that injury or harm will occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, procedures, or the provision of auxiliary aids or services can mitigate the risk.

7.  Non-Retaliation

Requesting reasonable accommodation will not adversely affect a student's opportunity to enjoy equal terms, benefits, privileges, or conditions of the University's programs, including social or recreational activities. It is a violation of University policy to take adverse action against a student based on a student's disability status and/or a student's request for reasonable accommodation.

8.  Other Resources

  A. Employment

Requests for reasonable accommodation in employment are addressed by Administrative Policy Statement 46.5, Policy on Reasonable Accommodation of Employees With Disabilities. Although every effort is made to avoid duplicative assessments, differing standards apply when assessing appropriate reasonable accommodations in employment, so accommodations approved for academics may not automatically translate to employment and vice versa.

  B. Requesting On-Campus Housing Accommodations

Students seeking accommodations in on-campus housing should contact the designated disability services office.

  C. Service Animals

Chapter 478-128 WAC and Administrative Policy Statement 46.6, Service Animal Policy, describe University policy in regard to access for service animals in buildings or structures the University owns, operates, leases, rents, or controls. Students with service animals are encouraged, but are not obligated, to contact their designated disability services office in order to facilitate and record the need for and use of service animals.

Students who wish to request having a service animal or an assistance animal (also known as therapy, emotional support, or comfort animal) in their University housing must make a request through the designated disability services office.

  D. Pregnancy

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and relevant federal and state laws, the University will provide pregnant students with reasonable accommodations, academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids necessary to facilitate equal access, as it would to other students who have temporary medical conditions. Students seeking accommodations for pregnancy should contact the designated disability services office.

9.  Designated Disability Services Offices

Disability Resources for Students—For matriculated students enrolled at UW Seattle campus.
  • Email: uwdrs@uw.edu
  • Phone: 206-543-8924 (voice) or 206-543-8925 (TTY)
  • Disability Services Office—For nonmatriculated students enrolled at UW Seattle campus.
  • Email: dso@uw.edu
  • Phone: 206-543-6450 (voice) or 206-543-6452 (TTY)
  • Disability Resources for Students—For all students enrolled at the UW Bothell campus.
  • Email: drs@uwb.edu
  • Phone: 425-352-5307 (voice) or: 425-352-5303 (TTY)
  • Disability Support Services—For all students enrolled at the UW Tacoma campus.
  • Email: dssuwt@u.washington.edu
  • Phone: 253-692-4522 (voice)
  • 10.  University ADA Coordinator

    The University's ADA Coordinator is available to review individual concerns relating to compliance and to provide compliance support for programs, departments, schools, and colleges relating to discrimination based on sex or disability and providing access and reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities.

    Compliance Services: Disability Accommodation
  • Email: adahelp@uw.edu
  • Phone: 206-221-7932 (voice) or 206-543-6452 (TTY)
  • 11.  Grievance Process/Complaint Reporting

    The University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO) is responsible for investigating complaints that a University employee has violated the University's nondiscrimination and/or non-retaliation policies, including a failure to accommodate a student under this policy.

    University Compliant Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO)
  • Email: uciro@uw.edu
  • Phone: 206-616-2028 (voice and relay)
  • Students who wish to file allegations of discrimination may also contact the following:

    United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
  • Email: ocr@ed.gov
  • Phone: 1-800-421-3481 (voice)
  • Washington State Human Rights Commission
  • Phone: 1-800-233-3247 (voice) or 1-800-300-7525 (TTY)
  • June 20, 2016.


    For related information, see:

    • Executive Order No. 31, "Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action"
    • Administrative Policy Statement 46.5, "Policy on Reasonable Accommodation of Employees With Disabilities"
    • Administrative Policy Statement 46.6, "Service Animal Policy"