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.  Purpose

In accordance with Executive Order No. 31, "Nondiscrimination and Affirmative Action," it is the policy of the University to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities and to afford them an equal opportunity to participate in and enjoy the benefits of University courses, programs, services, and activities.

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.  Scope

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

3.  Definitions

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, service, or activity.

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

Instructional Personnel: Includes faculty, lecturers, teaching assistants, or other individuals who are responsible for delivering the course, program, service, or activity.

Reasonable Accommodation:  Implementing academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, and/or modifying or adjusting practices, procedures, or policies so that a qualified student with a disability receives equal access to a course, program, service, 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 reasonable accommodation is determined to be equally effective.

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.

Undue Hardship and Fundamental Alteration: Undue hardship means that implementing a requested reasonable accommodation would be excessively costly, extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or result in a fundamental alteration of the nature or operation of the institution, program, service, activity, or course. In determining whether a requested reasonable 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, service, 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.

4.  Accommodation Process

  A. Request for Reasonable Accommodation

A student must make a request for reasonable accommodation to the designated disability services office. 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 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 what reasonable accommodations are available. Instructional personnel should 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 request(s), determine if accommodations are necessary, and identify effective reasonable accommodation that will provide the student equal access to University courses, programs, services, and activities. The student's continuous 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

Reasonable accommodations are not required to produce the identical result or level of achievement for persons with and without disabilities, but must afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement that is provided to others.

Following any consultation that may be needed with instructional personnel involved in the particular course, program, service, or activity, the designated disability services office makes the final determination about the reasonable accommodation the University will provide to the student.

When a reasonable accommodation request is approved by the designated disability services office, the student will be provided a written confirmation of the approval and a process to notify instructional personnel about implementation. This document will describe the approved reasonable accommodation, share information about implementation for instructional personnel, and list a disability services office contact to seek assistance as needed.

When reasonable accommodations are established, the designated disability services office documents their approval and discusses with the student how the accommodations will need to be activated for implementation on an individual course, program, service, or activity basis and/or term basis. The student is responsible for notifying instructional personnel of activating approved accommodations in a timely manner. The student can engage the designated disability services office, as needed, to facilitate conversations with instructional personnel about implementing activated accommodations.

Instructional personnel are responsible for implementing approved reasonable accommodations in a timely manner. Approved accommodations may not be unilaterally denied or modified. Any concerns about implementing approved accommodations should be directed to the designated disability services office, or through the Instructional Personnel Reconsideration Process.

5.  Disability Resources for Reconsideration

Students have the right to seek reconsideration upon a denial of a requested accommodation after the interactive process has been completed.  The student also has the right to engage with any University or other grievance policies/resources at any point during the reconsideration process.  Information on the reconsideration process is available on the Disability Resources for Students website.

6.  Instructional Personnel Reconsideration Process

Instructional personnel have the right to object to an approved accommodation in their courses, programs, services, or activities if it is felt to be unreasonable. In all cases the approved accommodation must be active and implemented during the reconsideration process until an alternative decision, if any, is made to modify or alter it. Information on the reconsideration process is available on the Disability Resources for Students website.

7.  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.

8.  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, 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.

9.  Health and Safety Risk to Others

The University may decide not to permit a student to participate in or benefit from the courses, 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 academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids or services can mitigate the risk.

10.  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.

11.  Other Types of Accommodations

  A. Employment

Requests for reasonable accommodation in employment are addressed by Administrative Policy Statement 46.5, Reasonable Accommodation of Employees with Disabilities, which includes student employees, teaching assistants, and research assistants.  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. 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 Animals, 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 need a service animal, assistance animal, or emotional support 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.

12.  University ADA/Section 504 Coordinator

The University’s ADA/Section 504 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 disability and providing access and reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities.

13.  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.

Students who wish to file allegations of discrimination may also contact the following:

14.  Responsible Office and Additional Information

Responsible Offices

Disability Resources for Students—For matriculated students enrolled at UW Seattle.

Disability Services Office—For nonmatriculated students enrolled at UW Seattle.

Disability Resources for Students—For all students enrolled at UW Bothell.

Disability Support Services—For all students enrolled at UW Tacoma.

Student Code of Conduct Information

Chapter 209, Student Conduct Policy for Academic Misconduct and Behavioral Misconduct

Chapter 210, Student Conduct Policy for Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment, Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, and Retaliation

Chapter 478-121 WAC, Student Conduct Code for the University of Washington. 

15.  History

June 20, 2016; December 23, 2019.

For related information, see:

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