Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Rights and Responsibilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in a variety of sectors, including employment and education. While the passage of the ADA in 1990 lent a particular immediacy to the rights of individuals with disabilities, Binghamton University, as a recipient of federal funds, has been subject to laws prohibiting discrimination against current or potential students and employees with disabilities since the enactment of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972. Despite this relatively long history of compliance with statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, it is essential that we continually review institutional policies as well as our own individual practices to ensure that qualified students and employees with disabilities are accorded both their rights under the law and their rightful places within the University.
Some Important Definitions
Under the ADA, a person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The ADA also protects individuals who have a record of such an impairment, as well as people who are regarded as having such an impairment. A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity, such as hearing, seeing, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, walking, caring for oneself, learning, or working. To be protected by the ADA, however, a current or potential student or employee with a disability must be otherwise "qualified"-i.e., someone who, with or without reasonable job accommodations or reasonable modifications to educational policies or practices, meets the essential requirements of the job or the educational program.
General Requirements Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(Adapted from Jane E. Jarrow's Title by Title: The ADA's Impact on Postsecondary Education, published by the Association on Higher Education and Disability.)
There may be no exclusion of persons on the basis of disability. It is unlawful to
deny admission to or to limit the enrollment of students with disabilities when they
are otherwise qualified. Likewise, it is unlawful to discriminate against a qualified
employee or applicant for employment on the basis of disability.
There may be no discrimination through contract.
The University is responsible for ADA compliance even in those services, programs, or activities it contracts out to other entities. Contracts should stipulate that outside lessees, lessors, and vendors must abide by the institution's requirements under the ADA, in addition to any other requirements for which they themselves are responsible under the law.
Persons with disabilities are entitled to participate in the most integrated settings possible. If special problems are established, the individual with a disability may still choose to participate in the general program. Persons with disabilities have the right to refuse accommodation.
It is unlawful to use eligibility criteria that screen out, directly or indirectly,
an individual with a disability or a class of individuals with disabilities unless
such criteria can be shown to be necessary to the provision of the activities or services,
or essential to the performance of the job. Safety-related criteria may be imposed,
but those criteria must be shown to be based on actual risk and not on stereotypes
or assumptions about the abilities of people with disabilities.
Reasonable job accommodations or reasonable modifications to educational policies, practices, or procedures must be made to otherwise qualified employees or students with disabilities, unless such job accommodations would impose an undue financial or operational hardship on the employer, or such modifications to educational programs would fundamentally alter the nature of the activities or services offered.
It is unlawful to deny equal services, programs, or activities to an individual or entity because that individual or entity has an affiliation with an individual or class of individuals who are known to have a disability. For example, it would be unlawful to deny space on campus for an AIDS support group to meet because of fear of exposure to AIDS/HIV. It would also be unlawful to deny employment to an individual with a chronically ill partner or child because of a perceived potential for missed work or increased insurance costs.
It is unlawful to attempt to cover or offset costs of complying with the ADA by imposing a surcharge solely on people with disabilities.
It is unlawful to refuse to serve persons with disabilities, or to serve them differently on the basis of their disabilities, due to insurance coverage or rates. For example, it would be illegal to bar persons with low vision or limited mobility from a science laboratory because it is believed that insurance coverage may be jeopardized, or the costs increased, as a result of the presence of these individuals.
It is unlawful to retaliate or threaten retaliation against individuals with disabilities for asserting their rights under the ADA.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against on the basis of disability, a procedure exists for the timely review of your complaint. The "Grievance Procedure for Review of Allegations of Discrimination" is available from the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Library South Ground, Room 667.
Please contact for additional information or questions regarding ADA:
Barbara Jean Fairbairn, Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities (TTY 777-2686)
Valerie Hampton, Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action (777-4775)