Fundamental Alteration

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Classroom

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended in 2008 says public institutions, such as Tennessee Tech University, provide students with disabilties "reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures...unless an entity can demonstrate that making such modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, including academic requirements in postsecondary education, would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations involved."
 

Who determines what is "reasonable"?

The Office for Civil Rights has repeatedly determined that a university must engage in an interactive process to determine whether an accommodation is reasonable or not. That process must include the Office of Disability Services, the faculty member, and the student. (See the University of the District of Columbia Resolution Agreement). Anytime an accommodation has the potential of altering the academics of a course, the Office of Disability Services will always reach out to the faculty member as the content expert to determine the fundamental elements of the course.

What if a student approaches requesting academic accommodations?

Faculty members will always notification that a student is officially registered with the Office of Disability Services. If the faculty member has not received an Academic Access Letter for the student in question, please refer that student to the Office of Disability Services. It is imperative that faculty members refer the student to the Office of Disability Services if a student identifies as having a disability. There have been cases where students have sued universities and won because they were not adequately accommodated after they notified university officials (administrators, faculty members, etc.) of disability status. (See the Grabin vs. Marymount case. Refer to Section 2 "Marymount's Disability Policy" and Section 3 "Grabin's Attempts to Report Her Disability to Marymount" & "Whether Defendant was Notified of Plantiff's Disability").

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