Definition: Disability Discrimination

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 brought increased attention to the employment and educational rights of persons with disabilities, rights that had existed in higher education institutions under previous laws as well, including the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The ADA and other related laws prohibit employers, units of government, and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities as employees, students, and users of public accommodations and services. 

An individual with a disability is a person who has a qualifying physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (walking, eating, breathing, sleeping, etc.), or is regarded as having such impairment. The person must be qualified to perform the essential functions of the job or the academic program with or without reasonable accommodation. Employment and academic standards are not lowered. 

Students and employees with disabilities receive equal access to University employment, programs, services, and facilities, and should contact the University of Minnesota’s Disability Services office for assistance. The Disability Services staff consults with University students or employees who know or suspect that they may have a disability. Once a disability is documented, accommodations are determined by Disability Services. In some situations Disability Services will consult the staff member, the student or employee, and the involved department.

Supervisors, administrators, and instructors may also consult with Disability Services and EOAA staff about ways to work with students and staff with disabilities. When conducting interviews, University staff should not ask job applicants about the existence, nature, or severity of a disability. Applicants may be asked about their ability to perform specific job functions, as long as all applicants are asked.

Reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to, making facilities or equipment accessible, modifying work schedules, providing interpreters or readers, and adjusting exam times or methods. Disability Services can provide interpreters, technical assistance, or appropriate adaptive technology to make reading materials accessible. Students or employees who believe they were unable to obtain a reasonable accommodation or experienced other discrimination may contact EOAA.