Disability Accommodation for Applicants and Employees

Handbook of Operating Procedures 3-3010

Disability Accommodation for Applicants and Employees

University of Texas SealEffective January 11, 2019
Executive Sponsor: VP for Diversity and Community EngagementPolicy Owner: Senior Associate VP for Diversity and Community Engagement
I. Policy Statement 

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin (“University”) to provide equal access and opportunity to University employees and job applicants with disabilities in compliance with federal law, including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA). The University prohibits discrimination based on disability in both the application process and during the employment relationship.

II. Reason for Policy 

To provide appropriate roles and responsibilities to comply with federal law regarding disability accommodations for University employees and job applicants.

III. Scope & Audience 

This policy applies to all University employees and applicants for University employment.

IV. Definitions (specific to this policy) 

An individual pursuing an employment opportunity with the University by submitting appropriate application materials for a specific, vacant position.


Any University employee including faculty, staff, and student employees. This includes hourly, salary, part-time, and full-time employees.

Essential Function(s):

The fundamental duties of the position or the primary reasons the position exists. The University is not required to eliminate an essential function of a position, or to lower quality or performance standards to make an accommodation, as long as those standards are applied uniformly to employees with or without a disability. The University is not required to create a new position to accommodate an employee. The University determines whether a job function is “essential” on a case-by-case basis. Some of the factors used in determining whether a job function is essential are:


  • Whether the reason the position exists is to perform that function;
  • The number of other employees available to perform the function or among whom the performance of the function can be distributed; and
  • The degree of expertise or skill required to perform the function.

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. The impairment may be permanent, chronic, or progressive. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is considered a disability under the ADA if the condition would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

Major Life Activities:

Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Major life activities also include the operation of major bodily functions, including, but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Reasonable Accommodation:

A modification or adjustment to the job application process or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. The decision as to the appropriate (reasonable) accommodation is made on a case-by-case basis. The principal test is that of effectiveness; whether the accommodation will provide an opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same level of performance and to enjoy benefits equal to those of an average similar-situated person without a disability.


Actions that are not required or reasonable include:


  • Lowering production or performance standards
  • Excusing violations of conduct rules;
  • Removing an essential function;
  • Monitoring an employee’s use of medication;
  • Actions that would result in undue hardship;
  • Restructuring working hours so they fall far outside the obligations of an employee’s unit and/or position. Some positions require employees to be on campus at all times and/or at certain hours and may not have as much flexibility to accommodate requests for changes; and
  • Requests that will disrupt the University’s mission to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service.


The University is not obligated to and will not provide personal use items needed in accomplishing daily activities (e.g. eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, or a wheelchair).

Substantial Limitation (substantially limiting):

Having a medical condition alone is not enough to make one eligible for accommodation under the ADA. Under the ADA, an individual’s impairment must also be substantially limiting.  Whether or not a limitation is substantial is generally determined by the ability of the individual with the impairment to perform a major life activity compared to most people in the general population.

Qualified Individual with a Disability:

An employee or applicant is qualified if he or she possesses the requisite skills, education, experience, and training for a position and is able to complete the essential functions of his or her job with or without reasonable accommodation; an applicant must also satisfy the minimum qualifications for the job for which he or she is applying in order to be considered qualified.

Undue Hardship:

An accommodation or action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as the University’s size, financial resources, and the nature and structure of its operation. Undue Hardship also refers to an accommodation that is unduly extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or one that would fundamentally alter the nature of the position.

V. Website (for policy) 
VI. Contacts 
Contact Details Web
Office for Inclusion and Equity (for employees)Phone:512-471-1849Website:Email:equity@utexas.edu
Human Resource Service Center (for applicants)Phone:Toll Free 800-687-4178 512-471-4772Website:
VII. Responsibilities & Procedures 
  1. Applicants with Disabilities
  1. Accommodations in the Application Process. Applicants with disabilities may request accommodations in the hiring process or application itself – such as a modification in the manner in which an application is filed. Applicants are responsible for making specific requests so that the University can determine if reasonable accommodations can be provided. Applicants must make these requests in advance; the University will not make retroactive accommodations.  Applicant requests for reasonable accommodation in the hiring process may be made to Human Resources personnel by contacting the Human Resource Service Center at 512-471-4772 or 1-800-687-4178 or submitting the Applicant Reasonable Accommodation Request Form online. Applicants may be asked to provide supportive documentation.
  1. Accommodations during the Interview/Hiring Process.  Applicants with disabilities can request accommodations for a scheduled interview.  Applicants are responsible for making specific requests so that the University can determine if reasonable accommodations can be provided. Applicants must make these requests in advance; you can make this request orally or in writing by submitting the Applicant Reasonable Accommodation Request Form online. Someone else can make a request for accommodation on the applicant's behalf (e.g., a family member, friend, health professional, or other representative, such as a job coach).
  1. Skill-Based Application Tests. In the event an applicant with a disability applies for a position that requires all applicants to complete a test(s) that measures certain skills, he or she can request testing accommodations. If the test is a requirement of the application process, the test-taker with a disability will not be granted a “test exemption.” If the applicant’s disability and need for accommodation are not obvious, the University may request appropriate documentation explaining the disability and why an accommodation is needed.


The ADA requires employers to give application tests in a format or manner that does not require use of an impaired skill, unless the test is designed to measure that skill. As an example, an employer gives a written test for a proofreading position, the employer does not have to offer this test in a different format (e.g., orally) to an applicant who has dyslexia because the job itself requires an ability to read. Furthermore, if all test-takers must obtain a certain “passing score,” so must the test-taker with a disability.

Examples of testing accommodation include:

  • Testing in a private room;
  • Providing extended time to take the test;
  • Providing instructions/test in large or bold print;
  • Providing magnification;
  • Use of a computer with screen readers (voice output);
  • Use of scratch paper; and
  • Allowing breaks.

The test-taker with a disability may need an accommodation to help meet the standard, but the standard does not have to be lowered, changed, or altered. In most cases, the University cannot approve accommodations such as an alternative format or extended time without documentation from a licensed healthcare provider supporting a diagnosis of disability (e.g., dyslexia) that would warrant such.


  1. Current University Employees
  1. Initiating the Accommodation Process. Employees seeking workplace accommodation(s) are responsible for initiating contact with and requesting information regarding accommodations. Employees interested in a workplace accommodation can contact the Office for Inclusion and Equity (OIE) at 512-471-1849 or oie@austin.utexas.edu to request the paperwork to start the accommodation process. Although employees may initially consult with the Office for Inclusion and Equity without first informing their supervisor, supervisors are an important part of the process and will be brought into the discussion about the specific impact of the medical condition on job performance and recommended accommodations. In having this discussion, the University focuses on the limitations of the condition(s) and suggested accommodations, and not the employee's specific medical diagnosis or disability documentation.

  1. Paperwork. In order to determine whether an employee is eligible for accommodations under the ADA, the requesting employee must provide written documentation from their licensed health care provider concerning the employee's disability. The list below outlines the paperwork employees will need to review/complete to begin the accommodation process:

  • Employee Accommodation Request Form (employee must complete and return to OIE);
  • Authorization for Medical Release (employee must complete and return to OIE);
  • Licensed Healthcare Provider Cover Letter (employee provides a copy to health care provider); and
  • Medical Certification Form (employee provides a copy to his or her licensed health care provider who completes it on the employee's behalf. Either the employee or the health care provider can return the form to OIE)
  1. Interactive Process. The accommodation process is a collaborative and interactive process between the ADA Coordinators, the employee seeking accommodations, the employee’s supervisor, and/or other appropriate personnel (including Human Resource personnel and Benefits). The ADA Coordinators work collaboratively with both the employee and the supervisor to identify a mutually agreeable reasonable accommodation that will provide the employee with the opportunity to be successful. Finding a reasonable accommodation that has the support of both the employee and his or her supervisor helps to ensure a successful and sustainable outcome. When necessary, the ADA Coordinators have the latitude to implement an accommodation they deem reasonable and/or to modify workplace/departmental policies to provide an employee with a reasonable accommodation. Depending on the nature of the disability and job functions, the accommodation may be temporary or permanent.
  1. Determination. After meeting separately with both the employee and his/her supervisor, the ADA Coordinators will determine whether the employee is a qualified individual with a disability and whether the requested accommodation(s) is reasonable. If so determined, a letter of accommodation will be drafted and will:

  • Outline the accommodation(s) being provided;
  • List expectations related to the implementation of the accommodation(s);
  • Provide a timeframe for when the accommodations will be reviewed to determine their effectiveness; and
  • List the names of those who were party to the accommodation process and are involved in the implementation of the approved accommodations (including supervisors, Human Resource personnel, & Benefits);
  1. Confidentiality. Any records or information obtained by the University as part of the accommodation process that reflect diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of an employee's medical or mental health condition are kept private. Such records will be shared only with those University employees who have a need to know, and will not be released except as required by law. ADA related files are kept separate and apart from personnel files and access is limited to the ADA Coordinators and the Office for Inclusion and Equity.


The ADA Coordinators and University personnel involved in evaluating a request for reasonable accommodation are not "covered entities" as defined in the HIPAA rules. With certain exceptions, the ADA Coordinators will not disclose the diagnostic or treatment information (including the ADA file) of employees participating in the accommodation process. There are, however, instances when this information is shared with certain individuals such as human resource personnel, first aid and safety personnel, or University personnel investigating compliance with the ADA (including OIE, University Compliance Services, & Office of Legal Affairs).


Knowledge that an employee has an approved workplace accommodation is limited to those involved in the accommodation process. Supervisors and staff involved will take care to maintain confidentiality.


  1. Independent Medical Opinion. The ADA Coordinators and the Office for Inclusion and Equity have the authority to obtain, at University expense, an independent medical opinion concerning the impairment for which an employee seeks an accommodation. The failure of an employee to cooperate in obtaining such an opinion will result in the cancelation of the request for accommodation.


  1. If an Employee Cannot Be Accommodated. There may be instances where there is no reasonable accommodation that enables the employee to perform the essential functions of the employee's job. Although there is a requirement to facilitate the interactive process and explore whether or not there is a reasonable accommodation, there is no requirement to provide the exact accommodation requested by the individual, or to remove an essential function of the position. If an employee cannot be accommodated, the employee may be separated from University employment after the employee's entitlements under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), if any, are exhausted.


  1. Supervisors
  1. Referral. Supervisors who receive a request for accommodation will refer the employee to the Office for Inclusion and Equity, and notify that office of such referral via email at equity@utexas.edu. Employees seeking accommodation are responsible for initiating contact with and requesting information regarding workplace accommodations from the Office for Inclusion and Equity via email at equity@utexas.edu or by phone at 512-471-1849.
  1. Performance Counseling. Any supervisor who is informed, in the course of job performance counseling, by an employee that a physical or mental condition may be affecting the employee's work performance must refer the employee to the Office for Inclusion and Equity for consideration of accommodations, and notify the office of such referral.


  1. Complaint Procedures

Applicant or Employee. Any applicant or employee who believes he or she had a request for a reasonable accommodation denied; was discriminated against based on disability; or was retaliated against due to an accommodation request is encouraged to make a complaint to the Office for Inclusion and Equity. The detailed complaint process may be found in the University's Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) 3-3020 Nondiscrimination Policy.


  1. University Staff Responsible for Disability Accommodation for Applicants and Employees

All members of the University community play a role in making the campus accessible and welcoming to individuals with disabilities; however, certain departments have specific responsibilities.


  1. ADA/Section 504/EIR Coordinator. The University ADA/Section 504/EIR Coordinator addresses institutional accessibility concerns, including the accessibility of electronic information resources (EIR) and leads the University Accessibility Committee. The Deputy ADA Coordinator is the primary point of contact for faculty and staff accommodations; provides training on disability and accessibility issues; and assists the ADA Coordinator with accessibility concerns across campus. More information is available at http://sites.utexas.edu/disability/.
  1. The Office for Inclusion and Equity (OIE). OIE is a resource for the campus community; investigates and helps to resolve complaints of discrimination; collaborates with other units to advance inclusive faculty recruitment and retention strategies; and facilitates institutional diversity planning. Through educational curricula, policy development, and campus climate initiatives, OIE helps ensure the university’s compliance with all applicable civil rights legislation. OIE cultivates an inclusive and equitable campus culture wherein diversity and excellence are mutually reinforcing goals. More information about OIE is available at http://equity.utexas.edu/.
  1. Human Resources. HR includes multiple units, including: Benefits, Training & Development, Employee & Labor Relations, Strategic Workforce Solutions, Dispute Resolution, Compensation, Recruitment, and Wellness. Each unit is dedicated to ensuring that all employees are well informed about University resources available to them. More information about HR is available at https://hr.utexas.edu/.
XI. History 

Last revision and review date: January 11, 2019


Previous review date: December 2013

Editorial edits made March 20, 2018

Editorial edits made February 17.and March 7, 2016

Editorial edits made July 2, 2014.

Next scheduled review date: December 2015