CSU Policy: Accommodating Individuals with Disabilities

Policy Title: Accommodating Individuals with Disabilities Category: Equal Opportunity
Owner: Vice President for Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX Policy ID#: 12-0155-003
Office of Equal Opportunity
Web: http://oeo.colostate.edu/
Email: oeo@colostate.edu
Phone: (970) 491-5836
Original Effective Date: 6/25/2008
Last Revision: 12/9/2020
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      A.  Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities

           1.  Requesting Accommodations

           2.  Assistive Technology Resource Center

           3.  Confidentiality

      B.  Student Accommodations

           1.  Otherwise Qualified Students with Disabilities

           2.  Temporary Disabilities

           3.  Student Accommodation Process

           4.  Accessible Materials

      C.  Accommodations for Others

      D.  Confidentiality

      E.  Fairness

      F.  Complaint Procedures



Colorado State University strives to provide equally effective access to its programs, services and benefits for everyone. As a land grant institution, CSU recognizes equitable access is inherent to its mission. By promoting accessibility in the areas of education, academic and extracurricular activities, employment, public accommodations and services, the University ensures that a broad population can access and benefit from programs and services. Furthermore, a broad population then contributes to these, enriching the CSU culture. Equal access to education is required by federal and state laws including Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA).

This policy complements the Inclusive Physical and Virtual Campus Policy, which seeks to “state and affirm Colorado State University’s commitment to creating and sustaining a welcoming, accessible, and inclusive campus” and the Accessibility of Electronic Information and Technologies Policy, whose purpose is to “give specificity to inclusion as it pertains to EIT”.

The purpose of this policy is to establish the requirements and methods of compliance with these laws and to establish how we support, promote and respect the abilities and contributions of all members of our campus community.


This policy applies to all colleges, departments and other units of CSU and all faculty, staff, other employees and students at the University.


Individual with a disability as defined by the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA and ADAAA is a person who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
  • has a record of such impairment; or
  • is regarded as having such an impairment.

For information on temporary disabilities, see section B.2 below.

Major Life Activities may include:

Lifting, sleeping, concentrating, breathing, working, eating, walking, standing, reaching, thinking, reading, bending, hearing, seeing, speaking, learning, sitting, caring for self, interacting with others, performing manual tasks, and communicating.

Major life activities may also include major bodily functions such as immune, hemic, digestive, bowel, bladder, genitourinary, lymphatic, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, reproductive, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, special sense organs/skin, and normal cell growth.

An individual with a disability who is otherwise qualified is:

  • An individual who has a substantial impairment and meets the skill, experience, and education requirements of a position held or desired and who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodations; or
  • An individual who has a substantial impairment and meets the requirements needed to participate in, and benefit from, an educational activity or other university-sponsored program. 

Reasonable Accommodations

Reasonable accommodations for an otherwise qualified employee include any modification, adjustment or accommodation to a job, practice, policy, or the work environment that enables the individual to perform the essential functions of their position without creating undue hardship for the institution. Accommodations must also be appropriate and related to the individual’s needs due to the disability. Reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified students include any modification, adjustment or accommodation that may be made without altering the essential function of a course, program of study, or other opportunity to participate in or benefit from it. Examples include, but are not limited to:

       a. Employees

  • Acquiring or modifying equipment, devices, or common practices and procedures
  • Providing auxiliary aids and services and assistive technology
  • Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassigning to a vacant position, extending deadlines
  • Making existing physical and digital resources and services readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities

       b. Students

  • Provision of auxiliary aids and assistive technologies
  • Adjustment in academic policies and procedures (e.g., extension in timelines, alternative methods to assess knowledge, substitution of non-essential requirements)
  • Note taking support – assistive technologies and/or coordination of volunteer note takers and paid note takers
  • Other assistive technology and mainstream technology resources provided by the ATRC to support academic areas such as reading, writing, note-taking, studying, test taking, organization and time management, computer access, and more

Fundamental Alterations

An accommodation is not reasonable if it fundamentally alters the nature of the service, program, or activity. Fundamental alteration is not a unilateral determination by an individual at the University, but rather by an informed group of knowledgeable individuals, including those in the Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO), following established procedures.

Interactive Process

The process for determining if an individual has a disability and whether there are effective reasonable accommodations that can be implemented is called the interactive process. For employees, the interactive process begins with a conversation between the employee and their supervisor, often facilitated by OEO.  For students, the interactive process begins when a student self-identifies to the Student Disability Center (SDC) and meets with one of its accommodation specialists.  The Assistive Technology Resource Center (ATRC) also aids students and employees with this interactive process. Services include assistive and mainstream technology assessments, recommendations, training, temporary equipment loans, and other resources.

Auxiliary Aids and Services

Auxiliary aids and services include, but are not limited to, sign language interpreters, readers/scribes, and assistive technologies such as note-taking technologies, literacy support tools, text to speech, speech to text, magnification, alternative keyboards and mice.


CSU is committed to inclusivity and to upholding federal and state law mandates to accommodate individuals with disabilities in all aspects of their experience at CSU. CSU does not discriminate on the basis of disability in any area for which an individual with a disability is otherwise qualified to participate.

The Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity is the ADA and section 504 Coordinator and is responsible for the overall coordination of university compliance with the mandates for non-discrimination as it pertains to individuals with disabilities.  The Student Disability Center coordinates all requests for reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.


A.  Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities

1.      Requesting Accommodations

Employees at Colorado State University who wish to request reasonable accommodations may contact the OEO to arrange a meeting. During this meeting, the OEO will review what it means to meet the definition of disability under the ADA and the ADAAA, what documentation is needed by the OEO in order to make an individualized assessment of the employee’s situation, and possible accommodation ideas.

Employees may complete these forms prior to meeting, or they can be provided to employees by the Office of Equal Opportunity:

The OEO shall be informed of the agreed-upon reasonable accommodations, and record of such accommodations will be kept on file with the OEO.

2.     Assistive Technology Resource Center

The ATRC can provide direct or consultative services to employees with disabilities or impairments regarding assistive technology services and supports.  There are two ways in which an individual may come to the ATRC.  An individual may self-refer to the ATRC for an assistive technology consultation, or they may connect with ATRC as part of a reasonable accommodation request through the interactive process with the Office of Equal Opportunity or Student Disability Center.  

3.      Confidentiality

All employee medical information is kept confidential. Medical information is collected and kept in separate medical files with the following exceptions:

  1. Supervisors may be informed of necessary restrictions on the work or duties of an employee and all accommodations necessary for the employee.
  2. First aid and safety personnel may be informed, when appropriate, if the disability might require emergency treatment or if any specific procedures are needed in the case of fire or other evacuation. 
  3. Government officials who are investigating compliance with the ADA and the ADAAA and other federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability may be provided relevant information upon request.

When supervisors are informed of an employee’s limitations and accommodations, the ADA prohibits the disclosure of the employee’s medical information, including that an employee receives reasonable accommodations, to other persons, including other employees.

B.  Student Accommodations

Students who need accommodations in academic programs and co-curricular activities should contact the Student Disability Center , to initiate the process or visit the SDC website.

1.  Otherwise Qualified Students with Disabilities

“Students with disabilities” refers to enrolled students at Colorado State University who have a disability according to federal non-discrimination laws.  Disabilities include, but may not be limited to, physical impairments, learning impairments or chronic physical/mental illnesses or conditions.

“Otherwise qualified students with disabilities” are those students who meet the basic requirements for participation in a program or activity.  These students cannot be denied access to any program or activity offered or sponsored by the University solely on the basis of a disability. Eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities are not allowed unless such criteria are necessary for successful participation in, or benefit from, the program or activity.

2.  Temporary Disabilities

Minor, non-chronic impairments of short duration with little or no long-term or permanent impact, such as sprained joints and minor illnesses, are usually not considered to be disabilities. Students who are deemed to have temporary medical impairments or conditions often work with the office of Student Case Management who notify instructors for consideration of a student’s situation.

However, some short-term impairments or illnesses may substantially impact an individual’s ability to effectively participate in or benefit from a university-sponsored academic or extracurricular activity.  In such cases, students should contact the Student Disability Center for reasonable accommodations for a limited amount of time.  Such impairments may include, but are not limited to, injuries, concussions, extended hospitalizations and pregnancy. 

3.  Student Accommodation Process

The process of accommodation begins with the student’s request for an accommodation. The participation of other entities, including the SDC, ATRC, faculty and staff, as partners is necessary in achieving compliance.

Assistive technology services through the ATRC are available to any registered student at Colorado State University with a documented disability as defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students must be referred to the ATRC through the SDC.

      a.  Student Responsibilities and Rights


  • to request reasonable accommodations by contacting SDC
  • to provide documentation of the disability, when necessary, to support requests for reasonable accommodation
  • to engage in the individualized interactive process with the SDC to determine reasonable accommodations
  • to communicate with instructors regarding the accommodations, how they will be implemented, and any difficulties or concerns that arise
  • to notify the SDC when an accommodation process is not working effectively or not being implemented according to the student’s needs


  • to have their personal information regarding their disability kept confidential
  • to not be discriminated against on the basis of disability
  • to achieve equitable access to educational environment
  • to have their preference of the type of accommodation considered first before alternatives are provided
  • to appeal (see Complaint Procedures) any accommodation determination related to the accommodation process

       b.  Faculty Responsibilities and Rights


  • to have knowledge and understanding of this policy and the legal mandates regarding reasonable accommodations
  • to create accessible content to the greatest extent feasible for all students by employing principles of universal design when designing courses
  • to engage in the interactive accommodations process with the SDC and the student
  • to communicate with the student to assure that the student’s accommodations are met effectively.
  • to provide a Syllabus Statement stating that students are welcome to bring forth their accommodation requests as well as assuring that the syllabus itself is accessible to all students
  • to maintain confidentiality of student accommodation and disability information
  • to refer students who identify themselves as students with disabilities requesting accommodations to the SDC for individual assessment
  • to support the use of technology in the classroom when it is part of the accommodation


  • to be informed in a timely manner of accommodations requested by students enrolled in their courses through an Accommodation Letter supplied by the SDC; faculty may deny requests for accommodations made without an Accommodation Letter verifying these requests
  • to challenge an accommodation if the faculty member believes the accommodation fundamentally alters the nature of the course, program, or activity by following established procedures
  • to evaluate students based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • to establish course objectives, grading criteria, methods of assessment, and classroom expectations, so long as it doesn’t discriminate against any individual with a disability from participating in or benefiting from the course
  • to request additional information or support with providing an accommodation from the SDC
  • to deny requests for accommodations that are retroactive, or after the fact

       c.  Staff Responsibilities and Rights


  • to create inclusive and accessible events and activities
  • to engage in prior planning of programs and/or activities to ensure otherwise qualified students and employees with disabilities/conditions are welcome to participate in, or benefit from, the program and/or activity
  • when planning events, to budget for any costs that may be related to providing appropriate accommodations. All opportunities should be designed to integrate students and employees with disabilities/conditions with their nondisabled peers and provide the same roles or positions offered to their nondisabled peers.  Aspects that need to be considered include, but are not limited to:
    • Recruitment – Efforts should be made to include students with disabilities/conditions in all recruitment materials. Promotional materials should indicate students with disabilities/conditions are welcome. (Note: depicting someone with an apparent disability at least once may indicate an openness for students with disabilities/conditions but may not be enough.)
    • Advertisement – Indicate whether a program is physically accessible and/or who to contact if accommodations will be needed (e.g., sign language interpreters). If using online systems for advertising, content should be formatted to be accessible to assistive technologies and any video should be appropriately captioned for those who are hearing impaired.  (Note: Auto-captioning will typically require some level of editing for accuracy. Content should adhere to most current WCAG AA standards.
  • Participation – Access to participation may require consideration of specific accommodations, such as wheelchair access, sign language interpreting, and assistance in navigating through certain activities. Indicate a direct contact for students to ask for assistance. Handouts that are given to participants need to be available in different formats (e.g., large print, auditory, braille).
  • Language – How one refers to individuals with disabilities is important. Referring to participants “with all abilities” does not necessarily convey to individuals with disabilities that they are considered, since accommodations are for those with disabilities. Using a phrase that includes the word “disability” (e.g., individual with a disability rather than disabled person) is more inclusive and conveys an openness to those who may need accommodations.


  • to establish objectives and outcomes for their events and programs
  • to determine the essential criteria for participation in programs and/or activities for students who are otherwise qualified
  • to request advance notice of accommodations needed for access to events/programs

Staff are encouraged to contact the SDC in regard to students and OEO in regard to employees with disabilities as early as possible if there are concerns related to providing access for those who are otherwise qualified to participate in, and/or benefit from any program or activity open to students.  SDC and OEO can assist in determining what might be needed and the associated costs so that those developing programs and activities can plan accordingly.  It is up to the individual unit of the University to cover the costs that might be needed for the accommodation.

Staff are encouraged to contact the ATRC for assistance with making electronic content and communications accessible to participants with disabilities.

4.  Accessible Materials:

Equal or equitable access to class materials often requires a joint effort on behalf of the faculty, SDC and the ATRC.  Course materials, either print materials or digital, must be made accessible in order to provide access. See the Accessible Information & Technology Policy for more information about accessible materials.

C.  Accommodations for Others

The University will make reasonable accommodations when requested by others needing access to its information, facilities and services, including prospective students, guests/community members, family members of students and employees who live in university housing. Requests should be submitted to the Office of Equal Opportunity.  

D.  Confidentiality

Confidentiality in the accommodation process must be maintained by all parties. Disclosure of the type of disability is a personal choice and may be freely shared by the individual but asking for that personal information is not allowed. Nor is asking for any information from the individual that would further disclose such personal data beyond what is shared in an SDC accommodation letter. Accommodation letters should be filed in a secure place, and employees should refrain from discussing individuals’ disabilities and necessary accommodations in the hearing of others who do not have an “educational need to know.”

E.  Fairness

Often people may feel that giving a student or employee something extra is unfair to others. However, not everyone has a disability/condition that puts them at a disadvantage in an educational environment designed for non–disabled students or employees. Those with impairments or chronic illnesses/health conditions have the intellectual capability to succeed as demonstrated by meeting the qualifications for admission or employment.

F.  Complaint Procedures

An individual with a disability who believes their disability is not being accommodated or who has experienced discrimination or harassment on the basis of disability should contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and also may file a complaint with the Office of Equal Opportunity, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission




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