Creating inclusive environments for disabled students also means recognizing and supporting disabled faculty and staff on campus. In fact, without recruitment and retention of disabled faculty, it may be hard to argue that the goals of inclusion have been truly met in any university environment.
While most faculty are familiar with the idea of providing disabled students with necessary accommodations, the process of obtaining accommodations as disabled faculty members is less familiar. This document provides resources for disabled faculty members and those responsible for facilitating accommodations (typically department chairs and deans). This is a resource document; policy on disability accommodation is set by the University of Colorado.
There is an increasing number of disabled faculty on campus. The Americans with Disabilities Act has been in place for 25 years, and there are disabled faculty in our ranks who have progressed through more equitable educational settings. Faculty who acquire disabilities later in life are also becoming aware of the accommodations available to them. These faculty deserve support and accommodations and add to rich diversity of our campus, in line with legal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and University of Colorado Regent Policy 10M “Commitment to the Needs of Persons with Disabilities” (cited in the Faculty Handbook). The Office of Equity administers disability accommodations for faculty.
Accommodations for disabled faculty are provided to faculty members who have disabling conditions that impact performance in the workplace. This can include faculty who have been disabled from birth, recently disabled faculty, and, in some instances, faculty with temporary disabilities. The types of disabilities that may need accommodations include but are not limited to:
- mobility disabilities (such as paralysis, arthritis, and repetitive stress injury)
- sensory disabilities (such as vision impairments and hearing loss)
- learning disabilities (such as ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia)
- chronic health conditions (such as fibromyalgia, environmental illness, and cystic fibrosis)
- psychosocial disabilities (such as depression, anxiety, and affective disorders)
- other neurological disabilities (such as autism and others forms of neurodiversity) Some disabilities also cross categories, such as cerebral
Disabled faculty can seek support in obtaining accommodations. The CU Denver ADA Coordinator is available to answer questions about the process of obtaining accommodations. The coordinator can also arrange for a third-party evaluator/vendor to provide evaluative services (such as an occupational therapy evaluation or an assistive technology consult). The ADA Coordinator will work with the faculty member to verify the medical condition of the faculty member, whether the impairment is temporary or permanent, and what major life activities are impacted by the impairment. Disabled faculty can also contact the Faculty Assembly Disabilities Committee with their ideas and concerns. (Contact information for both groups is at the end of this page.)
The nature of accommodations for disabled faculty vary. Accommodations can include office arrangements and furniture, ASL interpreters, speak-aloud software, and more. In some cases, faculty will know what they need to accommodate their disabilities (particularly long-standing ones), while in other cases, faculty may require assistance in figuring out appropriate accommodations. The ADA Coordinator can provide support for all faculty members requesting accommodations.
Faculty have two options when seeking accommodations for disabilities.
- The faculty member can contact the ADA Coordinator. To obtain accommodations, the faculty member will be required to share information about his/her disability, and in most cases, the ADA Coordinator will ask the disabled faculty member to visit his or her doctor to complete a “Reasonable Accommodation Documentation Form.” The ADA Coordinator then makes the department chair or dean aware of what is needed and ensures that accommodations are provided. (For more detail on this process, see the ADA site for the Office of Equity.) Faculty members can decide if they want to share information about the nature of their disabilities with their department chair or dean, or only disclose required accommodations.
- The faculty member can contact his/her department chair or dean to discuss needed Working together, the faculty member and department chair or dean can, in coordination with the ADA coordinator, determine relevant accommodations (especially in cases where the accommodations are minor).
Department chairs and/or deans play a crucial role in facilitating faculty accommodations. The process of faculty accommodations typically works through department and college leaders, not only between the ADA Coordinator and disabled faculty member. It is crucial that department chairs and deans understand the process and reach out to the ADA Coordinator for guidance when needed. All information about the nature of a faculty member’s disability must be kept in confidence. Generally, the particular school/college of the faculty member is responsible for the costs associated with providing accommodations.
Visit the Office of Equity website for more information.
ADA Coordinator: Lauren Fontana
The CU Denver Faculty Assembly Disabilities Committee (DisC) is interested in hearing from disabled faculty members about their experiences, ideas, and needs. Please contact: