The University of Memphis

Disability Access for Students


Issued: May 9, 2003
Responsible Executive Officer: Vice President for Student Affairs
Responsible Office: Student Disability Services

Policy Statement


The University of Memphis prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and ensures equal opportunity and full access to qualified students with disabilities in all of the Universityís programs, services and activities.



The purpose of this policy is to extend to qualified students with disabilities the same educational opportunities as those available to other students.


Person with a disability

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

Substantial limitation

A condition incurred when a person is unable to perform a major life activity OR is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which a person can perform a particular major life activity as compared to the average person.

Major life activities

Functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneís self, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, thinking, concentrating, reading, writing, calculating, and interacting with others.

Qualified student with a disability

A student with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications and accommodations, meets the essential eligibility requirements and requisite technical standards for a particular program, service or activity offered by the University.


Physical Facilities Access

Physical Plant and Campus Planning and Design are responsible for making campus buildings, paths of travel, parking and other physical facilities accessible to an extent that no individual with a disability is denied access to programs, services or activities offered by the University as a result of inaccessible physical facilities.  Physical access will be achieved, by methods that allow individuals with mobility impairments to circumvent stairs, curbs or other such barriers without the physical assistance of others.  Modification and retrofit of existing inaccessible facilities will be contingent on State funding and will be accomplished on a priority basis established by the ADA Facilities Committee.

All new structures and major renovations of existing facilities and paths of travel must, at a minimum, meet current accessibility standards and guidelines required by Federal and State legislation.  All construction sites that block regular disability access must provide for alternative accessible paths of travel and must have effective safety barriers around hazardous locations for persons with disabilities.

This physical access policy applies to any physical facility that is owned, leased or used by the University.

If an  event, class, lecture, lab, program or activity is scheduled in a location that is inaccessible to a qualified person with a disability and if accessibility cannot be readily achieved in a timely manner by structural redesign, modification or retrofit of the facility, accessibility must be achieved by other suitable methods.  Other methods may include, but are not limited to, relocation of the event, escort service, or accessible transportation.  The particular department responsible for the class, event or activity is responsible for coordinating the relocation of an event with the assistance of Student Disability Services.  The student is responsible for making physical access needs known with reasonable advance notice to allow time for relocation.

Basic classroom furniture, such as alternative seating and wheelchair accessible tables, will be provided to qualified students with disabilities who cannot effectively use the regular furniture provided in classrooms.  Prescription seating and other items of a personal nature are not the responsibility of the University. Students may furnish their own personal items, such as special seating devices or cushions, to be used in campus classrooms, when necessary.

Communications and Information

The University will ensure that communications with students with disabilities are as effective as its communications with other students, and that interested persons with impaired vision, hearing or mobility can obtain information about the existence and location of accessible services, activities and facilities. 

Information contained in University publications will be made available in alternate format upon request by persons with disabilities.  The Student Disability Services Office may be consulted by other University departments for assistance in providing communication aids, interpreters and alternate format materials.

Electronic Media

Electronic media created by the University, including websites, on-line courses,  on-line assignments or other on-line educational materials, will be created using methodology  that will allow access to persons with sensory impairments.  Electronic media created by the University should be readable by a screen reader, and audio media should be scripted when relevant to the context. 

Computer information systems, functions and services, including computer registration, should be made available in accessible format for students and employees to the degree that is reasonably possible with modern technology. 

The Advanced Learning Center will be responsible for training faculty and staff on methods of creating accessible electronic media.  The Assistive Technology Committee, comprised of representatives from within the University community who are familiar with the assistive technology needs of persons with disabilities, will be responsible for making appropriate recommendations to the Vice President of Information Technology for specific software, hardware, other equipment and/or operational procedures necessary to provide comparable electronic access to persons with disabilities.  Upon joint approval from the Provost and the Vice President of Information Technology, appropriate assistive technology for the Adaptive Technology Lab and other campus labs for students may be funded with student technology access fees.

Videos produced by or for the University for public use must be captioned.  Videos used in the course of teaching must be made accessible to persons with hearing impairments by the use of captioning, an interpreter or by providing the student with an advance copy of the script.

Admissions and Recruitment

Qualified applicants with disabilities will not be denied admission to the University or subjected to discrimination in admissions or recruitment activities on the basis of disability.  Limitations may not be placed on the number or proportion of individuals with disabilities admitted to the University.  Accommodated entrance test scores will be accepted and treated the same as regular test scores of other students. 

The admission standards for applicants with disabilities are the same as for all other students, and the Admissions Office makes all admission decisions.  The Admissions Office will not make preadmission inquiries regarding whether an applicant has a disability.  Postadmission inquiries may be made on a voluntary, confidential basis as to disabilities that may require special accommodation by the University.

Student Services and Activities

Any service or activity available to the general student population must be made available to qualified students with disabilities.  These services and activities include, but are not limited to, the following kinds of services and activities:  library services, campus housing, health services, insurance, counseling services, testing services, financial aid, scholarships, student employment, career and placement services, orientation, registration, tutoring, physical education, recreation and intramurals, intercollegiate athletics, food services, lectures, concerts, student organizations, parking, transportation, commencement, sororities and fraternities, choral and drama groups, and other cultural, social, and educational programs and activities.

If additional aid is necessary to make a University service, program or activity accessible to a qualified student with a disability, reasonable aid will be provided so long as the request is made by the student in sufficient time for the aid to be arranged and so long as the action would not result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service, program or activity and would not cause undue financial and administrative burdens on the University.  Undue administrative or financial  burden is determined by the President or his/her designee and is based on the overall resources of the University rather than the resources of the individual department involved.

The Responsibility of Students in Pursuing Their Disability Rights

Students must take the following actions to obtain disability accommodations and services at The University of Memphis:

  • Register with the Student Disability Services Office and provide the Office with appropriate qualifying medical or psycho-educational documentation that establishes the existence of a qualifying disability and provides a rationale for reasonable accommodation, if applicable. 
  • Make their disability related needs and specific requests known in a timely manner to the appropriate people, such as their Student Disability Services Coordinator, their professors or other relevant staff ; and
  • Follow the established procedures of the University and the Student Disability Services Office for acquiring needed services, accommodations and adjustments.

The University is not responsible for providing services or making academic accommodations or adjustments until the above conditions have been met.  Disability accommodations are not retroactive but go into effect at the point these conditions have been met.

The Role of the Student Disability Services Office

The Student Disability Services Office (SDS) will establish appropriate medical and psycho-educational documentation requirements for students and will determine from that documentation whether the student meets the legal definition of having a disability.  Updated documentation will be required periodically for medical or psychological disorders that are subject to change.  All medical reports and disability documentation will be confidentially maintained by SDS for a period of five years after the studentís last semester of enrollment, at which time the file will be distroyed by acceptable methods. 

SDS professional staff will determine, on an individual basis, any academic accommodations, auxiliary aids, academic adjustments, curriculum modifications  or support services for which a student may be eligible.  This determination is based on the functional limitations imposed by the disability in relation to the requirements of a particular course or program of study.  Some students may meet the legal definition of having a disability and be legally protected from disability discrimination but may not qualify for disability accommodations if the functional limitations of the disability do not affect the academic tasks or activities required.    

SDS will make information readily available on disability services and how to obtain them to prospective and current students.  Each semester SDS staff will develop a semester plan with each student who requests services and/or academic accommodations for that semester.  The student is responsible for scheduling the semester plan appointment after he/she has registered for classes each semester.  The semester plan will include all the anticipated academic accommodations, auxiliary aids and support services the student will need to have an opportunity to effectively participate in the educational process for the given semester.   

SDS will be responsible for arranging, coordinating and/or providing the specific individual services incorporated into the semester plan which are necessary to the studentís effective participation in the educational process.  Such services include, but are not limited to, preparing memos to faculty regarding the studentís classroom accommodations; ordering books on tape; arranging notetakers, readers, interpreters, and tutors;  preparing alternative format materials such as Braille, large print, tape recordings, scanned text and tactile diagrams; loaning special equipment to students such as notetaking devices, assistive listening devices, 4-track tape players, cassette recorders, electronic spellers, talking calculators;  providing training and support on assistive computer technology in the Adaptive Technology Lab; preparing an emergency evacuation list of the classroom and campus housing locations of wheelchair users; and scheduling regular support meetings with students.

SDS professional staff are responsible for evaluating requests for disability related curriculum adjustments to determine if the request is reasonable and justified or if there is another effective accommodation available that would allow the student access.  In situations where academic course adjustments or curriculum modifications may present questions about essential requirements or fundamental alteration of a particular course or program, SDS professional staff will consult with the appropriate departmental faculty and college administrators prior to making recommendations regarding such adjustments or modifications.

SDS will also serve as a resource to faculty, staff and administrators as they work with students with disabilities in their respective areas or deal with campus wide disability issues.

Academic Access and Faculty Responsibility

The University is responsible for making reasonable academic adjustments and for providing reasonable services and accommodations to qualified students with disabilities to ensure nondiscrimination.  All adjustments, services and accommodations will be determined on an individual basis and based on the functional limitations inherent to the disability or described in the medical and/or psycho-educational documentation provided to the Student Disability Services Office.

Academic colleges, departments and faculty will make reasonable classroom accommodations, course adjustments and academic program modifications as necessary to provide opportunity for qualified students with disabilities to effectively participate in the educational process.  These types of academic adjustments may include, but are not limited to, adaptation of teaching methods, test accommodations, allowing the use of auxiliary aids in the classroom, alternative assignments within a course, substitution of a non-essential course, and changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of course or degree requirements.

It is not necessary to alter academic requirements that can be demonstrated as essential to the program of instruction, that would fundamentally alter the nature of the course or program, that are directly related to a licensing or certification requirement or that would create undue administrative or financial burden.  The question of undue burden will be determined by the President or his/her designee and will be based on the overall resources of the University rather than resources of the individual department involved.    

Academic Integrity

The University has the right to establish criteria for its general education program, academic majors and requirements for its various degree programs. Academic departments have the responsibility to establish essential requirements and technical standards for their academic programs and must be able to justify those requirements if challenged in the course of determining reasonable adjustments for qualified students with disabilities.

Any academic accommodation, adjustment, modification, substitution or other alternative method employed to provide disability access should be conducted in a manner that will maintain the spirit of academic integrity.  Care should be given to ensure an equally demanding and academically rigorous program for students with disabilities as that provided to other students.  While it is necessary at times to have differences in specific requirements and in methods of evaluation, the overall level of academic challenge for students with disabilities should be comparable to that of other students.

Integrated Settings

All services, programs and activities offered by the University are to be administered in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified students with disabilities.  Separate or different programs are permissible only when there is no other feasible way to provide an effective accommodation for qualified students with disabilities.  Even when separate programs are permitted, qualified students with disabilities cannot be denied the opportunity to participate in programs that are not separate and different.

Confidentiality of Disability

Disability information is confidential and should not be released without written consent of the student.  In certain situations, it may be permissible to share disability information on a need-to-know basis, such as with an administrator in the process of negotiating accommodations.  Disability information will not appear on the studentís official academic transcript.

Voluntary Acceptance of Disability Services

Students with disabilities may not be required to accept an accommodation, aid, service, opportunity or a separate program designed specifically for them, even when the benefit to do so may be obvious.  Such services accepted by students must be done so strictly on a voluntary basis.


If students have grievances relating to disability access to facilities, programs, services or accommodations, they should first discuss their concerns with the Director of Student Disability Services.  If the Director is unable to resolve the issue to the studentís satisfaction, the student should contact the ADA Compliance Officer.  If the ADA Compliance Officer is unable to resolve the issue to the studentís satisfaction, the student may follow the Student Appeal Procedure for Discrimination outlined in the Student Handbook.


Revision Dates

 UM1480 supercedes 1:2E:07:01, 2E:07:01A & 2E:07:01B

Subject Areas:

AcademicFinanceGeneralHuman ResourcesInformation SystemsStudent Affairs