The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations in all areas of civilian life, including employment and educational programs.
Title II of the ADA specifically prohibits discrimination from programs and institutions that receive federal funding, and students that believe that they have been discriminated against because of their disability have the right to file a federal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of The Department of Education.
Under the ADA, a person has a disability if they have at least one of the following:
- physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits” one or more”major life activities”;
- a record of such an impairment; or
- regarded as having such an impairment
- Students with disabilities have certain rights to academic, and living accommodations, and for survivors of sexual violence, Title II goes hand in hand with Title IX.
Title II and Sexual Assault
According to the 2006 American College Health Association Survey, 45 percent of college women and 36 percent of college men showed symptoms of depression that made functioning as a student very difficult. In addition, Almost one-third (31%) of survivors of assault develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sometime during their lifetime.
Both depression and PTSD are covered as disabilities under Title II of the ADA, as are bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia among other psychiatric illnesses. Unfortunately, rarely are survivors connected to appropriate resources or informed that they have rights.
In addition to requiring students to be given certain rights, the ADA also bars institutions from using someone’s disability to disqualify them from access to an education program and form using their disability against them in the context of a sexual assault complaint investigation.
A student’s history of depression, anxiety, or even suicidal ideation should not be used to discredit their report of sexual or interpersonal violence.
Title II in the Classroom
The Department of Education requires colleges and universities to provide students with appropriate academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the school’s program.
Examples of auxiliary aids that may be required are taped texts, notetakers, interpreters, readers, and specialized computer equipment.
In addition, schools should provide testing accommodation, assignment extensions, and opportunities for students to request medical incompletes for their courses, or request medical withdrawals – which should be available to disabled students, even past traditional course drop periods, and should not adversely affect a student’s transcript.
If you are a student employee, you have Title II protections, too.
Your employer has to make a reasonable accommodation only if they know about your mental illness.
If an employee with a known disability is having a hard time doing their job, an employer may ask whether the employee is in need of reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot ask questions about your medical or psychiatric history during an interview.
Examples of reasonable accommodations for people with a psychiatric disability:
– Providing self-paced workloads and flexible hours
– Modifying job responsibilities
– Allowing leave during periods of hospitalization or incapacity
– Assigning a supportive and understanding supervisor
– Modifying work hours to allow people to attend appointments with their psychiatrist
– Providing easy access to supervision and supports in the workplace
– Providing frequent guidance and feedback about job performance