The ADA provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of the University of Michigan. The University’s Standard Practice Guideline 201.84 EEO Affirmative Action Policy for Individuals with Disabilities states: “The University will provide reasonable accommodation to employees with known disabilities, if that is needed to enable them to perform their essential job duties.”

This website is intended to provide clarification and guidance on the interactive process in order to ensure that the University continues to fulfill its obligations under applicable state and federal law, federal regulations, and University policy.

If you have any questions or require additional information, please email the ADA Coordinator or call the Office for Institutional Equity at (734) 763-0235.

The university’s responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations via the interactive process extends to qualified faculty, staff, and applicants with disabilities. The following definitions can help clarify whether you fall within this category.

To whom does the ADA apply?

The ADA applies to any qualifies university faculty or staff member with a disability. This includes any type of faculty or staff (e.g., regular and temporary, probationary, student-employees, tenure and non-tenure, lecturers, graduate student instructors or research assistants, etc.).  The ADA’s protections also extend to job applicants.

Who is qualified?

The university’s responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations only applies to “qualified” individuals with disabilities. 

To be considered “qualified” under the ADA, the individual must be someone: (1) who satisfies the skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position, and (2) who, with or without a reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.

What is an Essential Function?

Essential job functions are the necessary job duties that a faculty or staff member is expected to perform in their role at the university. Removing any of them would result in a fundamental change to the position.

A task may be considered an essential job function where: (1) the position exists to perform the function; (2) there are a limited number of other employees available to perform the function; or (3) the function is highly specialized and the employee has been hired for his or her special expertise or ability to perform it.

Determining the essential functions of a particular position will require a fact-based assessment of the position. When evaluating whether a task is essential, it is important to consider the following: The content of the written job description, including any physical skills required to perform the job;

  • The amount of time spent performing the job function;
  • The consequence of not requiring the person to perform the function; 
  • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement; 
  • The work experience of current and past incumbents in the job; or
  • Other factors, such as the nature of the work operation and the department’s organizational structure.

It is important to note that employers may establish or change the content, nature, or functions of a job. Also, some positions may have fluid or rotating essential functions.

Any request for a reasonable accommodations from university faculty and staff is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The faculty or staff member and supervisor, manager, or Human Resources (HR) representative (collectively, the “university”) engage in the “interactive process” in order to determine what, if any, reasonable accommodations must be provided to the faculty or staff member.

What if a job function is not essential?

Any non-essential job functions are considered “marginal functions.” These duties may be marginal due to the fact that they are not performed as often or are not critical to the reason the job exists. While the university need not remove essential functions as an accommodation, marginal functions may be altered, removed, or assigned to another individual as a potential accommodation.

What is considered a “disability” under the ADA?

The determination of whether an individual has a disability is made on a case-by-case basis. 

There are some limitations as to what is or is not a disability under the ADA. Please contact the ADA Coordinator at the Office for Institutional Equity for additional information on whether a particular condition constitutes a disability.

Under applicable disability laws, an individual with a disability is a person who: 

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; 
  • has a record of such an impairment; or 
  • is regarded as having such an impairment. (Where an individual is “regarded as” having a disability, an employer need not provide a reasonable accommodation. An employee is only entitled to reasonable accommodations where they demonstrate an “actual disability” or “record of” a disability under the first two categories.)
What is considered a Major Life Activity?

To be considered a person with a disability under the first category, the condition must “substantially limit one or more major life activities.” An individual’s condition need not impact more than one major life activity to constitute a disability.

An individual’s condition need not impact more than one major life activity to constitute a disability. Examples of 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
  • working

Major life activities also include 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)

How do we know if a condition “substantially limits” a Major Life Activity?

Determining whether a condition is substantially limiting requires comparing the condition, manner, or duration in which an individual performs the major life activity as compared to most people in the general population.

A condition that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when the condition is active (e.g., epilepsy, cancer that is in remission, Crohn’s disease, or an allergy that causes limitations in breathing when triggered).