Terms & Definitions

Polices & Procedures

Terms & Definitions


Federal law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts the conditions, manner, or duration under which an average person in the general population can perform a major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, or taking care of oneself. An impairment or diagnosis, in and of itself, does not constitute a disability: it must "substantially limit" activities of daily living.

Disabilities do not necessarily impair the individual's performance but may require the individual to seek alternate methods of carrying out a given task. As a recipient of federal funding, the University of Chicago is required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide effective auxiliary aids and services for qualified students with documented disabilities if such aids are needed to provide equitable access to the University's programs and services. This includes academic programs as well as extracurricular activities.

Reasonable Accommodation

It is easier to say what is NOT reasonable. The following three kinds of accommodations that are not considered reasonable:

(1) if making the accommodation means making a substantial change in an essential nature of a program or element of the curriculum;
(2) if it poses an undue financial or administrative burden and
(3) if they create a direct threat to the health or safety of others

Auxiliary Aids and Services

Auxiliary Aids and Services are broad terms, including such considerations as but not limited to: 

  • Adjustable lighting
  • Sound amplification
  • Note-takers
  • ASL interpretation
  • Speech to text interpretation
  • Use of a computer for in-class exams and in-class writing assignments
  • A reduced distraction environment, whenever possible, for in-class exams
  • Extra time for in-class examinations and in-class writing assignments
  • Alternative book and test formats

Auxiliary Aids and Services are tailored to an individual's situation, taking into account the nature of their disability, their prior experience with specific academic adjustment or modification, and the context of the learning environment and course content.