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Disability FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to disclose a disability?

You are not required to disclose your disability status, however, UMass Lowell requests that you voluntarily do so in order to support our Affirmative Action initiatives for persons with disabilities. For more information about this, please see this Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form (pdf). Disclosing your disability status is not the same thing as requesting an accommodation. If you wish to request an accommodation, UMass Lowell must review relevant information about your need for an accommodation, as part of an interactive process. If you choose to disclose your disability status, or if you request an accommodation, your status and disability information will be kept confidential.

Whom do I contact to disclose a disability?

Staff, faculty and applicants

Please complete this Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability Form (pdf) and provide it to:

Donna Vieweg
Phone: 978-934-3566
Human Resources and Equal Opportunity & Outreach
Wannalancit Mills, Suite 301
600 Suffolk Street, Lowell, MA 01854.


Student Disability Services
Phone: 978-934-4574

Counseling Services, a resource available for students with and without disabilities located in the Wellness Center at University Crossing
Phone: 978-934-4331

What is the legal definition of a person with a disability?

Federal laws define a person with a disability as "Any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment".

Each of these groups is protected from discrimination on the basis of disability. A person with an impairment which limits the person’s ability to perform the essential functions of the person’s job may request an accommodation. Applicants and students may also request an accommodation.

Substantially limiting” essentially means that one or a number of major life activities, including bodily functions, are affected by the disability. An individual's impairment must substantially limit one or more major life activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty.

Examples include:

  • Caring for oneself
  • performing manual tasks
  • seeing
  • hearing
  • eating
  • sleeping
  • walking
  • standing
  • lifting
  • bending
  • speaking
  • breathing
  • learning
  • reading
  • concentrating
  • thinking
  • communicating and
  • working.
  • Major bodily functions, include:
    • functions of the immune system
    • normal cell growth; and
    • digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.

This list does not include all possible effects that may result from a variety of disabling conditions.

How is a disability established under the ADAA?

Determining the existence of a disability:

Some disabilities are visible and clearly permanent. These individuals may not need to provide further documentation of a disability when requesting an accommodation. For others, a healthcare provider should indicate the nature of the disability to EOO, referring to the major life activities discussed above. Supervisors and faculty members should not attempt to determine whether an individual has a disability. Please contact Equal Opportunity and Outreach.

Determining an appropriate accommodation:

The healthcare provider determines whether the individual needs an accommodation to perform the essential functions of a position. Supervisors should not attempt to determine whether an accommodation is needed or what accommodations are appropriate. Instead, all inquiries should be made as follows:

EOO or Student Disability Services will begin an interactive process with the employee or student requesting an accommodation to learn about the employee or students needs and the most appropriate reasonable accommodation.

Can a person who has a family member with a disability be protected under the ADAA?

In some instances, yes. The ADAA protections extend to people who do not have disabilities themselves but are discriminated against on the basis of their association with a person with a disability. The association may be with family members, friends, or any other person. A person who experiences discrimination based on such an association has a right to protection under the ADA, but is not entitled to reasonable accommodation.

As a faculty or staff member, how do I request a reasonable accommodation?

  • Make an appointment with Donna Vieweg in Equal Opportunity and Outreach, 978-934-3566 for explanation of the process and to receive documentation for your health care provider.
  • Inform your health care provider that you have made a request for an accommodation at work.
  • If EOO requests further information, ask your health care provider to complete the documentation you receive from EOO staff.
  • Health care provider sends material directly to EOO.
  • EOO reviews documentation.
  • For classroom assignment accommodation requests, EOO contacts the Registrar's Office. For other requests, EOO contacts the supervisor to discuss feasibility. EOO does not divulge details about the disabling condition to supervisor.
  • If the request is feasible, EOO will work with the supervisor as appropriate in the implementation of the accommodation or a reasonable substitute that accomplishes the same result: allowing the employee to fulfill the essential functions of the job.

Can a request be denied even if the health care provider verifies that the disability has a substantially limiting effect on a major life activity?

Feasibility of a request will be carefully considered, taking into consideration the essential functions of the position. UMass Lowell does not deny a request merely because the accommodation poses a minor inconvenience. However, EOO may provide an accommodation different from the accommodation requested if EOO determines, as part of an interactive process, that it is appropriate and reasonable.

What are essential functions?

Essential functions are the aspects of the job that are so fundamental that, if removed, would change substantially change the nature and function of the job.

What are some additional examples of reasonable accommodation?

Modifications to:

  • The job application process
  • The way the job is performed
  • Working hours/work shift
  • Assistive technology
  • Work location
How do I request an accommodation related to a disability?

Please see the Disability Accommodations page.

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