Frequently Asked Questions

The resources outlined below provide information and guidance regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other state and federal laws protecting people with disabilities.

What is a Disability?

  • It is important to remember that in the context of the ADA, “disability” is a legal term rather than a medical one. Because it has a legal definition, the ADA’s definition of disability is different from how disability is defined under some other laws, such as for Social Security Disability related benefits.
  • The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.
  • Disabilities present themselves in many forms. Some are visible but most are not apparent. Non-visible disabilities include partial sensory impairments, such as low vision or hearing loss, chronic medical conditions, mental health conditions, and learning disabilities.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 million of 68 million families in our country have a member with disabilities. People with disabilities are the largest minority of the U.S. population.
What is an Accommodation?

  • An accommodation is any change, alteration or modification to the way things are customarily done that provides an equal opportunity. Examples of accommodations include, but are not limited to, sign language interpreters, materials in alternative formats (such as braille, different font size or digital format), preferential seating or changes to room layout, designated ADA parking, modified work schedules, and assistive listening devices.
What is an “undue hardship” that would make an accommodation not reasonable?

  • An employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. "Undue hardship" is defined as an "action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation.
  • Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis. Where the facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger organization would be considered, as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization. In general, a larger employer with greater resources would be expected to make accommodations requiring greater effort or expense than would be required of a smaller employer with fewer resources.
  • If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship. Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation.
What is Assistive Technology?

  • Assistive technologies, sometimes referred to as adaptive technologies or rehabilitative devices, promote greater independence for individuals with disabilities by changing how these individuals interact with technology.  For example, speech recognition software allows users with hand mobility issues to interact with a computer using voice commands rather than manipulating a mouse and keyboard. Other assistive technologies include alternative input devices, screen magnifiers and screen reading software.
What is Digital Accessibility?

  • Digital accessibility refers to digital products or devices that are designed such that individuals with disabilities can successfully use them. This might include features such as screen readers that read all text aloud for a user with visual impairments, closed-captioning on videos for individuals with hearing impairments, images that include "alt text" for individuals with visual impairments, and websites that are navigable by keyboard for users who may not be able to operate a mouse.
How do I know if an animal is a Service Animal or a pet?

  • To determine if an animal is a service animal, you may ask two questions:
    1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
    2. What work or task has the dog been trained to  perform?

  • You may not ask these questions if the need for the service animal is obvious. Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair. You also may not:
    •    Ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability.
    •    Require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal.
    •    Require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag.
    •    Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work.

  • Under the ADA, it is training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals. Some service animals may be professionally trained; others may have been trained by their owners.  However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

  • The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity has the right to ask that the dog be removed. A business also has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, if a service dog barks repeatedly or growls at customers, it could be asked to leave.

  • Service animals in-training are not specifically addressed in the ADA.  However, Louisiana state law affords service animals in-training the same protections as service animals that have completed their training.

  • For Tulane’s policy on Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals in University housing, see the campus policy.

How do I report disability discrimination at Tulane?

Where can I find more information on my rights under the ADA and Section 504?

ADA National Network:

The ADA National Network provides information, guidance and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN):

JAN is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.

  • For more information, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-526-7234.

The Southwest ADA Center:

  • Is the Southwest's leading resource on the Americans with Disabilities Act and related disability rights laws. The Center is part of the ADA National Network funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

Louisiana Governor's Office:

  • The Office of Governor John Bel Edwards Maintains a Disability Affairs Resources page with links to Louisiana-based resources.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC is one of the federal agencies charged with enforcing the ADA.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ)

  • The DOJ also enforces the ADA.  DOJ’s Civil Rights Division provides information and technical assistance on the ADA at

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

*Source materials include: ADA National Network (; Cornell University (;; Job Accommodations Network (

If you have any questions about the ADA, reasonable accommodations, or require assistance completing the request form, please contact the Job Accommodations Specialist, Alisha Lanae' Williams by phone at 504-247-1774, by fax at 504-862-8435 or by email at