ADA general questions.

What is the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law signed in 1990 and amended in 2008 that protects the rights of people with disabilities and prevents discrimination on the basis of disability. It requires employers, local and state governments, and providers of public services to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.

What is considered a disability under the ADA?

Under the ADA, a disability is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.” The ADA does not list every disability. It defines disability as

  1. a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (i.e. working, talking, hearing, seeing, thinking, communicating, caring for one’s self, major bodily functions)
  2. the record of such an impairment (for example, someone having recovered from cancer or a serious illness)
  3. being regarded by others as having an impairment (such as individuals with severe facial scarring)

Examples of specific impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities include: deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, partially or completely missing limbs, mobility impairments, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

Who is a qualified person with a disability?

A qualified person with a disability is a person who satisfies all of the prerequisites and can perform the essential functions of the position either with or without a reasonable accommodation.

What does it mean to be substantially limiting?

According to the EEOC, an impairment “substantially limits” a major life activity if the person is either:

  • unable to perform a major life activity that the average person in the general public can perform, or
  • is significantly restricted as to the condition, manner or duration under which s/he performs the activity as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which the average person in the general public performs the activity

The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity must be made without regard to mitigating measures including but not limited to: medication, prosthetics, hearing devices or mobility devices.

What are major life activities?

Major life activities are activities that are fundamental to life and that the average person can perform with little or no difficulty including, but not limited to: caring for oneself, walking, talking, breathing, sitting, lifting, seeing, performing manual tasks, reaching, learning, speaking, working, standing, etc.

Major life activities also include the operation of a major bodily function including, but not limited to: normal cell growth as well as functions of the immune, neurological and endocrine systems.

To be covered under the ADA, the person must have an impairment that significantly limits one or more of these major life activities. The examples listed above are not exhaustive.

What are essential functions?

Essential functions are tasks that are fundamental (not marginal or trivial) to the performance of the job.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is one that allows the person with a disability to participate in a comparable way as those without disabilities (for example, making an employee able to perform essential job functions) without imposing “undue hardship.” (see following FAQ). A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables an otherwise qualified applicant or employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job. It is the employee’s responsibility to request the accommodation and to supply the proper medical documentation supporting the need for such modification.

What is an undue hardship?

Undue hardship is 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. The size of the organization is typically considered, as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization.

How do UF employees request reasonable accommodations? What about job applicants?

If you are an employee having difficulties performing the essential functions of your job due to a medical condition (or you are a job applicant needing assistance in applying for a job or needing assistance during the candidate vetting process), contact the Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity, email:, phone: 352-273-1094, TTY: 1-800-955-8771, fax: 352-392-5268, or make an appointment to meet at 1908 Stadium Road, 427 Yon Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Please note:

Students in need of assistance regarding coursework should contact the Disability Resource Center

What employees are protected under the ADA?

All qualified employees who have a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities are protected from illegal discrimination. Furthermore, if the condition affects the individual’s ability to perform essential job functions, the employee may request a reasonable accommodation. Other individuals who are protected under the ADA include those who have a record of a disability and/or those who are regarded as having a disability.

What about service animals and the ADA?

Service animals are defined as dogs (or in some cases a miniature horses) that are individually training to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.  Service animals are working animals, not pets.  The work or task a service animal has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. A dog (or other animal) whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. For more information, review UF Regulation 2.021, Animals Prohibited in Buildings or contact UF’s Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity, email:; phone: 352-273-1098.

Do service animals have to wear a vest or patch or special harness identifying them as service animals?

No. The ADA does not require service animals to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness.

Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places. You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

What can I do if I encounter an accessibility issue on campus?

If an individual encounters an access issue or barrier on campus, they can report it to the Office for Accessibility and Gender Equity using the ADA Report a Barrier Form located at the link below.

ADA Report a Barrier Form