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Disability Resources & Laws

Determining a Disability

An impairment as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act is a disability which substantially limits one or more major life activity. Factors to be considered are:

  • Its nature and severity
  • Its duration – how long it will last or is expected to last
  • Its permanent/long term or expected impact

A major life activity is an activity that the average person can perform with little or no difficulty. Examples are walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, caring for oneself, sitting, standing, lifting. Factors to be considered are:

  • What is the specific barrier to access?
  • How does the barrier impact functioning?
  • Is the accommodation request reasonable and appropriate?

Disability Categories

  • Learning Disabilities: e.g., limited ability to receive, process, store, or respond to information, or to speak, listen, think, read, write, spell, or compute.
  • Neurological Impairment: e.g., attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, brain injury, brain tumor, carpal tunnel syndrome, cerebral palsy, Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Visually Impaired: Legally Blind, and Blind
  • Mobility Impairment: e.g., arthritis, polio, spinal cord injuries, scoliosis, and other conditions that cause mobility difficulties or result in the use of a cane or wheelchair
  • Temporary Disabilities: e.g., a treatable impairment of mental or physical faculties that may impede the affected person from functioning normally while he or she is under treatment
  • Medical Conditions: e.g., asthma, diabetes, cancer, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, lupus, heart disease, Charon’s Disease, sickle cell anemia, epilepsy
  • Psychological Conditions: e.g., anxiety disorder, depression, mania, manic-depression, schizophrenia, recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Chronic Weakness and Fatigue: Some medical conditions are characterized by chronic weakness and fatigue. A student may exhibit drowsiness, fatigue, impairments of memory, or slowness due to medication side effects.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 along with the Amendments Act of 2008, which was signed into law on September 25, 2008 and became effective January 1, 2009, prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states: “[n]o otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States... shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance...”

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as
“...a person who has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities,...”

The term “qualified,” in post-secondary education, means that the student meets the academic and technical standards required for participation in the class, program, or activity but has a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, including, but not limited to, caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, and working. Major life activities may also include school-related tasks such as learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, and communicating. Major life activities also include the operation of “major bodily functions,” including, but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

Thus, colleges and universities are required to make reasonable accommodations in their practices, policies and procedures, and to provide auxiliary aids and services for persons with disabilities, unless to do so would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations they offer or would result in an undue financial or administrative burden on the institution.

Source: A Guide to Disability Rights Laws

Additional Resources


Accessibility Services Office

Amend Hall, Lower Level, GR-05
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Phone: (914) 633-2366
Fax: (914) 633-2616

Director: Daneshea Palmer
Coordinator: Emily Brechtel