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Center for Disability & Access

Student Handbook

Center for Disability & Access - Student Handbook

The Center for Disability & Access (CDA) Student Handbook is intended as a resource for students, prospective students, parents, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders regarding disability and the role of CDA at the University of Utah.

The University of Utah is mandated by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended in 2008), and University policy, to provide appropriate and reasonable accommodations to students who qualify for services through the Center for Disability & Access.

The Center for Disability & Access is the designated office of the University of Utah which evaluates disability documentation, determines eligibility, and implements reasonable accommodations for enrolled students.

The law does not require the University of Utah to lower its academic standards or alter the essential elements of courses and programs for students with disabilities. The intent of the law and purpose of academic accommodations is to provide an equal opportunity for students with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Examples of major life activities include: caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, sitting, standing, lifting, and mental and emotional processes such as thinking, concentrating, and interacting with others.

The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity depends on the nature and severity of the impairment, the duration or expected duration of the impairment, and the permanent or long-term impact of the impairment.

For additional information about the applicable laws, please refer to:

Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education

The Center for Disability & Access is dedicated to students with disabilities by providing the opportunity for success and equal access at the University of Utah. We are committed to providing reasonable accommodations as outlined by Federal and State law. We also strive to create a safe and respectful environment by promoting awareness, knowledge and equal access under the law.  We aspire to impact positive change for students and the campus community.

Equal Access, Respect, Knowledge, Independence, Self-Advocacy, and Leading Edge Technology

  • Provide appropriate and reasonable accommodations to eligible students.
  • Develop students as a whole by providing services and resources that encourage self-advocacy, independence, wellness, knowledge, and balance.
  • Promote a safe and accessible environment for students with disabilities through outreach, education, and increasing awareness.
  • Engage in activities that further our knowledge and skills in the use of best practices in the areas of disability and higher education.
  • Actively implement and utilize technology that improves our ability to assist students with disabilities.
  • Foster success and belonging of all student at the university by recruiting and retaining student with disabilities.
  • Assess and evaluate our services to increase our effectiveness.

University of Utah students experiencing academic difficulties as a result of a disability should contact the Center for Disability & Access to request assistance and support.  Please contact CDA as soon as possible since accommodations are not retroactive!

The process may take a bit of time to complete, so plan ahead and apply early!

The following is a link to a description and start of the process for admitted students to apply for accommodations at the University of Utah.

How to Qualify for Services

University of Utah students requesting accommodations and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 must provide information and documentation of a disability and of the need for disability-related accommodations.
Documentation submitted to the Center for Disability & Access (CDA) must indicate that a specific condition exists and that the condition substantially limits one or more major life activity (e.g. walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, breathing, learning, etc.). A diagnosis of a condition alone does not automatically qualify a student for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The documentation should demonstrate that the condition rises to the level of a disability.
The following is a link to details regarding the documentation needed to become eligible for accommodations.

Approved accommodations must be requested by students at the start of each semester through the CDA Online Portal
Accommodations are not automatically sent to instructors, but only done so when requested by the student.
Accommodations are implemented on a semester-by-semester and class-by-class basis.

Rights, Responsibilities, and Expectations

  • The responsibility to identify themselves as having a disability, request accommodations, and provide documentation to the Center for Disability & Access.
  • The responsibility to maintain the same academic and behavioral standards as all students at the University.
    Policy 6-400: Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities (“Student Code”)
  • The responsibility to maintain regular contact with their CDA advisor to request and assist in implementing accommodations.
  • The responsibility to follow CDA policies and procedures associated with each accommodation.
  • The responsibility to inform the Center for Disability & Access when a requested and approved accommodation is not being provided, or when an accommodation is not effective, to discuss the situation and potential options.
  • The right to participate in the University experience without fear of or experiencing discrimination due to a disability.
  • The right to reasonable and appropriate accommodations which ensure equal access to programs, services, and activities.

  • The responsibility to provide information about services and accommodations available to students with disabilities, and the procedures to request services.
  • The responsibility to set criteria for disability documentation and to evaluate that documentation in a consistent and individualized manner.
  • The right and responsibility to determine reasonable and appropriate accommodations based upon the limitation of a student’s disability.
  • The right to deny a request for accommodation if the student’s documentation does not support the modification or accommodation requested, if the student fails to provide appropriate documentation, or if the request is determined unreasonable or imposes an undue hardship on the University.
  • The responsibility to work with the student, staff, and faculty to ensure that approved accommodations are implemented.
  • The responsibility to ensure its programs, activities and facilities are accessible.

  • The right to ask for verification from the Center for Disability & Access when the student requests an accommodation in their course or program.
  • The responsibility to inform the student of the procedure to request accommodations.
  • The responsibility to maintain confidentiality about any information disclosed in discussions with the student or their Disabilities Advisor.
  • The right to consult the Center for Disability & Access to discuss requested accommodations.
  • The responsibility to provide accommodations in a timely manner once they have been verified by the Center for Disability & Access.
  • The responsibility to inform students that all course material can be made available in alternative format with prior request.
  • The right and responsibility to identify and determine the abilities, skills and knowledge that are essential and fundamental to academic programs and courses. (These standards are not subject to modification based upon disability.)
  • The right to expect the student with a disability to meet the same academic standards as peers in the course. (Faculty are not entitled to know the diagnosis of a student and should not ask students to disclose the specifics of their disability.)
  • Paperwork related to accommodations (i.e. accommodation forms and memos) should be considered confidential and be kept separate from a student's departmental file.

Faculty are not permitted to deny an approved accommodation issued by the Center for Disability & Access without engaging with CDA to discuss their concerns.

For more information regarding ADA policies at the University of Utah please see refer to the Office of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Title IX.


The University of Utah follows the guidelines for confidentiality and security of documentation outlined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Center for Disability & Access is the designated office at the University of Utah authorized to maintain student disability records. Once documentation pertaining to a student’s disability is provided to the Center for Disability & Access it is considered part of the student’s educational record and covered by the regulations of FERPA.

The documentation contained within a student’s file at the Center for Disability & Access is held confidential and is not released except upon written request of the student, when disclosure is required by law, or when it is necessary to facilitate legitimate University processes.

Additional information about privacy and confidentiality of CDA student records is available in our FAQ section of this website.

Frequently Asked Questions

For student are requesting access to their student records, the University has established procedures for granting a student’s request for access to his/her records within a reasonable time (no more than 45 days and often much sooner). Find additional information at the link below.

FERPa/privacy rights/student directory info

The accommodations and services offered to students through the Center for Disability & Access at the University of Utah are determined by the CDA case management team on a case-by-case basis and are dependent upon the documentation provided, current impact of the student's disability, and essential elements of courses and programs.

For additional information about the types of accommodations that may be available, please review our Accommodations and Services section of the website.

Accommodations and services

Temporary medical conditions that are expected to be resolved in a matter of a few days, weeks, or months (e.g. a broken arm or leg, common cold or flu, etc.) are typically not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When a student experiences a temporary condition, they are encouraged to work with instructors to seek flexibility and to make arrangements for assistance. However, students are welcome to come in to CDA to explore whether or not services might be available.

The differences in the application and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are significant when comparing the secondary (elementary, junior high, and high school) and postsecondary (college and university) settings. It is essential for new students coming to the University to understand the differences.

At the secondary level, schools districts are required to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all children, including those with disabilities. School districts are also expected to identify student’s educational needs and provide any regular or special education services necessary to meet those needs. Additionally, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), significant changes can be made to educational and academic standards and content of courses in moving towards graduation. The focus of the law at the secondary level is on ensuring student success.

At the postsecondary level, colleges and universities are not required to provide a free and appropriate public education, the IDEA does not directly apply, and IEP plans are not used. Instead, the focus of the law is on ensuring equal access and opportunity by providing reasonable and appropriate accommodations. However, colleges and universities are not required to lower standards or change the essential elements of programs or courses. For example, an appropriate accommodation at the university level might be to allow extended time for a student to take an exam, but it would not be appropriate to change the type or format of an exam.

Linked below is a valuable resource available to students to assist in understanding the differences between the secondary and postsecondary level is a publication by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, entitled “Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities.” 

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

The admissions requirements and standards apply to all prospective students who apply to the University of Utah, regardless of ability or disability. Those requirements may change from year to year and students who do not meet the requirements are encouraged to contact the admissions office to inquire about alternative admission options, (Admissions Office, 250 SSB, (801) 581-7281 or The University of Utah does not make pre-admission inquiries regarding disability and must not deny admission on the basis of disability.

The Center for Disability & Access (CDA) reviews student requests for accommodations on a case-by-case basis to promote equal access at the University of Utah.  Accommodations are determined through an individualized and interactive process to develop services that are reasonable and appropriate.  Students must notify CDA when problems or barriers related to receiving or implementing accommodations occur.

Students who have questions or concerns regarding decisions made about their case, the approval process, eligibility for services, and the determination of reasonable of accommodations, should review our Informal and Formal Grievance Process on our website.

Grievance Process

If a student feels that they have experienced discrimination at the University of Utah, they should contact the University of Utah, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action or the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

Office of Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action
The University of Utah

201 South Presidents Circle
John Park Building, Room 135
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
(801) 581-8365
FAX (801) 585-5746
Office of Equal Opportunity

Office for Civil Rights (Denver Office)
U.S. Department of Education

Cesar E. Chavez Memorial Building
1244 Speer Boulevard, Suite 310
Denver, CO 80204-3582
(303) 844-5695
FAX (303) 844-4303



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Last Updated: 6/28/24