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Home » Campus Offices » Disability Services » Disability Laws, Definitions, and Policies

Disability Laws, Definitions, and Policies

Last updated April 07, 2021

Statement of Policy

Morningside University is committed to providing equal educational opportunities for qualified students with disabilities in accordance with state and federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

A disability is a mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. A qualified student with a disability is a student who meets the academic and technical standards for admission or participation (e.g., all essential nonacademic admissions criteria) in an educational program or activity, with or without reasonable accommodation.

A reasonable accommodation (sometimes called a “modification”) IS:

  • A change or adjustment to the education environment necessary to afford an equal opportunity to access and/or participate in an educational program or activity. In other words, a reasonable accommodation is to “level the playing field” for students with disabilities and provide equal access to University’s programs and activities.
  • Prospective, not retroactive. Accommodations will not generally reverse performance or behavioral concerns which arose prior to the requested accommodation.

Reasonable accommodations might include the provision of academic adjustments or auxiliary aids and services.


A reasonable accommodation (sometimes called a “modification”) IS NOT:

  • A fundamental alteration of the essential characteristics or nature of a program or activity. For instance, an accommodation cannot compromise the academic integrity of a course and/or program by significantly changing the course, program, or experience. Students are expected to meet these essential qualifications, standards, and requirements, with or without reasonable accommodation.
  • The exact accommodation requested. The University may provide alternate accommodations to those requested as long as they are reasonable and effective to make the University’s programs, activities, services, and facilities accessible to that individual.
  • One that constitutes an undue hardship or burden, meaning that the accommodation would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial or disruptive. Among the factors to be considered in determining whether an accommodation is an undue hardship are the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the overall size, financial resources and the nature and structure of a department’s operation.

In most situations, it is the responsibility of the student to notify the University of the need for an accommodation due to a disability. The University's Disability Services Coordinator is then responsible for working with qualified students, in consultation with other members of the University community as necessary, to identify, facilitate, and provide appropriate academic accommodations and auxiliary aids and services.


Determining if a Student Qualifies for Services through the Office of Disability Services at Morningside University

As stated above, it is generally the responsibility of the student to notify the University of the need for an accommodation due to a disability. When a request for accommodation is made, it is the responsibility of the University’s Disability Services Coordinator to determine whether the student is a qualified individual with a disability eligible for accommodation – other faculty and staff shall not make this determination. 

The University requires an interview with students requesting accommodations before requests for services or accommodations are considered. The University may request reasonable, current, and comprehensive written documentation of a student’s disability from a licensed clinical professional or health care provider familiar with the student’s functional limitations. The University reserves the right to ask for additional documentation if the professional is a relative, friend, or family, or the documentation is older than two years. Additionally, although an IEP and 504 Plan provides valuable information used to discuss appropriate accommodations, students still must provide documentation requested by the University, including current documentation from a health care professional/provider. 

In the course of this interactive process, the student and the Disability Services Coordinator will determine if the student can be reasonably accommodated without fundamentally altering the nature of an academic course or program, or otherwise causing an undue burden on the University.


Academic Standards

As noted above, approved reasonable accommodations should not lessen course requirements, reduce academic standards, or fundamentally alter a course, educational program, or activity. If an instructor is concerned that any of a student’s approved accommodations may fundamentally alter a course requirement or otherwise compromise the integrity of their course, the instructor should discuss alternative solutions with the student or the Disability Services Coordinator.


Release of Information

Morningside University recognizes student’s privacy and the federal law regarding the confidentiality of students’ educational records. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a student’s “education records” records are confidential. Under most circumstances, your education records cannot be released without your written and signed consent. In order to authorize the University’s Disability Services office to receive and review records relevant to providing student disability services, students are asked to complete the following form:

Acknowledgment for Use of Information

Please note that parents are a wonderful source of support and students are encouraged to have open communications with their parents or other significant family members. However, students over the age of eighteen are legal adults, and are responsible for the student’s own accommodation requests and disability-related decisions.


Student Life Accommodations

Services and activities are provided to Morningside’s students outside educational programs, such as campus housing, health services, financial aid, student employment, placement services, orientation, registration, library access, recreation, food services, student activity programs, student organizations, commencement, and other cultural and social programs and activities. Qualified students with disabilities who need accommodations/modifications for equal access to these services and activities are generally expected to request accommodations through the Disability Services office.


Accommodations in the Application Process

Qualified applicants for admission with disabilities will not, unlawfully on the basis of a disability, be denied admission or be subjected to unlawful discrimination in admission or recruitment activities. If an applicant needs accommodations to participate in the application and/or enrollment process, the applicant should contact the University’s Disability Services Coordinator.


Additional Related Laws & Policies

Americans with Disabilities Act

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973