The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Accessible Workplace

The Accessible Workplace unit within the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access (EOA) of Human Resources is responsible for administering reasonable workplace accommodations for faculty and staff through an interactive process. This process begins with employees requesting employment-related accommodations to the Accessible Workplace Office either through email accessibleworkplace@umass.edu or in-person, to arrange an intake meeting. Please note not all requests require an intake meeting especially if the request is straight forward and provided the employee has submitted medical documentation supporting their request.

Examples include but not limited to:

  • requesting proximity parking for medical/temporary disability or pregnancy-related conditions
  • requesting ergonomic equipment - unless specialized equipment is needed
  • purchasing assistive technologies (ex. Dragon speech software, screen readers)
  • interpretation or translation services for meetings
  • migraine accommodations (ex. removal of fluorescent lighting from work area)

As part of the process, employees are encouraged to submit a Reasonable Accommodation Request Form (see below) along with their initial email or in advance of their meeting.

Accessible Workplace Accommodation Request Form (pdf)

A completed Reasonable Accommodation Request Form (pdf) can be emailed to accessibleworkplace@umass.edu or faxed to 413-545-0802.

EOA ADA Accommodation Process 

The EOA step-by-step process for requesting accommodations is detailed below: 

  1. Employee informs their supervisor about the need for a job accommodation. (Note the employee does not have to disclose any medical/ mental health condition that relates to the need for an accommodation to their supervisor. The supervisor should refer employee to the Equal Opportunity and Access Office (EOA) for the ADA accommodation process.
    • Alternatively, the supervisor may be aware of an actual or potential need for an accommodation based on visual observation: assistive device in use, visible pregnancy, overhears employee complain about condition. Supervisor should let employee know of the  EOA office and ADA accommodation process. EOA encourages supervisors to contact HR and/or EOA when this situation presents itself.
       
  2. Employee and supervisor can have a discussion of the type of accommodation(s) that may be needed. This is perfectly acceptable where the requested accommodation is de minimus, i.e. a request for a lamp rather than have fluorescent lights on (migraine mitigation) or an expressed need for an ergonomic keyboard / mouse. The supervisor (or local area HR) should put the accommodation in place. The supervisor should also encourage the employee to register their disability and need for accommodation with EOA.
     
  3. Requesting employees should complete the EOA Reasonable Accommodation Request PDF Form that can be found on this EOA webpage:  Reasonable Accommodation Request Form (PDF). We ask the requesting employee to fully complete the form and specify their accommodation request. (Note accommodations may not be fully approved if there are alternatives that can accommodate the employee’s needs). 
     
  4. The employee submits the completed Reasonable Accommodation Request form to: accessibleworkplace@umass.edu. Once received, EOA emails the employee an acknowledgment and instruction email that will include a link to a OneDrive shared folder. This is where the requesting employee will submit any medical documentation. This is a university IT requirement to safeguard health related information. EOA keeps all medical information received confidential.
     
  5. From here, the Accessible Workplace Specialist or designee will begin the interactive process. This may involve speaking/emailing with the employee to ensure there is no missing information or to ensure what is being requested is accurate.
    • Some employees may have difficulty identifying a reasonable and appropriate accommodation. EOA will work with the employee to have them understand that the EOA office will require the employee to provide medical documentation (letter from doctor, doctor’s notes, etc.) outlining how their condition effects day to day functioning.  EOA will explain to the employee that it is important for the doctor’s letter/notes to reflect the need for the requested accommodation. EOA will review their job duties, medical information, and other relevant information to suggest a reasonable and appropriate accommodation.   
       
  6. The Accessible Workplace Specialist or assigned EOA staff will reach out to the employee’s supervisor, local area HR Director and/or HR business Partner about the requested accommodation, whether it can be granted, if this is reasonable and/or appropriate, whether granting can or will cause unreasonable disruption to the workplace, and determine if there are other options for a reasonable accommodation. EOA will follow up with the employee with suggested alternatives.  
     
  7. The Accessible Workplace Specialist reviews the request and feedback from the employee, supervisors, and HR and issues a determination.
    • If the initial request is granted there will be an accommodation approval email sent out to the employee cc’ing supervisor, HR Business partner, or local area HR head.
    • The original request may be granted in whole, in part, modified or denied. If denied in whole or in part, the employee will be provided notice of their right to appeal the denial to the university’s ADA coordinator who will determine if the denial should stand, be modified or reversed. The requesting employee has 10 business days to appeal the decision.
    • The denial letter may inform the employee that though their requested accommodation was denied, they are free to request an alternative accommodation. 

Medical Documentation

Sufficient medical documentation may be needed to assist our office in helping the employee with their accommodation request. The EOA will work with the employee to have them understand that the EOA office may require the employee to provide medical documentation (letter from doctor, doctor's notes, etc.) outlining how their condition effects day to day functioning. EOA will explain to the employee that it is important for the doctor's letter/notes to reflect the need for the requested accommodation. EOA will review the employee's job duties, medical information, and other relevant information to suggest a reasonable and appropriate accommodation. 

What is considered “sufficient” medical documentation? Sufficient medical documentation:

  • Describes the nature, severity, and duration of your disability, the activity(s) that the disability limits, and the extent to which the disability limits your ability to perform the activity(s);
  • Substantiates why the requested reasonable accommodation is needed;
  • Is provided by a healthcare provider qualified to diagnose in the appropriate area of specialization; 
  • Is on letterhead, typed, dated, signed, and otherwise legible; and
  • Is based on a current evaluation (unless the condition is chronic and there is no change to the employee’s condition).

Please note that all medical documentation will remain confidential with the EOA office. No medical documentation will be shared with the employee’s supervisor. Additionally, the EOA will not share any specific diagnosis. However, EOA may share information pertaining to the employee’s accommodation request so that the supervisor can be an active participant in the accommodation process. For example, the EOA may tell a supervisor that an employee has a medical condition which limits their ability to remain seated for more than an hour at a time.

 

Transitioning Back to Work from a Medical Leave of Absence

Employees seeking employment-related accommodations upon returning to work from a leave of absence in which the paperwork states long-term restrictions greater than six (6) months should follow the process noted above for a reasonable accommodation.    

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act, As Amended? The Americans with Disabilities Act, As Amended (ADAAA) is a federal law that provides protections for individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public access, and housing.  In the employment context, the ADAAA requires employers (such as UMass Amherst) to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities in order that they can do the essential functions of their job.

How does the ADAAA define disability? A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

  • An impairment includes any physiological disorder or condition; or any mental or psychological disorder such as an intellectual disability, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
  • Major life activity refers to activities that an average person can perform including, but not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, communicating, or interacting with others.

What is the definition of accommodation? An accommodation is any change in the work environment (or in the way things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the essential duties of the job, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment.  The elimination of an essential function of a position is not a reasonable accommodation.

What type of healthcare provider can provide documentation? Under federal regulations, a “healthcare provider” is defined as a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, podiatrist, dentist, chiropractor, clinical psychologist, optometrist, nurse practitioner, nurse-midwife, or a clinical licensed social worker, or a Christian Science practitioner.

Accessibility at UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst is fully committed to providing full and equal access to information and services for all current and potential members of our community. We embrace disability as a natural part of diversity and seek to build capacity to appreciate and value individual differences, including differences in ability, to create inclusive community. In addition to providing support and accommodations for faculty and staff through the Accessible Workplace Office, UMass Amherst offers accessibility support and assistance for the entire UMass Amherst community. These additional campus resources can be found at: Accessibility at UMass Amherst.

Accessible Workplace Contact Information:

The Accessible Workplace Office
Benjamin Colón
Accessible Workplace Specialist
Bartlett Hall Room 225
130 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003
E-mail: accessibleworkplace@umass.edu
Phone: 413-545-3464
Fax: 413-545-0802