Persons with Disabilities

As a public institution that receives federal funding, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is required to comply with the Americans’ with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Health Science Center is committed to providing a campus which is accessible to everyone. The information found below is intended to introduce your rights under these laws as well as present the UTHSC’s responsibilities.

What Is Prohibited Under Section 504 and the ADA?

Both Section 504 and the ADA prohibit covered entities from discriminating against persons with disabilities in the provision of benefits or services or the conduct of programs or activities on the basis of their disability.

Section 504 applies to programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title II of the ADA covers all of the services, programs, and activities conducted by public entities (state and local governments, departments, agencies, etc.), including licensing.

Who Is Protected Under Section 504 and the ADA?

Section 504 and the ADA protect qualified individuals with disabilities. An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.

Major life activities means functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.

Under Section 504 and the ADA, a person is a qualified individual with a disability if he or she meets the essential requirements for receipt of services or benefits, or participation in the programs or activities of a covered entity. The question of whether a particular condition is a disability within the meaning of Section 504 and the ADA is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Michael Alston,
ADA/Section 504 Coordinator
Office of Equity and Diversity
920 Madison, Suite 825
Memphis, TN 38163.
Telephone: 901-448-2112
Fax: 901-448-1120

What Is a "Physical or Mental Impairment"?

Physical or mental impairments include, but are not limited to: visual, speech, and hearing impairments; mental retardation, emotional illness, and specific learning disabilities; cerebral palsy; epilepsy; muscular dystrophy; multiple sclerosis; orthopedic conditions; cancer; heart disease; diabetes; and contagious and noncontagious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV disease (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic).

Specific Requirements of UT Health Science Center

UTHSC must not:

  • Establish eligibility criteria for receipt of services or participation in programs or activities that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, unless such criteria are necessary to meet the objectives of the program.
  • Provide separate or different benefits, services, or programs to individuals with disabilities, unless it is necessary to ensure that the benefits and services are equally effective.

UTHSC must:

  • Provide services and programs in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.
  • Make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, and procedures to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless it would result in a fundamental alteration in their program or activity.
  • Ensure that buildings are accessible.
  • Provide auxiliary aids to individuals with disabilities, at no additional cost, where necessary to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing, vision, or speech impairments. (Auxiliary aids include such services or devices as: qualified interpreters, assistive listening headsets, television captioning and decoders, telecommunications devices for the deaf [TDDs], videotext displays, readers, taped texts, brailled materials, and large print materials.)

Who to contact for information related to accommodations for students with disabilities?

Students seeking accommodations based on the impact of a disability must self-disclose, register and officially request accommodations with Student Academic Support Services. All requests for accommodations must be submitted with supporting documentation, which is then reviewed for reasonableness. Please refer to SASSI's Disability Services page for information regarding the documentation guidelines and procedures for officially requesting services. To set up an appointment to discuss specific needs, please contact Laurie Brooks, the Disability Coordinator in SASS at (901) 448-5056. All conversations regarding requests for accommodations are confidential.

Who to contact for accommodations for any other program, event or service outside of the classroom?

The Office of Equity and Diversity is responsible for the campus’ compliance with the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. We also have an ADA Advisory Committee committed to providing equal access on our campus. Please read more about the ADA Advisory Committee in our OED Newsletter. If you have any concerns, requests, or complaint in these areas of the law, please contact the Office of Equity and Diversity by calling (901) 448-2112.

Six tips to interacting with a person with a disability

  1. What is appropriate terminology, for example, disability, impairment, or handicap? When you're working with someone, you can ask what terminology he or she prefers. When you're speaking in public or writing, you'll need to do a little research to ensure that you use widely-accepted terminology and avoid potentially offensive terminology.
  2. Don't make assumptions about people or their disabilities. Don't assume you know what someone wants, what he feels, or what is best for him. If you have a question about what to do, how to do it, what language or terminology to use, or what assistance to offer, ask him. That person should be your first and best resource. Remember that people with disabilities have different preferences. Just because one person with a disability prefers something one way doesn't mean that another person with the same disability also prefers it that way.
  3. Ask before you help. Before you help someone, ask if she would like help. In some cases a person with a disability might seem to be struggling, yet she is fine and would prefer to complete the task on her own. Follow the person's cues and ask if you are not sure what to do. Don't be offended if someone declines your offer of assistance.
  4. Speak normally. Some people have a tendency to talk louder and slower to people with disabilities; don't. Don't assume that because a person has one disability, that he/she also has a cognitive disability or is hard of hearing. For example, a person with cerebral palsy might use a wheelchair, have uncontrolled upper body movements, have difficulty speaking, and yet have very good hearing, cognitive abilities, and intelligence. Use normal language including "see" and "look." It's fine to use common phrases such as, "Do you see what I mean?" even to people who are blind.
  5. Be aware of personal space. Some people who use a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker, or cane, see these aids as part of their personal space. Don't touch, move, or lean on mobility aids. This is also important for safety.
  6. Treat people with disabilities the same as you would treat anyone else. Disabled people are always people first (i.e., person with a disability). Disability should never be an excuse to patronize or dehumanize. It’s important to have an extra sense of awareness around people who have physical disabilities and you should always strive to make the other person feel as comfortable as possible. But that doesn’t mean that your conversation should be limited to those parameters.

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Contact Us

Office of Equity and Diversity

Michael Alston, Assistant Vice Chancellor
920 Madison Avenue
Suite 825
Memphis, TN 38163
Phone: 901-448-2112
Fax: 901-448-1120