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Points to Consider when Applying for a Reasonable Accommodation

Hexagon with green background and symbol of person in wheelchair to represent UFT Capably Disabled Committee

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New York State & New York City Human Rights Laws entitle people with disabilities to reasonable accommodations in order to help them perform the essential functions of their job. The United Federation of Teachers assists members with disabilities in obtaining reasonable accommodations with the New York City Department of Education under these laws.

A reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to, making existing facilities accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; acquiring or modifying equipment or devices; reassignment to a vacant position, and others. An employer is not required to lower performance standards to make an accommodation, and generally is not obligated to provide personal use items such as eyeglasses or hearing aids. In addition, an employer is not required to grant the specific accommodation requested, as long as the accommodation that is granted is effective.

There is an informal and a formal application process for obtaining a reasonable accommodation.

Informal Process Requested Through the Principal or Supervisor

Your Principal or supervisor may not be aware that you have a disability and need an accommodation, and may be willing to grant you an accommodation after speaking with you.

If you feel uncomfortable discussing your disability with your Principal or supervisor, you may bypass the informal route and go directly to the formal route of application through the Medical Bureau of the Department of Education. Throughout the formal process your Principal and/or supervisor would not know the specific medical information regarding your disability.

When you meet with your Principal or supervisor be prepared to discuss your disability, the functions you are unable to perform, and the accommodation(s) you are requesting.

If you are granted an accommodation informally and it is not implemented at some point in the future due to a change of school, administration, or other reason, you will not have documentation from the Department of Education providing for continued implementation of your accommodation. Your recourse at the time would be to request another accommodation in your new situation.

For this reason, you might want to consider applying for a formal accommodation immediately or at some point after you have been granted one informally. By doing so a change in your situation as noted above would require you to simply show your new Principal or supervisor your letter of accommodation from the Medical Bureau, and he/she would be required to implement it as long as it has not expired.

Formal Process Requested Through the Medical Bureau of the NYC DOA

New York City Department of Education's Personnel Memorandum No. 4, 2009-10 is the document that UFT members use to apply for a reasonable accommodation through the Medical Bureau of the New York City Department of Education. The information that you provide is kept confidential at the Medical Bureau.

To consider your application for a reasonable accommodation the Medical Bureau must determine that you are a Qualified Individual with a Disability.

A qualified individual with a disability under the ADA is a person who satisfies one or more of the following conditions:

  • Currently has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • Has a record of such impairment
  • Is regarded as having such impairment

Major life activities are activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty such as walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning and working.

A qualified employee with a disability is someone who satisfies skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position held, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation can perform the essential functions of that position.

The New York State Human Rights Law defines the term disability as (a) a physical, mental or medical impairment resulting from anatomical, physiological, genetic or neurological conditions which prevents the exercise of a normal bodily function or is demonstrable by medically accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques or (b) a record of such an impairment or (c) a condition regarded by others as such an impairment, provided, however, that in all provisions of this article dealing with employment, the term shall be limited to disabilities which, upon the provision of reasonable accommodations, do not prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job or occupation sought or held.

According to The New York City Human Rights Law the term "disability" means any physical, medical, mental or psychological impairment, or a history or record of such impairment.

The term "physical, medical, mental, or psychological impairment" means: (1) An impairment of any system of the body; including, but not limited to: neurological system; the musculoskeletal system; the special sense organs and respiratory organs, including, but not limited to, speech organs; the cardiovascular system; the reproductive system; the digestive and genito-urinary systems; the hemic and lymphatic systems; the immunological systems; the skin; and the endocrine system; or (2) A mental or psychological impairment. (c) In the case of alcoholism, drug addiction or other substance abuse, the term "disability" shall only apply to a person who (1) is recovering or has recovered and (2) currently is free of such abuse, and shall not include an individual who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when the covered entity acts on the basis of such use.

POINTS TO CONSIDER:

  • The completion of your accommodation application is a collaborative effort among you, your physician, and the UFT. Your limitations, as well as the accommodation(s) you are requesting should be discussed with your doctor and addressed in his or her accompanying medical documentation. Supply as much documentation as possible that will support your application.
  • As you complete your application, consult with your UFT Borough Office for clarity, structure, cohesiveness, and similar assistance. However, the pertinent information must come from you and your physician.
  • After you have completed your application and obtained medical documentation, make copies for yourself, and mail, fax, or bring your materials to the Board of Education's Medical Bureau. The address and fax number are on the application.
  • Once submitted, it can take one month or longer for a physician at the Medical Bureau to review your application, so submit it promptly.
  • When your application is reviewed at the Medical Bureau, a decision can be made based on the information you have provided, or the physician can request further medical documentation and/or ask you to report to the Medical Bureau to be examined.
  • When a decision is made, you will receive a letter, and copies will be sent to your Principal, Superintendent, members of the UFT who assist with the accommodation process, and the Disability Coordinator for the Board of Education. The letter does not contain any information about your disability. It only tells whether your accommodation is granted or denied, and if granted, what your accommodation entails.
  • Your letter of accommodation will either have a termination date through which your accommodation is effective, or no termination date, in which case your accommodation is considered permanent.
  • If your accommodation request is granted, your Principal is required to implement it barring any undue hardship. If denied, you can re-apply and submit additional medical documentation to support your application.
  • If your Principal or other supervisor does not implement an accommodation that has been granted by the Medical Bureau, inform the Disability Coordinator of the New York City Department of Education at 718-935-2137. When appropriate, the Disability Coordinator will investigate the situation and attempt to resolve it by communicating with your Principal or supervisor.
  • The UFT appreciates your hard work and best efforts with our city's schoolchildren. We stand ready to assist you as you seek an accommodation in order to perform your job most effectively and with maximum satisfaction, and wish you many years of enriching and rewarding work.