Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Hiring Student Affairs Staff with Disabilities

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Hiring Student Affairs Staff with Disabilities

Article excerpt

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in July 1990. Title I of the ADA protects individuals against discrimination in employment. Under this section, colleges and universities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees. Understanding the law and applying it to student affairs personnel can be a complicated process. This article presents an overview of the ADA and emphasizes its application to recruiting and selecting student affairs practitioners.

As a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the estimated 49 million people in the United Stated who have some type of disability are protected in employment, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications. Among people aged 16 to 67, approximately 12% reported they have a work disability (Dimmitt, 1995). Of the people with disabilities aged 18 to 64, only 29% work full or part-time. Seventy-two percent of those not working, however, indicated they want to work (Nelton, 1998). The underlying focus of the ADA is a mandate for employers to consider the applicant's ability to perform a job as opposed to his or her disability or medical condition (Fish, 1997).

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the ADA as it relates to employment practices in student affairs. After a review of the law with an emphasis on Title I, appropriate guidelines and procedures are presented to assist student affairs professionals in following the law in their hiring practices. Finally, obtaining assistance in understanding the law and implications for the student affairs profession are discussed.

The ADA impacts all employers including colleges and universities. When interviewing clerical staff, custodial staff, or professional staff, regardless of degree level, there is a chance that student affairs professionals will have contact with applicants who have some type of disability. Even though this law can be confusing and vague, student affairs professionals with hiring authority have a responsibility to applicants, staff, and their institutions to fully understand its requirements and legal implications.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The overall rationale of the ADA was to strip away the barriers that have restricted individuals with disabilities from not only reaching their fullest potential in employment, but also participating in the richness of activities offered by the community (Simpkins & Kaplan, 1991).

The ADA consists of five titles. Title I was designed to protect individuals against discrimination in employment and is the focus of this article. Title II prohibits discrimination in public services and includes all programs, activities and services of state and local governments regardless of whether they receive federal funding. Title III deals with public accommodations and services operated by private entities, and protects individuals against discrimination in private commercial activities. Title IV requires the operators of telecommunications systems to make their systems available to individuals with hearing or speech impairments. The final Title is a miscellaneous category and contains provisions such as giving the option for individuals with disabilities to choose to not accept offered accommodations, aids, services, opportunities, or benefits (U. S. Department of Justice, 2001).

The differences in the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 can often be confusing. The ADA includes some of the basic principles of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The major difference between the two acts is that Section 504 only applied to institutions receiving federal financial assistance and referred to handicapped persons. The ADA broadened Section 504 to include the private and public sector. Another difference is related to the penalties for noncompliance. Violation of Section 504 resulted in loss of federal financial assistance. …

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