Division of Campus Life

Disability Discrimination and Accessibility (ADA/504)

Brown University provides equal opportunity to individuals of all abilities and prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on a person’s disability in the administration of its policies, programs and activities.

Our commitment to accessibility is grounded in applicable laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It also aligns with our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging for all members of the Brown community.

The rights for reasonable accommodation and protections against discrimination are applicable to a broad group of individuals with disabilities in the Brown community, including those who are applying for jobs at Brown; employees of the University; undergraduate, graduate, and medical and professional students; family members of students living in Brown-owned residences; visitors to the Brown campus; and visitors to Brown’s digital environments.

Request Accessibility Accommodations

Brown University provides equal opportunity to individuals of all abilities. 

Student Accessibility Services can assist all Brown students with accessibility concerns or accommodations. University Human Resources can assist job applicants, faculty and staff with accessibility concerns and accommodations. Community members who are visiting the Brown campus and need accommodations may contact the ADA/504 coordinator by email at ada_504@brown.edu or by phone at 401-863-5599. 

Student Accessibility Services

University Human Resources

Report Disability Discrimination

If you have experienced or witnessed discrimination disability, including a denial of an accessibility accommodation request, report it!

Brown University students, staff and faculty who have experienced or witnessed an incident of bias, discrimination or harassment are encouraged to report it to the University.
Brown takes all reports of bias, discrimination and harassment seriously. The University is committed to making the process for reporting incidents easy to navigate and has developed procedures to provide fair, prompt, and consistent mechanisms for the resolution of complaints.

Consultation and Advice

If you have experienced disability discrimination, or if you have been denied a request for an accessibility accommodation, there are a variety of resources available to assist you. Anyone may contact the ADA/504 coordinator to request a consultation. Talking with us does not obligate you to file a report; investigations do not begin unless and until a written formal complaint is filed.

Email ada_504@brown.edu, call 401-863-5599, or report an incident through the Bias, Discrimination, and Harassment Incident Reporting Form.

Laws, Policies and Procedures

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination against and mandates equal treatment for individuals with disabilities. This federal civil rights law applies to the digital and physical environment at Brown and to policies, procedures and practices across the University. Brown utilizes guidance from the ADA and other anti-discrimination laws relating to disability to create inclusive environments, make modifications needed for full access, and to effectively communicate with all members of the Brown community. The ADA requires postsecondary institutions to identify an employee responsible for compliance with the ADA, and to have a grievance procedure allowing an appeal of any disability-related accommodations or issues.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The Rehabilitation Act requires postsecondary institutions to identify an employee responsible for compliance with the Act, and to have a grievance procedure allowing an appeal of any disability-related accommodations or issues.

Brown’s Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Resolution Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) is intended to provide a fair, prompt and reliable mechanism for determining whether the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy has been violated and, if so, to provide appropriate resolution.

Related Policies

Employment Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities Policy governs requests for reasonable accommodations related to disability; it applies to all University job applicants, faculty and staff (including student employees). Brown University provides equitable treatment and access in all aspects of employment, including the application process. Brown is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer that supports employment of Persons with Disabilities.

Brown University Web Accessibility Policy aims to ensure the information on Brown University websites is available to the broadest possible audience. This policy establishes accessibility standards to ensure access to the University’s web and online content, regardless of an individual’s physical or developmental abilities.

Resources and Services

Effective Communication

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Brown is required to communicate effectively with individuals who have communication disabilities. In addition to how unique an individual’s communication needs may be, members of the Brown community also engage with each other in a variety of complex ways. Consider the differences in complexity in providing accommodations between these examples: a short video about a new program offering; attendance at a graduation; an annual employee performance evaluation; an upper-level lecture in a very technical course.

To fulfill this requirement of the ADA, Brown employees will seek solutions on a case-by-case basis that consider a variety of communication needs. Examples of possible solutions include American Sign Language interpreters, video remote interpreting, captioning on videos, accessibility electronic and information technology, and the provision of large print materials. Determining which solution is most appropriate involves consideration of the nature, length, complexity, and context of the communication and consideration of the individual’s normal methods of communication.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

As defined by the U.S. Access Board, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) refers to: information technology and other equipment, systems, technologies, or processes, for which the principal function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt, or transmission of electronic data and information, as well as any associated content. ICT should be pursued with accessible design for individuals with disabilities.

Non-Apparent Disability

Disability:IN recommends use of the term Non-Apparent Disability when referring to “mental illnesses, learning and attention issues, some physical illnesses, neurodiversity, and many other disabilities which are not apparent.” This term is descriptive and does not have negative implications. Per Disability:IN, for some persons with disabilities, the phrase invisible disabilities can be considered offensive, implying the person is not visible. The phrase hidden disabilities could imply the person is choosing not to share that they have a disability or that the disability may never become visible. 

Reasonable Accommodations & Modifications

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights distinguishes between the term “reasonable accommodation” (utilized in the context of employment) and “reasonable modification” (utilized in the context of an educational setting) as follows:

Reasonable Accommodation

A term used in the employment context to refer to modifications or adjustments employers make to a job application process, the work environment, the manner or circumstances under which the position held or desired is customarily performed, or that enable a covered entity's employee with a disability to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment. This term is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to related aids and services in the elementary and secondary school context or to refer to academic adjustments, reasonable modifications, and auxiliary aids and services in the postsecondary school context.

Reasonable Modification

Under a regulatory provision implementing Title II of the ADA, public entities are required to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of disability, unless the public entity can demonstrate that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity.

At Brown, determinations of reasonable ADA accommodations and modifications are created, documented, and distributed by specific offices, including Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Human Resources or their designee (e.g., the provider Broadspire).

Undue Burden or Undue Hardship

The ADA refers to the term undue hardship “as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.” Many people also use the term undue burden to mean the same thing. However, making a determination of Undue Burden must be performed by a person who understands both the legal implications of the term and the financial state of the University. Federal guidance specifies that the person or persons responsible for determining Undue Hardship should have the “ budgetary authority and responsibility for making spending decisions, after considering all resources available for use in the funding and operation of the service, program, or activity.”

Voluntary Product Accessibility Template® (VPAT®)

Members of the Brown community may see the term “VPAT” used when Brown is in the process of acquiring or reviewing information and communications technology. Federal laws and regulations require certain businesses and organizations to comply with standards of accessibility for information and communications technology (ICT) products. Manufacturers or vendors may utilize a free template, a VPAT, developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) to declare or attest to their product’s level of accessibility. The four templates currently available are built to respond to the U.S. Federal accessibility standard (Revised Section 508 standards), the European Union’s accessibility standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the final template incorporates all three standards.