Guckenberger v. Bos. Univ.

974 F. Supp. 106 (D. Mass. 1997)

 

RULE:

A university cannot impose upon disabled individuals requesting a reasonable accommodation documentation criteria that unnecessarily screen out or tend to screen out the truly disabled. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C.S. § 794, bars criteria that have the purpose or effect of defeating or substantially impairing the accomplishment of the objectives of the recipient's program. Thus, a university is prevented from employing unnecessarily burdensome proof-of-disability criteria that preclude or unnecessarily discourage individuals with disabilities from establishing that they are entitled to reasonable accommodation.

FACTS:

In a class action, 10 students with learning disabilities (LD) challenged the new policy adopted by Boston University (BU) to evaluate accommodation requests of LD students, asserting that the policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and state law.

ISSUE:

Did the new policy adopted by Boston University to evaluate accommodation requests of LD students violate state and federal disability laws?

ANSWER:

Yes

CONCLUSION:

Compensatory damages were awarded to learning disabled students for violations of breach of contract and violations of state and federal disability law. The district court concluded that the BU's documentation requirement concerning current testing unreasonably erected a series of harsh eligibility requirements for LD students who sought accommodations. BU's policy with respect to the qualifications of evaluators unnecessarily screened out or tended to screen out LD students. BU's refusal to modify its degree requirements in order to provide course substitutions was motivated in substantial part by uninformed stereotypes. Thus, BU breached its contractual agreement by failing to honor its express representations to receive accommodations from the university.

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