American with Disabilities Act (ADA): What is it and why is it important?

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of employment. The ADA is divided into five different sections called titles, which outline the requirements for different types of organizations. Title I of the ADA covers employment, and requires employers (i.e. the institution) to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants or employees who meet the ADA definition of a disability. A disability is any mental or physical impairment, or record or perception of a mental or physical impairment, that substantially limits one or more major life activities (e.g. the ability to walk, talk, see, hear, breathe, learn, sleep, take care of oneself, or work).

Here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison we follow these guidelines set forth by the ADA and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by providing reasonable accommodations for qualified employees or applicants with disabilities. The importance of following the ADA and the spirit of the law is to ensure equal employment opportunities and full inclusion, and to ensure we are providing a workplace for employees where they can be successful.

Key Terms


Qualified Individual with Disability An individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual, a record of such an impairment or regarded as having an impairment
Impairment Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, or any mental or physiological disorder
Major Life Activity Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working
Substantial Limitation An individual has a significant difficulty performing a major life activity as compared to most people — includes a wide variety of disorders or conditions that affect a number of body systems (i.e. skin, musculoskeletal system, digestive, respiratory) and mental or psychological disorders (i.e. anxiety, depression, learning disorders)

Contact Information for SMPH Workplace Accommodation DDRs:

How can I learn more?

Divisional Disability Representatives, Kasey Hoffman and Ann Kowaliczko, will be hosting their first “Get to Know your DDR” virtual Lunch & Learn on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. This virtual event is for SMPH employees who are interested in learning more about the accommodations process.

Register for Lunch & Learn