Disability Accommodations

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to providing a workplace for our employees where they can be successful. This includes providing reasonable accommodations for qualified employees or applicants with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities.

What is a disability?

A 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).

What is a reasonable accommodation?

Any modification(s) that permits a qualified individual (applicant, employee) with a disability to perform the essential functions of a position without imposing undue hardship* on the employer.

Who is a qualified individual with a disability?

An applicant or employee with a disability who has the qualifications for the position desired or held (through training, education, or experience) and who can perform the position’s essential functions with or without accommodations.

What are essential functions of a job?

Those duties that exist as the very purpose for the position and must be performed by the person holding the position. Essential functions must be distinguished from marginal functions which may be eliminated or reassigned to other employees. Factors to consider are:

  • the number of employees available to perform the function
  • the consequences of not having the function performed
  • whether the function requires specific skills for which the employee was hired

Jump to Frequently Asked Questions for more information.


If you have questions or concerns regarding disability matters or medical concerns, please contact the Disability Services Advisor Divisional Disability Representatives (DDRs) in SMPH:

Ann Kowaliczko and Kasey Hoffman

Confidential e-mail:

Confidential fax:
(608) 234-4401

Dive deeper into accommodations in SMPH

News and events

  • Register now: October 19 Lunch & Learn to honor National Disability Employee Awareness Month

    SMPH’s Divisional Disability Representatives would like to announce that October is National Disability Employee Awareness Month. Divisional Disability Representatives, Kasey Hoffman and Ann Kowaliczko, will be hosting a virtual Lunch & Learn for SMPH employees …

  • Key players in the accommodations process

    What are the roles and responsibilities of people involved in the accommodations process? The Divisional Disability Representative (DDR) The DDR’s role is to help facilitate the accommodations process and ensure that accommodation requests are facilitated …

  • Helpful resource: The Calm app and reducing stress or anxiety

    Individuals with and without disabilities can experience stress and anxiety related to work and their work performance. This in turn can affect an employee’s ability to perform successfully. With this in mind, a helpful resource …

  • 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, …

  • Introduction to DDRs

    What is a DDR? Divisional Disability Representatives are designated human resources staff members who do the following: Receive accommodation requests forms from employees and assist managers, supervisors, and employees in their divisions Respond to disability …

  • Read more


All medical information is confidential (including records for disability, worker’s compensation, income continuation insurance, and all medical leave) and can only be shared on a “need to know” basis. Access to confidential medical information is restricted. Only Divisional Disability Representatives (DDRs) are authorized to handle and retain medical information for employees.

Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

In summary, to request reasonable accommodations under the ADA, employees must complete and return the disability request form to the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) Disability Services Advisor DDRs at smph-accommodation@med.wisc.edu (confidential email). Continue reading for more information on this process.

wdt_ID Form To Be Completed By Return To
1 Academic Staff Disability Request Form Employee SMPH Disability Services Advisor DDR (smph-accommodation@med.wisc.edu)
2 University Staff Disability Request Form Employee SMPH Disability Services Advisor DDR (smph-accommodation@med.wisc.edu)
3 Faculty Disability Request Form Employee SMPH Disability Services Advisor DDR (smph-accommodation@med.wisc.edu)

Step 1

Employee identifies need for reasonable accommodation

Step 2

Employee or supervisor contacts SMPH Disability Services Advisor DDRs (smph-accommodation@med.wisc.edu)

Step 3

DDR sends introductory email to employee. DDR will introduce themself to the employee, outline the accommodation process, and explain the employee’s rights and responsibilities.

Step 4

DDR and employee have initial meeting. Employee and DDR will discuss medical diagnosis, work-related limitations, essential job duties, employee accommodation request, and possible accommodations. In addition, the DDR will share that the goal for this process is to have accommodations in place within 30 business days.

Step 5

DDR reaches out and meets with employee’s supervisor. DDR will review and verify essential functions of the employee’s job and discuss the impact of the employee’s requested accommodation and determine whether the accommodation is reasonable. The DDR will only discuss the limitations or restrictions of the employee’s condition. The DDR will not share any of the employee’s diagnostic or medical information with the supervisor.

Key Questions

  • Will the accommodation permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job?
  • Does the accommodation create an undue hardship?
  • Is there a safety or health threat?

Step 6

DDR facilitates medical verification. Medical verification can happen concurrently with supervisor meeting or after. Employee will submit medical documentation to DDR. Please note that medical documentation is kept in confidential medical file that is separate from the employee’s personnel file. If needed, the SMPH DDR will request verification of a disability or chronic medical condition and clarification of the specific work-related function limitations from the employee’s treating specialist.

Step 7

DDR sends an accommodation decision letter to the employee, which will include the reason for the decision (approval, denial, or modification).


DDR will send the accommodation approval letter to the employee and will cc the supervisor to the email. A copy of the letter will be sent to the UW-Madison Employee Disability Resource (EDR) Office as well.

Modification or Denial

DDR will send an accommodation denial letter to the employee, which will outline why the decision was made and provide information on how to appeal a decision.

Step 8

Department and supervisor implement reasonable accommodation. After the accommodation letter has been sent out, the employee and supervisor will implement the accommodations in the workplace. During this time, the employee, supervisor, and DDR will evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodation. If equipment has been approved – for example, ergonomic equipment – the employee will work with the supervisor to follow departmental procedures for purchasing the approved items.

Step 9

DDR follows up with employee and/or supervisor. DDR will follow-up with the employee regarding accommodations at the 30-day after implementation mark, the 90-day mark, and the 180-day mark. In some cases, the DDR will contact the supervisor for follow-up on accommodation implementation as well.

How do I arrange a medical leave (FMLA)?

SMPH Medical Leave Information

How can I obtain accessible parking on campus?

Transportation Services

How can I receive an ergonomic assessment?

Physicians – contact Steve Hill, Injury Prevention Coordinator for UW Health, at shill2@uwhealth.org

Other SMPH employees – visit the UW-Madison Environment, Healthy & Safety Ergonomics page

How do I hire a sign language interpreter?

How A UW Department or Unit Provides Interpreting Services (McBurney Disability Resource Center)

Responding to questions

Use the following examples for how to respond to different scenarios regarding employee accommodations.

When someone asks about an employee who is receiving an accommodation…

  • “This is related to a confidential matter and I am not able to talk about it with you, just like I do not talk about your confidential matters with others.”
  • “Thanks for your concern. This is related to an employment policy we are following and I am not able to discuss it with you.”
  • “There are legitimate reasons that your coworker is receiving an accommodation that is different from what is typical. It is something that I am not able to discuss with you.”

When someone comes to you and is upset that the employee seems to be getting preferential treatment as a result of an accommodation…

  • “‘I can see that this is frustrating for you. I want you to know that even though the situation seems unfair, we are following an employment policy. I am not able to share more information since the matter is confidential.”

When an employee comes to you and seems to know a lot about the person with the disability and states that the person with the disability has told everyone…

  • “I understand that [Employee] may have shared this with you, but I am not able to discuss it since it is a confidential matter. I also request that you refrain from discussing [Employee]’s personal information as well.”

Performance Concerns

If you need to discuss any performance concerns, please contact smph-employmentrelations@med.wisc.edu and an appropriate member of the SMPH Employment Relations team will assist you.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a reasonable accommodation?

Reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities. An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would be an undue hardship, which means that providing the reasonable accommodation would result in significant difficulty or expense.

Accommodations vary depending upon the needs of the individual applicant or employee. Not all people with disabilities (or even people with the same disability) will need the same accommodation. Reasonable accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis as part of an interactive process between the employee, the Divisional Disability Representative (DDR), and others, as necessary. Employees can initiate a request for a disability-related workplace accommodation by contacting their DDR. The DDR will review such requests in accordance with the university policy and state and federal disability-related employment laws.

Who is eligible for an accommodation?

Qualified individuals with a disability or medical condition (physical or mental)

Who do I talk to about an accommodation?

SMPH Divisional Disability Representatives (DDRs):

Ann Kowaliczko and Kasey Hoffman
Confidential Email: smph-accommodation@med.wisc.edu
Confidential Fax: (608) 234-4401

What is a Divisional Disability Representative (DDR)?

DDRs are designated by their deans/directors to receive accommodation request forms from employees and to assist managers, supervisors, and employees in their divisions in responding to disability matters in a way that complies with the ADA.

Only DDRs are authorized to request, receive, and maintain confidential medical information and records on behalf of employing units in their divisions.

DDRs are required to consult with the Employee Disability Resources staff before modifying or denying an accommodation request.

DDRs have received extensive training on ADA requirements and campus disability policies and procedures.

When do I contact my DDR?

You are welcome to reach out to the SMPH DDRs if you:

  • are unsure whether your medical condition (physical or mental) is covered under the ADA
  • have questions about your rights and responsibilities under the ADA
  • need assistance with the accommodation process
  • have concerns about discrimination, harassment, or retaliation based on disability or the need for accommodations
  • notice your medical condition is having an impact on your job

Will you share my medical information with my supervisor?

No. We will only discuss restrictions and limitations related to your medical condition. We will not share any diagnostic or specific medical information with your supervisor.

Only DDRs are authorized to request, receive, and maintain confidential medical information and records on behalf of employing units in their divisions. ADA confidentiality requirements apply to medical information and records for disability, worker’s compensation, and all medical leave.

What are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA Amendments Act?

What are my rights and responsibilities?

Applicant or Employee ADA Responsibilities

  • Engage in a good faith effort with your DDR, manager, or supervisor to identify reasonable accommodations.
  • Submit an accommodation request form to your DDR.
  • Follow procedures in appropriate disability accommodation policies.
  • Provide medical verification and accommodation recommendations from a treating specialist to your DDR when needed. Only DDRs are authorized to request, receive, and maintain confidential medical information and records on behalf of employing units in their divisions. ADA confidentiality requirements apply to medical information and records for disability, worker’s compensation, and all medical leave.
  • Meet essential performance, behavior and attendance standards after reasonable accommodations are provided.
  • Review accommodations periodically to ensure that they are effective.

Applicant or Employee ADA Rights

Applicants and employees can expect managers and supervisors to…

  • Base all employment decisions on the applicant or employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of a position, with or without accommodations.
  • Engage in a good faith effort with the applicant or employee to identify reasonable accommodations.
  • Consult with the DDR to make decisions and respond to accommodation requests in a timely manner.