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How does your OLLI handle ADA compliance?

Posted on October 24th, 2011 by Anne Cardale, OLLI National Resource Center

Susan Morrow, OLLI at the University of Southern Maine, Asks OLLI:

How does your OLLI handle ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliance? What sort of support do you receive from your University? Does your OLLI offer enhanced listening or enhanced viewing equipment in your classrooms?

2 Responses to “How does your OLLI handle ADA compliance?”


  1. We haven’t had any requests for accomodation yet.

    Some members do have hearing impairment. We have a wireless mic (ppaid for by member doantions)for use by instructors who can’t project well enough. We have one student who brings his own device which the instructor wears around the neck.

    Our locations are mostly ADA compliant. We publish these statements on our website:

    ADA Compliance
    The Commander’s House (this is where the bulk of our classes are held) was constructed in the 1800s. Renovations have made the south entrance to the building accessible to individuals with disabilities. At the current time, the main floor of the building is accessible to people with disabilities. Most Osher classes in this building are held on the main floor. The kitchen area is a few steps down from the main floor. If you have special needs, please contact the Osher office ahead of time at 801-585-5442.

    ADA Compliance
    The building that accommodates the Bountiful/U of U was constructed in 1905. We have made many changes to make the building accessible to individuals with disabilities. At the current time, the main floor of the building is accessible to people with disabilities. Most Osher classes are held on the main floor with the exception of studio art classes which are held in the basement. If you have special needs, please contact the Osher office ahead of time at 801-585-5442.


  2. We have had requests for accommodation. We started by working with our Office of Disability Services. Your school will have one of these.

    We are a public university, but I imagine that what I learned applies to all of us. What I discovered is that our university’s policies about ADA accommodation and compliance apply to us. We cannot, therefore, fail to accommodate persons with a documented disability who requests reasonable accommodation. Saying “we can’t afford to do that” does not get you off the hook. To fail to act on the accommodation request puts your school — not just your OLLI — at risk.

    Our recent experience, for example, worked as follows: we had a person request an interpreter for the hearing-disabled. We actually needed to hire two interpreters, as they cannot work for more than x amount of time (15 minutes, I believe) without taking a break. The cost of the interpreters for six classroom hours was $660. That was the lowest rate we could negotiate. It also happened to be more than that particular course generated in revenue.

    Our office of disability services contact was as helpful as he could be, including underwriting a portion of the cost. He put me in contact with service providers.

    It was a scary experience: you understand that if you get too many of these, you cannot possibly afford to operate your institute! But, ten years could easily pass without a single request. That’s how long it was before we had such a request here. As luck would have it, I just received another such request — this time asking OLLI-USF to institute a “no fragrance” policy. It turns out this is an increasing problem — the number of people who acquire a sensitivity to fragrances is linked to our exposure to chemicals and such sensitivity is on the rise. So I am working with our disability services officer again to see how we might institute such a policy here. We have also had a member with a service animal who required accommodation — in this case, that her animal be able to stand by her while she participated in her tai chi class. Did you know that it is illegal (in our official capacity) to ask someone WHY they need a service animal? And that we cannot preclude that person from taking any course unless we have pre-established rules that would apply to any other member?

    Disability accommodation goes well beyond the usual hearing/visual limitations that happen with age. Please be aware that should an ADA request come across your desk, you put your institution at risk if you fail to deal with it. Fortunately, our schools have folks who can help us navigate these issues. Make sure you know who that person is at your school. And it is another reminder of how important it is to have some rainy day funds available.

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