* Alternative Format or Program Access Requests Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

One aspect of this far reaching legislation is that educational institutions should endeavor to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities so that they may have access to educational programs and materials available to the general population. Penn State Cooperative Extension, as an outreach component of Penn State University, has a unique exchange with the general public, and therefore, must be able to respond to reasonable accommodations requested by disabled clientele for extension educational materials in alternative media or format and/or to have physical access to our programs. We should operate our programs so that, when viewed in their entirety, they are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

Alternative format/media defined
Normally requests for alternative forms of educational materials come from persons who may have a hearing, sight or speech impairment. These individuals may have a partial or total disability and accommodation requests will probably vary depending upon their individual needs. For example, a person with a sight impairment may ask for materials in large print, audio cassette, computer disk or Braille, depending upon the extent of their sight loss. An individual with a hearing impairment may ask for sign language assistance, or for some form of sound amplification to enable them to hear more clearly or distinctly. "Auxiliary aids" can include such services or devices as qualified
interpreters, assistance listening headsets, television captioning and decoders, telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD's), video text displays, readers, taped texts, Braille and large print materials.

Program access defined
Penn State Cooperative Extension must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs or activities because buildings are inaccessible. If physical barriers to participation cannot be removed, agents can provide the services, programs or activities offered in the facility to individuals with disabilities through alternative methods. Agents should be aware of the following points such as:

  • relocating the service program or event to an accessible location, e.g. moving from a 3rd. floor to a 1st. floor location.
  • providing an aide or personal assistant or volunteer to enable an individual with the disability to obtain the service.
  • providing program benefits or services at an individual's home, or at an alternative accessible site.
  • agents are not required to take any action that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service, program or activity or an undue financial or administrative burden. However, you must take alternative actions that will insure individuals with disabilities receive program benefits.
  • agents must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny equal opportunity to enjoy program benefits, unless the rules are absolutely necessary for the provisions of the service, program or activity.
  • agents may not place special charges on individuals with disabilities to cover the cost of measures necessary to insure nondiscriminatory treatment.

Responsibility for ADA compliance
This is a shared responsibility between Penn State, The College of Agricultural Sciences, and the county extension offices. Since the passage of the ADA, Penn State has developed certain institutional procedures to meet our obligations under the letter and spirit of the law as it relates to providing materials in alternative media or format. The University's Affirmative Action Office is providing this leadership in concert with the College. Also, it is recognized that many extension staff have successfully provided alternative format for materials and for program access and have developed in-house initiatives to meet the needs of disabled clientele. It is hoped that staff will learn about program resources and accommodations by sharing ideas with each other. If staff need assistance, below is a quick reference on how the College service unit staff may assist you with such requests.

Human Resources
James Locker as the EEO Coordinator can serve as a funnel for your ADA questions; there are frequently asked questions that Jim has researched and he will be available to help you find answers or solutions.

Ag Communication and Marketing
Ag Comm can facilitate alternative format needs through the University's Pattee Library for Braille, large print or audio cassette requests.

Computer Services
CS staff may be able to assist you with requests for computer applications or conversions from MAC format to DOS, etc.

Funding for ADA related requests
When clientele requests for alternative format materials or personal assistance are made, it should first be discussed with the County Extension Director. If costs for the request cannot be met at the county level, CED's are to discuss the needs with the Regional Director for consideration of possible alternative funding sources.

While counties may not have budget dollars to cover many types of ADA requests, many have been proactive in locating local community resources that are available to assist when programming for special needs audiences and this is very much encouraged.

Experience to date indicates that ADA requests tend to be occasional. While individual instances may challenge our ability to comply, don't expect to be overwhelmed. With that in mind, each request should be given full consideration and attention.

James W. Locker
EEO Coordinator
Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
308 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 865-6214
E-mail Address: jwl2@psu.edu

August 5, 1999, Updated July 8, 2002
Document Number: 109051