May 2023 Advocate: District refuses to agree to a timely disability accommodation process

Disability Rights

District refuses to agree to a timely disability accommodation process for faculty!

 I feel stressed as I work hard to respond to all of my students in a timely manner, but the District often doesn’t respond to ADA requests for months or even years!

By Lori Slicton, Anthropology Professor, AFT 1493 Health, Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee Rep., Skyline College

   Lori Slicton

It is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act that persons seeking accommodations engage in an “Interactive Process.” This process is severely broken in our district. In a good faith effort, faculty, like myself, have made repeated requests to administrators for accommodations. However, our earnest, good faith efforts to engage in the interactive process are not reciprocated by HR in a timely manner. Months, even years, can go by without receiving the necessary help. Because of this chronic issue and the harms it causes faculty, I support the AFT’s contract proposal to improve faculty access to reasonable accommodations under the ADA.

AFT’s proposal: Simply provide a status update within 30 days

The AFT’s proposal is a humble, no cost, practical step in a positive direction: The union has proposed that the District must provide a status update within 30 days of a request for accommodation, with an appeal process available. (Although the accommodation may not yet have been determined, the union’s language only requires the District to update faculty on the status of their request.)

District’s response: Faculty can appeal to a government agency

The District has continued to reject AFT’s proposal, claiming that a faculty member who thinks their request for accommodation has not been processed in a timely manner should appeal to a government agency (like the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) for assistance!


I have Macular Telangiectasia Type 2, a condition which causes repeated eye infections related to eye strain, but I must push through completing my work without necessary accommodations. Professional work standards demand that I work within deadlines. If a student emails me for assistance, can I wait a month or more to respond?  No. In fact, our students have wonderful resources through the Disability Resource and Education Access Centers, but employees have no such resource. HR does not respond promptly to legitimate requests, rendering the interactive process useless.

Many excessive delays from HR have made it very difficult for me to do my work

This lack of response from HR has directly interfered with my ability to professionally serve our students and meet my contractual obligations. Since 2015 I have qualified for reasonable accommodations and have submitted all of the necessary documents. Yet the following are a few examples of excessive delays:

  • SMCCD took 12 months to respond to my request for Nuventive Platform for Student Assessments and Program updates.
  • SMCCD took 4 months before acting on necessary technology (during Covid 2020) so that I could learn to work remotely.
  • SMCCD took approximately1 year to respond to my request for computer software, keyboard, and monitor.
  • SMCCD took 11 months to respond to my request for assistive technology.
  • SMCCD took 4 years to respond to my request for functionally and ergonomically arranged assistive office equipment!
  • My office telephone remained out of reach and inaccessible for 2 years.

Some important documents, tasks and spaces, such as CurricUNET and Keenan SafeColleges Trainings, also remain inaccessible to me because of my condition. I recently submitted my Workload Points. There was NO box to check indicating the hours I have spent drafting emails requesting and RE-requesting accommodations.

How can anyone work under these conditions and also be expected to do Comprehensive Program Review or undergo an evaluation? The professional demands don’t stop! How is this Equitable? Socially just? Inclusive?

We need contract language that truly supports all faculty who request reasonable accommodations under the ADA so that we can carry out our mission to serve our students and our campus communities. It is unconscionable that our district refuses to provide reasonable support to faculty members with needed accommodations. We are dedicated to teaching and helping our students while navigating the difficulties of our disability. But the district is not dedicated to helping us.