The Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990 and life became much easier for many folks with disabilities. That's why when James (pseudonym) — who has a severe form of epilepsy — got into Notre Dame, he anticipated they would be more than willing to accomodate his very modest request of requiring a single dorm room. Instead, they told him that his request would put an "undue burden
" on the University, thus forcing him to choose a different University. Please sign on to tell Notre Dame that it's wrong to discriminate against a disabled person like this and they should issue an apology plus offer him his spot back if he wants it.
James' epilepsy is life-threatening. When he has a seizure, it often lasts 3 minutes, and he loses control of all motor function, including control of his bladder, bowels and esophagus, causing him to urinate, defecate and vomit. Afterwards, James is partially paralyzed on his right side and disoriented for a while. It is not an easy condition to live with.
One thing his neurologist says is absolutely key in minimizing his risk of seizure is uninterrupted sleep every single night. That's why James asked to be in a single dorm room where a roommate couldn't jeopardize his sleep — and that's the accommodation that Notre Dame felt was an "undue burden."
It's honestly a very small request to help James manage his life-threatening medical condition. Why was Notre Dame so unwilling to do this one small thing for an incoming student and how did they get away with it?
Well, James' condition is covered under the ADA, which Notre Dame is subject to. However, they used a tiny loophole in the law by employing the phrase "undue burden." Asking not to share a room in the freshman dorms does not seem like it's going to be an undue burden if someone's life is at risk. That's just plain discrimination and unwillingness to do the right thing.That's why we're asking Notre Dame to make a formal apology and offer James his spot back if he wants it, plus commit to never employing this loophole for such a dumb reason again.
When James decided to go to a different University, they offered him a single room before he even finished explaining why he needed it — which is what Notre Dame should have done. Please sign on to demand Notre Dame makes similar amends for their despicable behavior. People with disabilities are still people who deserve, respect and access to the same things the rest of us have.