USCIS accommodates naturalization applicants with disabilities by making modifications to the naturalization process. See 6 CFR 15.3 for the applicable definitions relating to enforcement of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability DHS federal programs or activities. USCIS aims to provide applicants with disabilities an equal opportunity to successfully complete the process. While USCIS is not required to make major modifications that would result in a fundamental change to the naturalization process or an undue burden for the agency, USCIS makes every effort to provide accommodations to naturalization applicants with disabilities.
USCIS evaluates disability accommodation requests on a case-by-case basis as accommodations vary according to the nature of the applicant’s disability. In determining what type of accommodation is necessary, USCIS gives primary consideration to the requests of the person with a disability.
USCIS provides applicants with the requested accommodation or an effective alternative that addresses the unique needs of the applicant where appropriate. See, for example, 6 CFR 15.50 and 6 CFR 15.60.
Applicants may request an accommodation at the time of filing their naturalization application or at any other time during the naturalization process. In some cases, applicants with physical impairments such as blindness or low vision or hearing loss may have submitted a medical disability exception form (Form N-648) along with their naturalization application to request an exception from the English and civics tests as they may be unable to take the tests, even with an accommodation. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 3, Medical Disability Exception (Form N-648).
The Rehabilitation Act requires all federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities in the administration of their programs and benefits. See Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See 29 U.S.C. 794(a). The Act prohibits qualified persons with a disability from being excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any programs or activities conducted by federal agencies solely on the basis of their disability. USCIS does not exclude persons with disabilities from its programs or activities based on their disability. The Rehabilitation Act and the implemented DHS regulations See 6 CFR 15. require USCIS to provide accommodations that assist an applicant with a disability to have an equal opportunity to participate in its programs, to include the naturalization process.
C. Difference between Accommodations and Waivers
Accommodations are different from statutory waivers or exceptions. For example, if an officer grants an applicant a waiver for a naturalization educational requirement, the applicant is exempt from meeting that educational requirement. An accommodation is a modification of an existing practice or procedure that will enable an applicant with a disability to participate in the naturalization process.
The accommodation does not exempt the applicant from the obligation to satisfy any applicable requirement for naturalization. The accommodation is a modification to the way in which the applicant may establish that he or she meets the requirement. The accommodations discussed in this part are distinguished from the Oath waiver process by which the applicant’s complete examination is conducted by a legal guardian or surrogate appointed by a court of law, or an eligible designated representative. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers.
D. Legal Authorities
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sec. 504) – Ensures equal access to federal programs
29 U.S.C. 794 – Nondiscrimination under federal grants and programs
6 CFR 15 – DHS federal regulations on non-discrimination on the basis of disability of persons who access DHS programs or activities
8 CFR 334.4 – Examination and off-site visits for sick or disabled applicants