Rider University changed their campus dining practices to accomodate students with celiac disease as well as students with other major food allergies.
This was a direct result of a student complaint to the US Department of Justice that Rider University was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not having dining options to accommodate celiac disease.
The complaint was filed in the summer of 2016 by a student with celiac disease. The Justice Department determined that Rider University was in violation of the ADA.
Rider University disagrees with the decision, but they have to make dining accomodations since the ADA gives Congress the authority to tackle routine discrimination experienced as a result of a disability.
As a result of the settlement, Rider University was required to establish a food preparation area that is free of the 8 most common food allergies–wheat, soy, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, fish, milk, and shellfish.
The school must also employ a dietician for students who need guidance on how to negotiate campus living and dining with food allergies.
And, Rider University must make a food pre-order service available to students with food allergies.
Until I learned about this ruling, I was unaware that the ADA could apply to celiac disease. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section 504, is a civil rights law.
It “prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “
A disabled individual is someone with a mental or physcial impairment that greatly limits one or more life activities.
Major life activities are working, going to school, eating, and breathing. Allergies are typcially binned as disabilities under the ADA.
And yes, I know celiac disease is not an allergy–it’s an autoimmunde disease. But it was categorized as an allergy for this complaint and settlement.
Personally, I feel this is a step in the right direction. It’s unfortunate that it had to escalate to such a high level, but there seems to be a portion of society who truly doesn’t understand how serious celiac disease and other food-based conditions and allergies are.
Hopefully this will help make more dining facilities, restuaruants, and people aware of the seriousness of the issue.
It would be great if it also engenders advocacy among peers that carries forward into their future food-based endeavors. I’d love to see more dedicated gluten free restaurants!