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Americans with Disabilities and Equal Opportunity: Understanding Legal Rights and the Law

Posted on December 4, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Americans with Disabilities and Equal Opportunity: Understanding Legal Rights and the Law

By Jill Mueller, M.S.Ed., IECA
Independent Educational Consultant

Navigating the college process when a student has learning differences can be confusing and anxiety provoking. Understanding certain state and federal laws pertaining to disabilities, accommodations, and the rights of students should be first on the list.

There are 3 laws that govern disability support and accommodations:

IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Act : This applies to public schools -students ages between 3- 21,
who need special education and related services. It is the school district's responsibility to identify and evaluate the student and deliver special education services.

SECTION 504 : This is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that provides people with disabilities, the opportunity to participate and fully integrate into American life. If a person has a mental or physical disability that limits one or more major life activitiy, certain accommodations can be provided. This applies to all levels of education including college.

Examples of 504 Accommodations: Extended time on exams, separate location for tests, use of a note taker, 
foreign language and math exemption or substitution, use of a tape recorder, reduced course load, priority registration for classes, use of calculator and use of certain assistive technologies.

ADA- American's with Disabilities Act: ADA provides people with disabilities, broader coverage than Section 504. The U.S. Department of Justice and Equal Opportunity Employment Commission are responsible for the oversight of ADA. American's with Disabilities Act applies to both public and private institutions and employment under all aspects of the law.

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