FAQ: Education

Question:

How does the ADA affect postsecondary entities?

Answer:

State funded schools such as universities, community colleges and vocational schools are covered by Title II of the ADA. Private colleges and vocational schools are covered by Title III. Also, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act covers any school that receives federal funds. All of these schools are required to make their programs accessible to qualified students with disabilities. A postsecondary entity may not discriminate on the basis of disability. It must ensure that the programs it offers, including extracurricular activities, are accessible to students with disabilities. They can do this in a number of ways: by providing architectural access, providing aids and services necessary for effective communication, and by modifying policies, practices and procedures. Modifications will always vary based on the individual student's needs. Modifications of policies and practices are not required when it would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program, or activity. The postsecondary program cannot have eligibility requirements that screen out people with disabilities. Application forms cannot ask applicants if they have a history of any disability. Institutions may impose criteria that relate to safety risks but these criteria must be based on actual risk and not on stereotypes or assumptions about a disability.

Question:

How the ADA applies to schools or colleges operated by a religious entity?

Answer:

Institutions or colleges operated by religious entities are not covered by the ADA. However, they must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, if the school receives federal funds.

Question:

How the ADA applies to private schools?

Answer:

Private schools are covered by Title III of the ADA. Covered institutions must eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards that exclude people with disabilities; make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures that deny access to individuals with disabilities; and provide auxiliary aids (for example: assistive technology, interpreters, materials in alternative formats, etc.). The only exception is if the modification would cause a fundamental alteration on the nature of the program; or an undue burden on the institution.

Question:

How will the ADA’s public schools provisions be enforced?

Answer:

There are two key provisions of Title II of the ADA that public entities must provide: (1) program access (2) in an integrated setting unless separate programs are necessary to ensure equal benefits or services. Program access under Title II means that school districts are required to operate their programs so that when viewed as a whole they are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This view should include any supplementary aids and services needed to ensure that students with disabilities can participate to the maximum extent possible in the school’s courses and programs. Complaints should be addressed to local or state officials. First, address your public school complaint to the local school district and then to the state department of education. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal funds from the Department of Education. Discrimination complaints based on the two ADA provisions mentioned above may be filed with OCR using the online complaint form (http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html?src=ct), or by contacting the OCR enforcement office that serves your state. File the complaint within 180 days of the incident.

Question:

How does the ADA apply to public school students?

Answer:

Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities. This includes public elementary, middle, secondary and post-secondary schools. The ADA extends the nondiscrimination requirements outlined in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to all State and Local Government entities including public schools. As in other settings, the individual must meet the definition of disability under the ADA to be covered. Any student who meets the eligibility criteria for services under IDEA will also be covered by both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA. Since the ADA uses a different definition of disability than IDEA, some students who are not eligible for services under IDEA will be eligible for services under the ADA and Section 504.