Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA, which gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities, which was reauthorized as Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAAA) in 2009. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services and telecommunications. According to the ADA, an individual with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such impairment.

Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act

Section 504 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 is a federal statute, and compliance is mandatory. Section 504 ensures that children with disabilities have equal access to education, to employment, and to the community. Students with disabilities may therefore receive accommodations and modifications. Section 504 and ADA are complementary to each other (see the comparison chart). The Department of Rehabilitation operates under the Rehabilitation Act and provides employment related services to people with disabilities.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) is a national law that ensures services to children with disabilities. Congress enacted the IDEA in 1975 in order to ensure that children with disabilities (ages 0-21) receive a Free and Appropriate Education. Students with disabilities are entitled to Special education and related services that are designed to meet unique learning needs and designed to prepare students for further education, employment and independent living.

  • Procedural Safeguards (Parent’s Right)

Procedural safeguards are put in place by the IDEA to ensure full parent participation, handle dispute resolution, and to even the playing field between parents and educators.

Parents have the following rights:

  • Examine all records, materials, assessments and other information that schools use to develop an IEP
  • Participate fully at meetings related to the IEP and their child’s evaluation
  • Request independent evaluation of their child at school district’s expense
  • Be given written notice of their rights at key intervals and in an easily understandable manner
  • Written notice given when child is initially referred, at each IEP meeting, at re-evaluation, and when they register a complaint
  • Advance notification of intent to change the educational program
  • Access to parent centers and training seminars so that they can receive information and education on IEP related information
  • Mediation at the school district expense, advice, legal services and evidence discovery
  • Reasonable legal fees if parents prevail
  • Engage in mediation, and a right to an impartial due process hearing


  • Due Process

IDEA – Due process is a formal set of policies and procedures to resolve disagreements between parents and schools regarding children with disabilities. It is meant to ensure that all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education. Due process hearings are similar to civil court hearings. Either party can represent themselves or choose to hire an attorney. Procedures and requirements for Due Process hearings vary by states. Typically, the plaintiff will give an opening statement discussing allegations against the defendant. Both parties will have an opportunity to state their cases. It is important to note that the plaintiff has the burden of proof.

The following things can lead to a Due Process Hearing:

  • Procedural violations
  • Denying services due to cost
  • Inflexibility
  • Giving in to inappropriate parental demands
  • Acting in principle, rather than reason
  • Irrational behavior based on emotion
  • Lack of Timeliness
  • Inappropriate implementation of the IEP
  • Failure to provide necessary support services
  • Failure to otherwise resolve a specific problem

Links to other related laws
No child left behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) (PL 107-110)
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 (P.L. 93-380)
Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) (P.L. 105-220)
Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act
California Early Intervention Services Act