I. The Law
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112) states that “No otherwise qualified individuals with a disability (ies) in the United States, as defined in Section 7(8), shall, solely by reason of the disability (ies), be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Section 504’s primary effect upon post-secondary institutions is program accessibility to students with disabilities. “Accessibility includes the elimination of policy barriers, the provision of auxiliary aids such as readers and interpreters, and the provision of equal educational services and programs to disabled and non-disabled students, as well as the traditional physical access to the campus” (Johns, CAPED, Vol. 1 (No. 1), p.7). Furthermore, 504 states, “in its course examinations or other procedures for evaluating students’ academic achievements, institutions shall provide such methods for evaluating the achievements of students who have disabilities that impairs sensory, manual or speaking skills as will best ensure that the results of the evaluation represent the student’s achievement in the course, rather than a student’s impaired skills (except where such skills are the factors being measured)” (Section 504, Subpart E, 104.44 c).
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 expands these protections to include all programs and services regardless of funding sources. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, State and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. It also mandates the establishment of TDD/telephone relay services. The current text of the ADA includes changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (P.L.110-325), which became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADA was orginally enacted in public law format and later rearranged and published in the United States Code.
Both the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504 regulations state that a university shall provide academic accommodations unless:
(a) the university can demonstrate that the accommodations are not necessary to ensure nondiscriminatory participation by a handicapped student, or
(b) the university can demonstrate that academic requirement for which an adjustment is requested is “essential to the program of instruction being pursued by the student.”
Students with disabilities cannot be denied the benefits of, excluded from participation in, or otherwise subjected to discrimination under educational programs and activities in accordance with the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended and any applicable state laws. Students have a right to an individualized assessment of documentation; timely delivery of services that have been approved by OSD and consistent with the letter of Approved Support Services provided to the student; confidentiality; and prompt equitable investigation and resolution of complaints.