The rights of people with disabilities in the US are protected under different federal laws. Three of the major laws you should be familiar with are the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, also called IDEIA), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Here are some key things to know about each act (Note: This information is provided “as-is” and does not constitute legal advice.):
- Mandates that children ages 3-21 with disabilities be provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE)
- This statute funds special education programs and drives the development of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
- Students quaify for services under IDEA under one of thirteen categories of disability, as defined by IDEA
- Under IDEA, an IEP must contain written statements of current educational levels, objectives, appropriate services, accommodations, and evaluation criteria
- Civil rights antidiscriminatory law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination in public services, if reasonable accommodations can be provided there by state and local governments
- “Disability” is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities (walking, breathing, speaking, seeing, learning, etc.)
- Prevents employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities who meet other job qualifications.
- Helps to ensure public access to transportation and communication
- Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Title II of ADA, which extends the prohibition against discrimination to public schools, whether or not they receive public funding
- Civil Rights law that stops discrimination against people with disabilities in public and private programs/activities that receive financial assistance
- Disability must limit student’s ability to learn or other major life activities
- Similar to IDEA, but can include students and staff of all ages who may not be covered under IDEA classifications
- Unlike IDEA, no provisions that districts are reimbursed for associated costs
- General education teachers must implement provisions of Section 504; refusal to do so would mean district may be found to be noncompliant
Source: Karten, T.J. (2005). Inclusion strategies that work! Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.