Disability Laws, Rights and Accommodations

Three important pieces of legislation related to the provision of academic accommodations, adjustments and services for students with disabilities at the university setting are:  The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. 

B1G Red Logo with Students with Disabilities Laws & Rights written across the image

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973 states:

No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States…shall, solely on the basis of a disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance.  For a more detailed description of Subpart E of the Rehabilitation Act, 1973, refer to the U.S. Department of Education’s web site at:  http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html

The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008 clarified the definition of “disability” for purposes of the ADA.  A person is considered to have a disability if the person:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment, which substantially limits one or more major life activities.  Major life activities include, but are not limited to self-care, manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working.
  • Has a record of a substantially limiting condition.
  • Is regarded as substantially limited.

For a more detailed description of Title II of the ADAAA, refer to the following U.S. Department of Education’s website at:  http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html.

With the passage of the ADA in 1990, Section 504 from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was expanded to include any public or private institution.  Subpart E of the Rehabilitation Act requires an institution to be prepared to make reasonable academic adjustments and accommodations to allow students with disabilities full participation in the same programs and activities available to students without disabilities.  The ADAAA further clarifies and reinforces these statutes.  With relation to a university setting, a qualified person with a disability is one who meets the academic and technical standards required for admission or participation in the institution’s educational programs or activities.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. For students with disabilities who attend a post-secondary institution, FERPA ensures the confidentiality of the student’s documentation and limits access to appropriate University personnel.