Legal provisions

There are two federal statutes, along with regulations that implement them, that directly promote the full inclusion of students with a disability in postsecondary education.

Federal Laws

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (as amended in 2008) use similar language in prescribing freedom from discrimination and exclusion for students with a disability:

Section 504
“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 7(20) shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, 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...” (29 US Code Sec. 794)

Americans with Disabilities Act
“… [N]o qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” (42 US Code Ch. 126 Sec. 12132)

Department of Education

Selected relevant provisions of Department of Education regulations

The federal Department of Education has regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act with respect to entities receiving funds from the Department. The provisions below deal with academic accommodations in the postsecondary setting:

104.44 Academic adjustments
(a) Academic requirements. A recipient to which this subpart applies shall make such modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discriminating, on the basis of handicap, against a qualified handicapped applicant or student. Academic requirements that the recipient can demonstrate are essential to the instruction being pursued by such student or to any directly related licensing requirement will not be regarded as discriminatory within the meaning of this section. Modifications may include changes in the length of time permitted for the completion of degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted.

(b) Other rules. A recipient to which this subpart applies may not impose upon handicapped students other rules, such as the prohibition of tape recorders in classrooms or of dog guides in campus buildings, that have the effect of limiting the participation of handicapped students in the recipient's education program or activity.

(c) Course examinations. In its course examinations or other procedures for evaluating students' academic achievement, a recipient to which this subpart applies shall provide such methods for evaluating the achievement of students who have a handicap that impairs sensory, manual, or speaking skills as will best ensure that the results of the evaluation represents the student's achievement in the course, rather than reflecting the student's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills (except where such skills are the factors that the test purports to measure).

(d) Auxiliary aids. 
(1) A recipient to which this subpart applies shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure that no handicapped student is denied the benefits of, excluded from participation in, or otherwise subjected to discrimination because of the absence of educational auxiliary aids for students with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills.
(2) Auxiliary aids may include taped texts, interpreters or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to students with hearing impairments, readers in libraries for students with visual impairments, classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments, and other similar services and actions. Recipients need not provide attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature. (34 C.F.R. Sec. 104)

Higher Education

Resources on legal provisions related to disability in higher education

A list of online articles regarding disability laws and their implementation in higher education from the University of Washington’s DO-IT program (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology).

“What legal issues are associated with access to video products for students with sensory impairments?” DO-IT Faculty Room, University of Washington.

A list of online articles regarding legal requirements for web accessibility published by Access IT (National Center on Accessible Information Technology in Education).

“Web Accessibility and Individuals with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: The Legal Issues.” AccessIT, University of Washington.

Does the website developed by a professor for a particular course at a university or college have to meet accessibility standards?” AccessIT, University of Washington.

What does it mean to "effectively communicate" website content to individuals with disabilities as required by Section 504 and the ADA?” AccessIT, University of Washington.