Students with Disabilities
in Postsecondary Education
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, issues unforeseen by the sponsors and proponents of this legislation have arisen. Issues such as definition and documentation of disability and access to standardized testing are being played out across the country, with mixed results.
Jo Anne Simon
Since the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), institutions have been engaged in an ongoing effort to establish precisely how to balance the rights of students with disabilities with those of the resources and obligations of postsecondary institutions. This chapter highlights key points in this dialogue. It also touches on unanticipated issues that have become central to the discussion since the ADA's passage by discussing court cases and letters of finding issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The ADA and Section 504 are substantially the same as they apply to higher education (Guckenberger v. Trustees of Boston University, 1997). Therefore this chapter will refer to either the ADA or Section 504.
Under Section 504, an institution's fundamental obligation is to avoid, or cease acting, in a discriminatory manner. But what exactly constitutes discrimination? Beyond obvious actions reflecting animus (ill will) or those decisions based on negative stereotypes regarding the skills and abilities of individuals with disabilities, it may be difficult for faculty and staff to identify, and thus avoid, discriminatory actions or decisions. Section 504 and the ADA prohibit actions that do the following:
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Publication information: Book title: Serving Students with Disabilities. Contributors: Holley A. Belch - Editor. Publisher: Jossey-Bass. Place of publication: San Francisco. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 69.
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