The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Its Impact on Higher Education and Nursing Education

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Abstract: This paper outlines the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and explores the extensive impact the ADA legislation has had on institutions that provide higher education and nursing education in the United States.

Key Words: ADA, Accommodations, NCSBN, Board of Nursing, Nursing licensure.

This paper outlines the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and explores the extensive impact the ADA legislation has had on institutions that provide higher education in the United States. The author's personal experience with the ADA has been limited to nursing students encountered as a faculty member in a nursing program in central Oklahoma. In the past several years, increasing numbers of nursing students have submitted documentation of various disabilities for which they request accommodations to be made by the nursing program. A fundamental question that must be addressed by the nursing faculty is "What is a reasonable accommodation?" Given the rigorous educational program and occupational skills requisite to the role of a registered nurse, the nursing faculty hold strong beliefs regarding what types of disability would be incompatible with the safe and effective practice of nursing. It is the author's hope to gain a clearer perspective regarding a definitive answer to this question through further examination of the ADA and how it has impacted the higher education arena, and more specifically nursing education.

One in five Americans has some form of mental and/or physical disability, such that individuals with disabilities are now the largest minority group in the nation (Brazelon, 1995, p. 12). Disabilitycrossesallrace, gender, and ethnic boundaries. At any given time, every person or one of their family members may be affected by disabilities which may include physical, sensory, cognitive, or mental disability. The nation's proper goals for individuals with disabilities are to assure equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for such individuals (43 U.S.C. § 12101). The purpose of the ADA is to: 1) provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities; 2) provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities; 3) ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this Act on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and 4) invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities (42 U.S.C. § 12101).

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibited discrimination in all entities that receive federal financial assistance. The ADA makes provisions for employment, state and local government, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications (ADA Action Guide, 1992, p. 1 ). Title II of the ADA extends the requirements of section 504 to all public entities, whether or not they receive federal funds. Title II states that:

No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity (42 U.S.C. § 12132).

In order to be in compliance with Title II of the ADA, public entities must conduct a self-evaluation to assess whether their services, programs, and activities are readily accessible to and usable by people with mental and physical disabilities (Bra/elon, 1995, p. 17).

Title III of the ADA extends the nondiscrimination provisions to places of public accommodation, whose definition includes colleges and universities. A wide range of requirements are placed on colleges and universities by Title III of the ADA. …