Legal Info

Understanding the differences between being a student who receives services under special programs in high school and being a college student with a disability requires an understanding of the federal laws that govern each institution.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1973 protects children from infancy to the age of 21. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 covers post-secondary students. Simply put, IDEA provides equal entitlement, and ADA provides equal access. Please refer to the chart below to compare the two laws.

Intent of Law
  • Free and appropriate public education
  • Least restrictive environment
  • Identification of children needing special education
  • Provision of education and related services
Ensures that no otherwise qualified person with a disability is denied access to, benefits of, or is subject to discrimination solely on the basis of disability
Who Is Covered Infants up to 21 years or upon graduation from high school All otherwise qualified* individuals who, with or without reasonable accommodations, meet the college’s standard admissions requirements and the demands of the standard academic curriculum
Definition of Disability There are 13 disability classifications defined (No listing of classifications of disabilities.) A person is defined as having a disability if he/she:
  • Has any physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life functions**
  • Has a history of such an impairment
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment
Responsible for Identifying and Documenting Need School districts are responsible for:
  • Identifying students with disabilities
  • Providing educational and related services
  • Doing the above at no cost to the family
Students are responsible for:
  • Self-identification
  • Providing documentation of disability
  • Assisting in process of determining accommodations
  • Notifying the Accessibility Support Services staff of their disability
  • All costs (not the post-secondary institution)
Advocacy The parent or guardian is the primary advocate.At age 14, students are invited to participate in the development of their Individual Education Plan (IEP). Students must advocate for themselves.The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) guarantees student confidentiality. Conversations with parents regarding confidential information without the student’s written consent is illegal.

*Qualified individual with a disability is an individual with a disability who satisfies the requisite skill, experience... and who, with or without, reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions.

**Major life functions mean activities such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.