Legal Foundations for Services to Students with Disabilities
Under Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA); the Florida Educational Equity Act; and other state statutes; the College has a responsibility to accommodate and provide access to students with disabilities. Section 504 reads, in part:
No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, 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.
This act, which has been extended with the passage of the ADA, guarantees civil rights for Americans with disabilities. With respect to postsecondary education services, "otherwise qualified," means meeting the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the program or activity.
Section 504 is the section of the law that specifically refers to postsecondary and vocational education services. This section requires that colleges and universities make appropriate adjustments necessary to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. The key is accommodating the disability, not altering course content.
With the exception of removing architectural barriers, no set formulas exist for making adjustments that will be helpful in every case. Thus, adaptations are specific to the needs of individual students. In every case, the intent is to accommodate the disability without altering academic standards or course content.
At a student's request for services, the DSS staff meets early in the semester with the student so that course requirements and appropriate academic adjustments can be discussed. Topics that generally need to be addressed early are:
- Adaptive equipment
- Extended time on exams
- Textbooks on CD