How do these laws relate to each other?
Institutions that receive federal funds are covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The ADA does not supplant Section 504, but in those situations where the ADA provides greater protection, the ADA standards apply. Washington State law does not confer any new or expanded rights, but is intended to provide a clearer, more succinct statement of those rights than previously existed.
NOTE: Private colleges and universities are covered under Title III of the ADA, unless they are wholly owned and operated by religious organizations.
What are the implications for higher education institutions?
- Students with disabilities must be afforded an equal opportunity to participate in, and benefit from all postsecondary education programs and activities. That includes any course, course of study, or activity offered.
- Rules or policies which would limit students with disabilities from fully participating in a program or activity may not be imposed.
- Academic standards are not compromised, but accommodations must be provided, on a case-by-case basis, to afford qualified students with disabilities an equal education opportunity.
Can I ask a Student if he/she has a Disability?
No. However, it is the college's responsibility to notify students of services available for students with disabilities. You should inform all students of services and/or programs available at the college for students who need accommodations due to a disability, and how to access those services.
Do I have the right to know what type of disability a student has when they ask for an accommodation?
No. A student does not have to inform the faculty or staff member about
their disability, but only the needed accommodations. If you have a question
regarding the need for the accommodation, then you may contact your Accessibility Resources
office. This office will have documentation regarding the student's disability
on file. They cannot give details about the disability, unless the student
has signed a written consent form, but can inform you if the student has
a documented disability and if the accommodation requested is appropriate.
The student may disclose their disability to you. You are then obligated
to maintain confidentiality regarding the student's disability. It is
important to remember that the confidential nature of disability-related
information has been an overarching principle of nondiscrimination since
What can I do if I disagree with the academic accommodation requested?
If you disagree with the academic accommodation requested, you should discuss
your disagreement with the Accessibility Resources provider, but you should continue to provide
the accommodation. An instructor may not forbid a student's use of an aid
if that prohibition limits the student's participation in the school program.
Section 504 states:
A recipient may not impose upon handicapped students other rules,
such as the prohibition of tape recorders in classrooms or of dog guides
in campus building, that have the effect of limiting the participation
of handicapped students in the recipient's education program or activity.
Often faculty members are concerned with the use of a tape recorder,
in their classroom because it may infringe on their freedom of speech
or potential copyrighted material. The instructor may ask the student
to sign an agreement that states that they will only use the recordings
for their personal use. It is important to remember that under the ADA
it appropriate accommodations are not provided to the student YOU, as
well as the institution can be held liable for monetary damages.
Does the student receive "special privileges" under this legislation?
Providing accommodations should not be regarded as giving students "special
privileges", but rather as equalizing the impact of the student's disability
to the greatest extent possible. Institutions are not mandated to make changes
in requirements that would result in a major or substantial change in essential
elements of the curriculum. The institution has the right to set academic
standards, but the institution must prove that a requested accommodations
would create a substantial change. The burden of proof lies with the institution.
It is important that the students be treated the same and with equity.
The legislation does not intend that institutions pass students because
they have a disability, and it is important to expect the same academic
performance, with requested accommodation, from the student with a disability
as from a student without a disability.
Does the student with a disability need to ask for accommodations in a certain time frame before classes?
Yes. Most institutions require that the student indicate the need for an
accommodation within a reasonable advance time. This is not always possible,
but it is important to provide the accommodations as soon as possible.
What can I do to make the classroom environment open to students with disabilities?
There are many that have had little or no contact with people with
disabilities. It is important to remember that people with disabilities
are just that-people first. Here are a few easy-to-remember tips:
- Make a general announcement regarding the availability of accommodations
at the beginning of class. Most institutions require a statement on
all syllabi regarding requests for accommodations. Inform students of
the Accessibility Resources office and how to contact that office.
- Ask questions. The student is the best source of information.
- Not everyone who has a disability is the same. It is important to
look at the person first and not lump everyone together in the same
category. This is also important when addressing accommodations. For
example, not all students with learning disabilities need extended time,
not all people with visual impairments need Braille, etc. Everyone is
an individual with individual needs.
How do I know what type of academic accommodation a student needs?
It is up to the student and the Accessibility Resources office to determine what type of accommodation
is needed. If you question the accommodation, contact the Accessibility Resources office. There
is not one type of accommodation for all students with disabilities. Each accommodation
must be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Do I also have to provide these services to international students with disabilities who need auxiliary aids or services?
Yes. International students are entitled to the same protection from nondiscrimination
on the basis of disability as are U.S. citizens. However, if a student
has limited English skills due to being a non-native speaker, and not
due to a disability, this would not qualify them as a person with a disability
under the law.
Who pays for accommodations?
Each institution is responsible for the provision of appropriate auxiliary
aids and services at no cost to the student. Each institution may determine
which department pays for a particular accommodation. The institution
cannot place a limit on its expenditure for auxiliary aids or services,
or refuse to provide auxiliary aids because it believes that other providers
of these services exist. The institution may work with an outside agency,
such as Vocational Rehabilitation, to assist in obtaining an item or service.
What If I am unsure how to handle a situation with a student with a disability?
First ask the student. He/she is the best source of information about
their disability. Second, contact the Accessibility Resources office or another office that
acts as a resource for students with disabilities.
What are my responsibilities concerning field trips and outside programs?
The legislation is very explicit about this. Persons with disabilities
are entitled to participate in the most integrated settings possible.
If a teacher conducts field trips or special programs, accommodations
must be offered. If an institution offers transportation to students going
on a field trip, it must offer accessible transportation for students
with disabilities. For example, a student who uses a wheelchair is enrolled
in your class, and you decide to use a college van to take the students
to a museum. You must offer transportation to the student with a disability.
The student may accept or refuse the accessible transportation.
What are possible personal consequences if I do not provide the accommodation requested?
If a student is denied equal access, auxiliary aids, or services, they
can file a complaint under Section 504 with the Office for Civil Rights
of the U.S. Department of Education or under the ADA Titles 11 and III
which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. The student
may file with both offices. Under ADA, monetary damages may be enforced
and the student may name both an individual, such as a professor, and
the institution in the complaint. An employee can be personally liable,
as well as the institution, if named in the complaint.
Do I have to provide academic accommodations if the student is taking the class for an audit?
Yes. The legislation states any student with a disability shall be given
equal access to programs or services offered to all students.