July 26th was the 33rd anniversary of the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act. While we celebrate, students and families across the country are preparing to head back to school. Many students with disabilities have either Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans; does the ADA apply in schools?
In a word: YES!
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that protects individuals with disabilities in all areas of life: jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
People with disabilities have the right to reasonable accommodations so they can have equal access to different areas of life. Accommodations can be anything from a wheelchair ramp to written text being available in an audio format. But an accommodation isn’t required if it causes an undue burden or a fundamental alteration to what a school, program, or business is offering. It has to be reasonable.
Some areas where the ADA might apply at school (as well as Section 504 and the IDEA):
Field trips: any place that a school takes students must be accessible to all students.
Building accessibility: does your school have accessible parking? What about ramps, elevators, FM systems, and other means of including students with disabilities throughout the entire school?
Extracurricular activities: schools have the obligation to ensure equal opportunity for participation in afterschool clubs and activities - including sports.
For more information about the rights students have under the ADA versus Section 504 and the IDEA, check out this very informative website: https://adata.org/factsheet/disability-rights-laws-public-primary-and-secondary-education-how-do-they-relate
Have questions about whether or not your school environment is fully accessible? Reach out to CASE! We support students and their families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our consultations are free and our advocacy services are provided at sliding scale; no one is ever turned away due to the inability to pay for our services. Call us at 415-431-2285 or email us at email@example.com.