The ADA goes beyond special education laws to protect
students with disabilities from discrimination
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education – known as special education. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provide additional rights to ensure that students with disabilities who are not eligible for special education have access to the programs and services a school provides.
The ADA protects college students
Public and private colleges and universities cannot discriminate against students with disabilities and must provide reasonable modifications to promote their full participation. Title II of the ADA covers public colleges and universities — meaning they are owned and operated by a state or local government. Title III of the ADA covers private colleges and universities. Schools that receive federal funding are also covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The ADA protects people with disabilities taking high-stakes tests and licensing exams
Frequently, people with disabilities who take high-stakes tests (such as the SAT or the MCAT) or who take professional licensing tests (such as the bar exam or the Medical Licensing Exam) need modifications on these tests because of their disabilities.
Modifications can include:
- Providing the exam in a physically accessible location for someone who uses a wheelchair
- Providing extra testing time for someone with a learning disability
- Providing the examination in an alternate format for someone who is blind
These modifications must be provided unless the testing entity can show that providing the modifications would be an undue burden or result in fundamental alteration. These entities are covered under Title III of the ADA if they are private (such as the Law School Admissions Council) or under Title II of the ADA if they are public (such as the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar).
- Read the U.S. Department of Education’s website (ED.gov) for more information about the rights of people with disabilities and the responsibilities of schools under the ADA
- View our Higher Education Resources page
- Visit our Higher Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
- Get legal help
Last updated: September 27, 2019