BPS Overview for Educating Students with Disabilities: 504 + ADA + IDEA
It can be difficult for families to understand the different laws that protect and support students with disabilities. These laws are briefly outlined below. Contact your school’s counselor or principal or special education teacher for further information.
Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973)
Section 504 is a federal civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination based upon a disability. Section 504 covers eligible students (pre-K through college), employees and other individuals with disabilities for reasonable accommodations that enable them to work or learn. The eligible student’s education team develops a 504 Plan which “levels the playing field” by reducing any disability-related obstacles to a student’s full participation in the general education classroom and resulting Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life -- to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 -- the ADA is an "equal opportunity" law for people with disabilities.
To be protected by the ADA and/or Section 504, one must have a disability, which is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
IDEA (Special Education)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), commonly called special education, is a federal law that governs special education delivery for schoolchildren (ages 3 – high school graduation) who qualify under IDEA guidelines. The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is developed by the educational team for each child and indicates how a child’s education will be individualized to ensure the student is receiving a Free and Appropriated Public Education (FAPE) within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
Child Find for Special Education and Section 504
Any person aware of a child between the ages of 3 through 21 who has a disability or may be experiencing physical, mental, emotional or learning problems may contact a classroom teacher, school staff, counselor or principal to discuss the process of initiating an assessment and the determination of available and appropriate support services for that child and their family.