Legal Rights for Students with Disabilities

Federal and State laws, particularly Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), protect the rights of students with disabilities to enjoy full participation in all programs and services provided through the community college system. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states in part that:

"No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reasons of...disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

"(An institution)...shall make such modifications to its academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that such requirements do not discriminate or have the effect of discrimination, on the basis of disability, against a qualified applicant or student with a disability...Modifications may include changes in the length time permitted for completion of a degree requirements, substitution of specific courses required for the completion of degree requirements, and adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted."

A "person with a disability" includes "any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities; (2) has a record of such impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

"Disabilities may include but are not limited to such conditions as: Blindness or visual impairments; deafness or hearing impairments; orthopedic impairments; chronic illnesses; psychiatric conditions; specific learning disabilities; developmental disabilities; seizure disorders; speech disorders and acquired brain injuries.

Title II of The Americans with Disability Act upholds and extends the standards for compliance set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to all policies, procedures and practices that impact on the treatment of students with disabilities at the community college. The community college as an institution, its faculty and staff, must not discriminate in the recruitment, admission or treatment of students. Students with documented disabilities may request, in a timely fashion, reasonable academic accommodations or auxiliary aids which will enable them to participate in and benefit from all post secondary educational programs and activities. Post secondary institutions must make sure that their academic programs are accessible to the greatest extent possible by all students with disabilities

The laws requiring the community college to provide academic accommodations to students with disabilities are not intended to provide an unfair advantage to the student but rather to "even the educational playing field" by allowing them to participate as fully as possible in all educational programs and fairly demonstrate their knowledge of required subject matter.