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Accessibility in Education

Accessibility in education is not a popular fad or buzzword. It is a commitment to provide equal learning opportunities to students of all abilities by government entities, institutions, and educators. Barriers to student equal opportunities can be seen, as in the case of a vision or mobility impairment, and unseen, such as a cognitive or developmental impairment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the legislative equivalent of the Civil Rights Act for individuals with cognitive, behavioral or physical disabilities. The ADA provides equal access and equal opportunity to The intent of the ADA is to remove barriers that may inhibit equal opportunity and equal access for those with an impairment. The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in

  • public accommodations
  • employment
  • transportation
  • state and local government services and
  • telecommunications.

This includes entities who receive federal funding (Title II) as well as state and local government, including public K-12 and post-secondary education entities (Sec. 504).

Who is Covered?

Any individual with a disability is protected by the ADA.

What does “person with a disability” mean within the context of Section 504 and Title II?
“Person with a disability” means a person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment. The determination of whether a student has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (and therefore has a disability) must be made on a case by case basis. In addition, when determining if someone meets the definition of a disability, the definition must be viewed to provide broad coverage of individuals. For more information about the definition of disability, see here.

What is the difference between Title II and Section 504?



The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) applies to children up to age 21 in public schools.

IDEA Fact Sheet

The University of Alaska Anchorage prepared a comprehensive chart that compares the differences and similarities among Title II, Sec. 504 and IDEA.

From UAA Disability Support Services
From UAA Disability Support Services
From UAA Disability Support Services

What must be provided?

Covered entities must provide reasonable accommodations to employees, students, or consumers. Reasonable accommodations work to remove barriers that prevent an individual with an impairment from equal access to public accommodations, employment, transportation, government services and communications.

For more information on reasonable accommodations in education, click here.

Accessibility in Practice: Making it Work

Now that you know a little more about ADA and reasonable accommodations in an education context, how do you make it work for students? For more information, click here.