The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is the civil rights guarantee for persons with disabilities in the United States. It provides protection from discrimination for individuals on the basis of disability. The ADA extends civil rights protection for people with disabilities to employment in the public and private sectors, transportation, public accommodations; services provided by state and local government and telecommunication relay services.
The ADA upholds and extends the standards for compliance set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to employment practices, communications, and all policies, procedures, and practices that impact on the treatment of students with disabilities. Employment issues for all institutions are covered under Title I. For all activities, public institutions are covered under Title II; private institutions are covered under Title III.
Because of all the public attention given to the passage and implementation of the ADA, renewed attention is being focused on disability access to institutions of higher education. This focus includes the whole scope of the institution's activities, including facilities, programs, and employment (AHEAD & HEATH brochure).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that: "No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States… shall, solely by reason 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."
Colleges and universities receiving federal financial assistance must not discriminate in the recruitment, admission, or treatment of students. Students with documented disabilities may request modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids, which will enable them to participate in and benefit from all postsecondary educational programs and activities. Postsecondary institutions must make such changes to ensure the academic program is accessible to the greatest extent possible by all students with disabilities.
Under the provisions of Section 504, universities may not: Limit the number of qualified students with disabilities admitted; Make preadmission inquiries as to whether or not an applicant is disabled, except as necessary to provide Affirmative Action for persons with disabilities; Use admissions tests or criteria that inadequately measure the academic qualifications or likelihood of success of disabled students; Exclude a qualified student with a disability from any course of study; limit eligibility of a student with a disability for financial assistance or otherwise discriminate in administering scholarships, fellowships, internships, or assistantships on the basis of disability; Counsel a student with a disability toward a more restrictive career; Use methods of evaluating students which fail to represent a disabled student's actual achievement, or Establish and apply rules or policies that have the effect of limiting participation of students with disabilities. (Adapted from the American Council on Education brochure).