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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
When Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, it included Section 504 which forbade discrimination against persons with disabilities by programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, which included virtually every institution of higher education, except the U.S. military academies and a few small religious schools. This was the first civil rights statute designed to prevent discrimination against persons with disabilities and was patterned after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was patterned after Section 504. It, too, requires that students with disabilities may not be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any institution which is subject to the ADA.The ADA does not require that the institution receive federal financial assistance.
Any individual who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits a major life activity; has a record of having such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment is protected by the law, as discrimination has many faces. Most faculty, however, will find themselves dealing with students who meet the first prong of the definition — an impairment which presents a substantial limitation to a major life activity.
A postsecondary institution must make reasonable accommodations in order to provide students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the institution’s courses, programs and activities. This includes extracurricular activities. Colleges must make “academic adjustments” to ensure that a student has an equal opportunity to participate. Academic adjustments may include extended time for test taking, completion of course work or graduation; tape recording of classes; substitution of specific courses to meet degree requirements; modification of test taking or performance evaluations so as not to discriminate against a person’s sensory, speaking or motor impairments, unless that is what is being tested.
A college or university must also provide “auxiliary aids and services,” such as qualified sign language interpreters, notetakers, readers, braille and large print materials, and adaptive equipment. A qualified interpreter is one who can communicate expressively and receptively, using any specialized vocabulary in a manner that is effective, accurate, and impartial. Institutions are not responsible for providing personal services such as attendants, hearing aids, glasses, etc. Under the applicable regulations, tutoring is a personal service. Therefore, it need not be provided unless the school provides tutoring to other students, in which case it must make that tutoring program accessible to students with disabilities. Institutions may not charge money for reasonable accommodations.
Colleges do not have to provide accommodations that would “fundamentally alter” the educational program or academic requirements which are essential to a program of study or to fulfill licensing requirements. The determination of what is a fundamental alteration, however, is one which requires specific steps and a reasoned, determinative process on the part of the campus community. Remember, the ADA is a remedial statute which requires that colleges and universities question their notions of what is truly fundamental and provide for alternate methods of achieving the results intended by the educational program.
As a faculty member, you are an integral part of your institution’s efforts to comply with these laws. Just as you are not free to discriminate against students on the basis of race, religion, gender or ethnicity, so too, you cannot discriminate against students with disabilities. Part of not discriminating against students with disabilities is the provision of reasonable accommodations or “academic adjustments” and “auxiliary aids and services”. Institutional compliance is a shared responsibility of which faculty are a necessary part. Your employment in that capacity requires that you assist the institution in fulfilling its compliance responsibilities in connection with the ADA as well as other civil rights statutes.
If you have any further questions on this topic, about working with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing, or would like more information, contact:
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
Article printed from Northern Essex Community College: http://www.necc.mass.edu
URL to article: http://www.necc.mass.edu/academics/support-services/learning-accommodations/deaf-and-hard-of-hearing-services/student-resources/accommodations-tipsheets/americans-with-disabilities-act-ada/
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