Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that:

"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States. . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by an institution receiving federal financial assistance."

In 1977, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare established guidelines for implementing Section 504. Case law has continued to contribute to guidelines for considering accommodation requests. These regulations include the following points:

  • Services provided to individuals with disabilities should be as effective as those provided to others.
  • There is no obligation to ensure identical results or levels of achievement.
  • They must be given equal opportunity to gain the same results or levels of achievement.
  • Postsecondary institutions are not required to compromise on requirements that are essential to the program or course of instruction or that are directly related to licensing requirements.
  • If there is content or a process that is not essential to the evaluation of mastery of a course, the postsecondary institution must alter methods of evaluation in order to best ensure that test results reflect student achievement rather than areas of disability.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990

The ADA was passed in order to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It is civil rights legislation that affects some 43,000,000 Americans with disabilities

Provisions of the ADA

Title I. Title I covers nondiscrimination in employment activities

Title II. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits state and local governments from discriminating on the basis of disability. It is divided into two subparts. Subpart A requires that state and local government entities and programs be made accessible to persons with disabilities. Subpart B requires that public transportation systems be made fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

Title III. Title III covers the accessibility and availability of programs, goods, and services provided to the public by private entities.

Title IV. Title IV requires that telecommunication services be made accessible to persons with hearing and speech impairments and has specific reference to the development of telecommunications relay systems and closed-captioning technology.

Title V. Title V of the ADA contains miscellaneous provisions that apply to all of the other titles as well.

Facility Access

The ADA requires existing facilities of Title II entities to be accessible to the extent that access is not an undue burden. All Title II entities must have a Transition Plan which lists, specifically, when and how existing architectural barriers will be removed. For new construction or renovations, the college must be in compliance with Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG), without the elevator exemption. The choice of standards must be consistent within a single building.

Application to Higher Education

Unlike Section 504, The ADA applies to all institutions of higher education regardless of receipt of Federal funds. The U.S. Department of Education enforces Title II in public colleges and universities.

For further information about Higher Education's Obligations under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA, see

Last updated: 9/24/2009 1:19:29 PM