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Tuesday's Tip: 504's & ADA Do Not = IDEA

Less than 17% of scholars eligible for accommodations in post-secondary programs, will access them once they enter into a college or a program after high school. Only 34% of special education scholars who go on to post-secondary education graduate within 8 years.

Scholars who started using available accommodations during their first year in college graduated 3.8 times more frequently than those who waited a year to implement them.

Do you think there might be a connection among those statements? Do you work with a scholar who does not want to self-disclose, or a scholar who is intimidated by the prospect of requesting accommodations every time they are needed? The role of the advocate and parent is to prepare the scholar for the differences between high school and college and how to navigate the rules of ADA and Section 504 vs. the rules of IDEA. Modifications and accommodations that are taken for granted in high school frequently disappear at the post- secondary level.

The scholar’s willingness to stand up for themselves and request accommodations that make it easier to be successful can frequently mean the difference between graduating and not. Yet, many scholars and parents are actually shocked by the limitations that they find on the average college campus when it comes to modifications or accommodations that are available on campus. The transition to post-secondary education is difficult enough when you know what to expect because you have already spoken to the office that handles all requests and approves any modifications or accommodations. When an in depth look at what is available at a given college is not done, there can be overwhelm and discouragement when reality hits. Not all disabilities offices at colleges are created equal.

So, let us first look at IDEA, ADA and Section 504 and how they relate to the scholar with disabilities then next week we can look at the specifics of documentation, eligibility, support services and the need for self-advocacy.


  • Is a special education law that only covers scholars from birth through high school (age 21) and does not address post-secondary levels of education.

  • It mandates the school to identify a scholar’s disability.

  • Accommodations are based on individual academic needs.

  • An IEP provides for a free appropriate public education, in the least restrictive environment, with individualized levels of academic support from school personnel, and goal-oriented academic planning.

  • It provides evaluation services to determine eligibility and diagnosis of disabilities and identification of necessary accommodations.

  • Provides for special education (SDIs) and related services.

  • The IEP is a legally binding document in elementary, middle and high school but has no power in the post-secondary environment.


  • Is a civil rights and anti-discrimination law.

  • Applies to all schools no matter what age.

  • Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination within educational settings on the basis of disability.

  • Scholars have to meet the requirements for a disability as defined in the ADA.

  • Purpose & Scope

    • Identify barriers in programs & activities that prevents persons with disabilities from access.

    • Includes evaluation of policies/practices not just physical barriers

    • Key – provide equivalent access to the maximum extent feasible

  • Identifying physical Barriers within public right-of-way

    • Curbs

    • Sidewalks

    • Pedestrian Crossings

    • Pedestrian Signals

    • Parking Lots

    • Bus Stops

    • Public right-of-way accessing

    • Government offices,

    • Medical facilities,

    • Core areas,

    • School zones

    • Residential areas, et al

    • Rest Areas

    • Parks

    • Shared use trails

    • public buildings

    • permit/licensing offices

    • public meeting rooms, etc.


  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a law that protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability in connection with any public or private program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

  • The Act is divided into seven Sub-parts.

  • Subpart D applies to K-12 schools when a K-12 scholar needs certain accommodations and modifications to either the physical space in the school or the learning environment (but not a special education program, with an IEP under the IDEA).

  • Subpart E states that post-secondary scholars must be granted the opportunity to compete with their peers without disabilities.

  • Is a civil rights and anti-discrimination law that protects scholars at elementary, middle, high school and the post-secondary level.

  • Applies to all federally funded organizations no matter what the age of the scholar or employee.

  • Prevents federally funded organizations (virtually all schools) from discriminating against individuals based on disability.

  • It protects scholars who do not qualify for services under IDEA through high school and college.

  • Prevents discrimination related to having a disability including equal educational opportunities and access to academics, buildings, or extracurricular activities.

  • Post-Secondary 504 Plans list needed accommodations in a written plan with the purpose of offering a scholar with a disability the same educational opportunities as a scholar without disabilities. They typically are around one page in length and:

o Provide academic accommodations based on individual needs

  • Include only accommodations offered in post-secondary education.

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