Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
"TTU University Faculty
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 along with the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 require public higher education institutions to provide “reasonable” accommodations to individuals with disabilities.
I. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
a. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 says, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
b. The Rehabilitation Act very explicitly mentions “a college, university, or other postsecondary institution, or public system of higher education” as constituting a “program or activity.” In short, this law says any financial assistance TTU receives from the federal government can be revoked if the university is determined to have discriminated against an individual with a disability.
II. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
a. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was patterned after the 1973 Rehab Act. The ADA specifically cites, “Overprotective rules and policies, failure to make modifications to existing…practices [and] exclusionary qualification standards and criteria” as forms of disability-related discrimination. It also says institutions are required to provide “reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures…unless the entity can demonstrate that making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of such goods, services” etc.
b. Essentially this means any campus policy (including departmental policies, course syllabus policies, etc.) must contain room for “reasonable” accommodations unless the requested accommodation would “fundamentally alter” the departmental objectives, course material(s), etc. Any denial of a classroom accommodation must be justified on the basis of the fundamental elements of the course (not how fair or unfair it is to other students).
III. The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008
a. Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 because it said the courts had “narrowed the broad scope of protection intended to be afforded by the ADA, thus eliminating protection for many individuals whom Congress intended to protect.” The 2008 amendments act also specifically singled out “academic requirements in postsecondary education” as an area that needed improvement.
b. The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 effectively shifted the focus from individuals with disabilities having to prove disability status to demanding institutions show a certain level of accessibility. The “fundamental alteration” provision persists but the institution must show a willingness to provide accommodations. If an accommodation request constitutes a “fundamental alteration” the institution must explore alternatives that might allow the person to fully participate.
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."
a person with a disability...
"any person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which limits one or more major life activities, (2) has record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment."
a "qualified person with a disability"...
"who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program or activity."
Significance... Student: A student must meet the university's qualifications for entry in order to be considered otherwise qualified. The student is obligated to self-identify the disability and the needed accommodations. For Tennessee Tech's Office of Disability Services, the student is required to provide appropriate recent documentation. University: The university must provide the student reasonable accommodations that allow an equal opportunity to participate in the institution's programs, activities and services. Faculty and Staff: Faculty and staff have the responsibility to cooperate with the Office of Disability Services in providing the appropriate accommodations in a timely and reasonable manner. Faculty and Staff should be aware that there is personal liability. If a faculty member fails to provide an accommodation to a student with a documented disability, that member may be held personally liable.
Section 508 In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. The ADA requires that reasonable accommodations be provided in meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities. These accommodations apply to employment, public services, transportation, and public accommodation, regardless of whatever federal funds are received.
Confidentiality Faculty/staff do not have the right to access diagnostic information regarding a student's disability. Faculty/staff need only know the accommodations that are necessary to provide equal opportunity to a student. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not allow faculty to access disability related information. Disclosure of any further information only occurs with the student's written permission.
Faculty/staff members need to be aware that confidentiality also protects a student from identification to others. A faculty/staff member should never identify a student as having a disability to other faculty/staff members, as well as students. A faculty/staff member does not need to provide explanation to other students for a student that may use a computer in class or take a test outside class time. Refraining from giving explanations is a safeguard for confidentiality.