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ADA Amendments Act - Department of Education

Author: Department of Education

Published: 2012-01-28

Synopsis:

Providing additional guidance on requirements of ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in elementary and secondary schools.

Main Digest

Department of Education Issues ADA Amendments Act Dear Colleague Letter to Provide Guidance Under Amended Legal Standards - The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has issued a Dear Colleague letter concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act.

ADA - The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

The letter and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions document provide additional guidance on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in elementary and secondary schools, given the changes to those laws made by the Amendments Act.

"We must continue to take steps to enable every child, regardless of disability, to reach their full potential," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "This guidance reiterates the Department's commitment to ensure that educational opportunity is provided free from disability discrimination."

The Amendments Act, effective Jan. 1, 2009, amends the ADA, as well as the Rehabilitation Act. The Amendments Act broadened the meaning of disability and, in most cases, shifts the inquiry away from the question of whether a student has a disability as defined by the ADA and Section 504, and toward school districts' actions and obligations to ensure equal education opportunities.

Today's Dear Colleague letter and FAQ discuss the various obligations of school districts, such as the requirement to evaluate students for disability, and provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, as well as the changes made by the Amendments Act.

"It is critical that school districts remain vigilant in their duty to protect the civil rights of all their students, including students with disabilities. When Congress changes the law affecting those rights, districts must ensure that their policies and practices reflect this altered landscape," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali.

To review the Dear Colleague letter, please visit www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201109.html

The FAQs are posted at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-504faq-201109.html

More information about OCR can be found at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html as well as Facebook.com/EDCivilRights and Twitter @Edcivilrights

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