ADA Obligations of K-12 Education

Public schools are covered under Title II of the ADA. As Title II entities they have an obligation to ensure all programs, activities and services are accessible and usable to people with disabilities. This includes students, parents, staff, and volunteers. Public events such as football games or plays must also be accessible to attendees with disabilities.

In order to meet Title II obligations, public schools:

May not refuse to allow a person with a disability to participate in a service, program, or activity simply because the person has a disability.

Example: Tanya is a high school student and has Down’s Syndrome. She has been denied the opportunity to try out for several parts in the all-school play because she is a “special education” student. Tanya has been denied the opportunity to participate equally with other students.

Provide programs and services in an integrated setting,unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity.

Example: Michelle enjoys swimming but needs a pool lift to get in and out of the She wants to take a swim class for high school P.E. credits. Michelle should be able to take the class with her peers as there is no reason for her to take an “adaptive PE” class.

Eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy their services, programs or activities.

Example: A Career Center makes a policy that all students with seizure disorders or a history of seizures are denied access to the Center's equipment. This type of decision should not be a broad policy, but instead be made on a case by case basis. In this case, some student’s may have seizures well controlled with medication, are aware of seizures well before they happen or have seizures that would not affect the use of many types of equipment.

Eliminate requirements that tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, such as requiring a driver’s license as the only acceptable means of identification.

Example: The application for school volunteers requires a driver’s license number even though requires a driver’s license number even though volunteering involves no driving duties. People with disabilities who cannot drive should be able to provide an alternative ID.

Make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities,unless a fundamental alteration in the program would result.

Example: Kyle is a middle school student with diabetes. His school has a “no food” in the classroom or hallways policy, but modifies the policy for Kyle if he needs to eat a quick snack due to low blood sugar.

Furnish auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.

Example: Terrence is legally blind and his son is in elementary school. He requests that classroom reports, assignments, notes, etc. be sent to him electronically so he can use a screenreader to ‘read” the information. The school would be required to provide this auxiliary service to ensure Terrence has access to the same information as other parents. May not charge fees on individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of making services, programs and activities accessible. Rory uses school provided Voice Activated Software to write papers. His family receives a bill from the school for use of the software. The school district may not pass along the cost of providing the software as it is both part of their obligation to provide a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and would be considered a fee or surcharge under the ADA.