Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), educational institutions must provide “reasonable accommodations” to enable students with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to participate in an academic program, typically by making adjustments or modifications to the academic environment, application process, or educational curriculum.
There are a number of reasonable accommodations that can be made to help students with disabilities succeed in school. These accommodations may include physical accessibility, such as ramps and automatic doors; audio-visual aids, such as closed captioning and American Sign Language interpreters; or auxiliary aids, such as Braille displays or text enlargements. Some other examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Modified classroom seating
- Assistance with note-taking
- Extended time for test-taking
- Lecture recording
In order for accommodations to be considered “reasonable,” they must not impose an undue hardship on the institution providing them. The determination of whether an accommodation presents an undue hardship takes into account the nature and cost of the accommodation, the resources available to the school, and whether the accommodation would substantially alter an educational program or pose a safety risk.
How do I get school accommodations?
The ADA only requires schools to accommodate a student if they are aware of the need, so parents and students are responsible for disclosing the student’s disability to the school and requesting an accommodation. Typically, college students can initiate the accommodation process through the university’s disability resource center, whereas elementary and secondary students and their parents can go through the school administrator.
While students and parents are not necessarily required to submit a written request for an accommodation, they are responsible for providing written documentation of the disability. And even though it’s not required, it’s always a good idea to put your request in writing for documentation purposes. Should a dispute arise later, it will be helpful to have evidence that you requested a reasonable accommodation.
A typical request letter should identify the student’s disability and clearly state that you are requesting a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. It should also identify the student’s specific disability-related needs and suggest accommodations that you believe will meet these needs. You can also ask the school to recommend different accommodations if it believes the suggested accommodations are not reasonable and to give you a response to your request for accommodation within a reasonable time frame. Make sure you include your medical documentation and explain it in your letter if anything is unclear.
When should I contact an education lawyer?
You should contact an education lawyer immediately if your university or your child’s school refuses to make reasonable accommodations for a disability. Schools are often resistant to providing accommodations, particularly if it would require the school to incur additional expenses. An experienced education attorney can review your situation and fight to secure the accommodations you or your child need to participate fully in an educational program.
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