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Two federal statutes govern the provision of disability services in higher education: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which provides a free and appropriate education to individuals with disabilities in the K-12 school system, these statutes are civil rights laws that provide access and prevent discrimination for individuals with disabilities. These statutes ensure that a student’s access to college admission, and to specific academic programs and courses, is not hindered due to a disability and that reasonable accommodations are provided.
A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
An accommodation is a modification to a program, task or event that allows an individual with a disability to participate fully. Accommodations must be effective to ensure equal access but may not reduce program standards or present an undue financial or administrative burden to the institution.
Documentation is the report produced by the health provider who has evaluated an individual’s disability. This information provides the official basis of a student’s claim that he or she is a person with a disabling condition and guides the development of the student’s accommodation plan.