In 1973, our federal government enacted a sweeping piece of legislation called the Rehabilitation Act that was viewed as a "civil rights" statute for individuals with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act ensured individuals with disabilities protection from discrimination in federal agencies (Section 501); required the timely removal of pre-existing physical barriers in architecture and transportation, and imposed mandatory structural accessibility requirements for all future enterprises (Section 502); it provided for nondiscrimination in employment practices for all institutions or entities in receipt of federal funding (Section 503); and provided a ‘right of access’ statue (Section 504). This law provided persons with disabilities the right of access into, or to the benefits of, any program or activity in receipt of federal funding (Section 504, as amended in 1978).
Post-secondary institutions, (e.g. Colleges & Universities), were most impacted by sections 503 & 504; however section 504 had the most far-reaching implications.
Under 504, post-secondary schools were required to establish support programs that assisted persons with disabilities within their institutions. These support programs were not special education programs created solely for persons with disabilities, but were instead, mandated measures to assure ‘inclusion with support’ into pre-established programs.
This landmark decision guaranteed that persons with disabilities had the same opportunity to participate in the same programs for the same rewards and prevented the person with a disability from being viewed solely on the basis of disability.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed and continued the movement to insure equal access for individuals with disabilities. It continued the 1973 legislation of nondiscrimination in employment practices, but now encompassed both public and private facilities, programs, activities and opportunities, mandating that opportunities be made available “when it can be shown that, with or without reasonable accommodation, the individual can perform the essential functions of the job” (Title I).
What changed in the ADA was the inclusion of all entities that served the public sector. This meant access to programs operated by state and local government agencies and the removal of physical access barriers by public transportation carriers (Title II); it required that private entrepreneurs make programs, goods and services available and accessible to persons with disabilities (Title III); it provided access to telecommunications services for persons with speech and hearing disabilities (Title IV); and included what can be considered an ‘elastic clause’ that covered all other miscellaneous situations within government and private facilities (Title V).
In short, it expanded the scope of the original 1973 ‘civil rights’ legislation by including every level of government (state, local, and federal), and by including enterprises within the private sector that dealt with the public. Today the ADA as amended in 2009 broadens the scope of who has, or what is, a disability.
According to the ADA as amended in 2009, a disability is any mental or physical impairment that significantly limits a major life activity or bodily function. These activities may include learning, speaking, walking, seeing, hearing, breathing, working or the ability to care for oneself. A person must have a disability, a record of a disability or be regarded as having a disability that is not considered transitory or minor.
If you have a disability and will require accommodations, you must register with Services for Students with Disabilities.
Be sure to stop in the office: Science Building Room S-132