The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that provides protections to individuals with disabilities. It guarantees individuals with disabilities equal access to public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.
Under Title II, a public school must ensure that its services, programs, and activities are accessible to students with disabilities. A school may be required to change the participation criteria for its programs, activities, and services if those criteria prevent students with disabilities from accessing the programs, activities and services. Title II does not require a school to change its participation criteria if it can establish that the requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program or activity. Title II requires public schools to reasonably modify its policies, practices, or procedures to avoid discriminating against students with disabilities; and make school buildings physically accessible to students with disabilities
Section 504 applies to schools taking federal grant monies. Whereas Title II covers public schools regardless of federal funding.
A reasonable accommodation in education is a bit open for interpretation and ends in court cases over the definition of reasonable. Legally, a modification or adjustment is defined as reasonable if it appears to be “feasible” or “plausible” and does not place undue hardship on the provider. Undue hardship is defined as being significantly difficult and covers both expense and difficulty of providing modification.
For example, a reasonable accommodation for a visually impaired student might be providing resources in braille or in audio format. An unreasonable accommodation would be the expectation of providing an individual to shadow the student and read all of the printed material if providing braille and audio support allows the student the same access to learning as a non sight impaired student.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of students with disabilities and unlike Section 504 it goes a step further and addresses the financial need by providing the financial resources to make appropriate accommodations.
IDEA also covers the creation of an IEP. Individual Education Plan, an IEP is specific in nature covering the modifications and outlining strategies, measurements, and responsibilities needed to address the disability.
The big picture for content developers
All content developers know their content, or hope their content, reaches a wide audience. The audience includes students falling under protection of ADA, Title II, IDEA, and Section 504. As such, content developers have to develop to ensure their content can accommodate special needs. For me this means including Alt text tags on all images, coding to allow screen readers to function correctly, and ability to layer audio and video. The reading reminded me of the importance of building in the ability to modify. It not only helps the student but reduces the bur