The Department of Education's (Department) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today issued a Dear Colleague letter concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (Amendments Act). The letter and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ) provide additional guidance on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) in elementary and secondary schools, given the changes to those laws made by the Amendments Act.
"We must continue to take steps to enable every child, regardless of disability, to reach their full potential," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "This guidance reiterates the Department's commitment to ensure that educational opportunity is provided free from disability discrimination."
The Amendments Act, effective Jan. 1, 2009, amends the ADA, as well as the Rehabilitation Act. The Amendments Act broadened the meaning of disability and, in most cases, shifts the inquiry away from the question of whether a student has a disability as defined by the ADA and Section 504, and toward school districts' actions and obligations to ensure equal education opportunities.
Today's Dear Colleague letter and FAQ discuss the various obligations of school districts, such as the requirement to evaluate students for disability, and provide a free appropriate public education to students with disabilities, as well as the changes made by the Amendments Act.
"It is critical that school districts remain vigilant in their duty to protect the civil rights of all their students, including students with disabilities. When Congress changes the law affecting those rights, districts must ensure that their policies and practices reflect this altered landscape," said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali.