20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act a Cause for Celebration and Rededication to Equal Educational Opportunity for Students with Disabilities

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20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act a Cause for Celebration and Rededication to Equal Educational Opportunity for Students with Disabilities

July 26, 2010

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) enactment by applauding the legislation and by rededicating the U.S. Department of Education to the ADA’s effective implementation.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation. It protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination and promotes their full inclusion into education and all other aspects of our society,” Duncan said. “I want to celebrate the progress that we’ve made and highlight our commitment to continuing the work of providing equal access for all Americans. I acknowledge we still have work to do and renew my commitment to ensuring that individuals of all ages and abilities have an equal opportunity to realize their full potential.

“With President Obama’s support,” Duncan said, “we are strengthening our efforts to ensure that all students, including those with disabilities, have the tools they need to benefit from a world-class education that prepares them for success in college and careers.”

Duncan noted that the Department plays two important roles serving children and adults with disabilities. First, it enforces portions of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and other civil rights laws.

Since March, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has initiated eight compliance reviews regarding disability. OCR is also providing technical assistance to help states, school districts, and postsecondary institutions fully understand their legal obligations. In June, the Education Department and the Department of Justice jointly issued guidance on students with disabilities’ right to equal access to emerging technologies in institutions of higher education.

“Due to the Department’s enforcement activities,” Duncan said, “we have increased students with disabilities’ participation in general education and reduced physical barriers, exclusionary qualification standards, and decisions based on generalizations about disability.”

Second, the Department provides funds to support the education, vocational rehabilitation, and other services for people with disabilities. With these services, people with disabilities have gradually improved their outcomes as measured by increased graduation and employment rates. The Department’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) supports ADA Technical Assistance Centers that provide information, guidance and training, and administers grants programs, authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which enable full participation of people with disabilities in the workplace and the community.

For further information about the ADA, Section 504 and OCR, please visit http://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/ocr/disability.html.

To learn more about OSERS, the ADA Technical Assistance Centers and the independent living programs authorized by the Rehabilitation Act go to http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/index.html?src=oc.