Exploring ADA


What is the Americans with Disabilities Act and who does it protect?

The ADA of 1990  assures civil rights, equal opportunity and protection from discrimination to those with disabilities in employment, public accommodations, transportation, State and local government services and telecommunications. The act also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees and requirements for public accommodation for public services. Disabilities include both mental and physical conditions. Section 12102 defines “Disability” as

(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;

Where major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working as well as physical operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

(B) a record of such an impairment; or

(C) being regarded as having such an impairment

This disability can either be documented as an impairment or applies to someone that is perceived by others as having an impairment as long as the impairment is expected to last for more than six months.

With such a broad definition, it should not be a surprise that in the 2010 census, 56.7 million people or 18.7 percent of the 303.9 million people in the civilian non-institutionalized population reported as having a disability. An additional 38.3 million or 12.6 percent were reported with a severe disability.1

1 Brault, M. (2012). Americans with Disabilities: 2010 (P70-131) – Census.gov. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf.



Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

42 U.S. Code § 12102 – Definition of disability

Americans With Disabilities: 2010

Fact Sheet on the EEOC’s Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA

Why are the terms “Title II” and “Section 504” important to this discussion?

Title II pertains to State and local government entities and prohibits disability discrimination in their services, programs and activities.  Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects students with disabilities, as well as parents and employees, from discrimination at school and requires that the school provide similar opportunities or reasonable accommodations for these students, just as they do for students without disabilities. Section 504 applies to those receiving federal funds.

Both of these are important because they relate to our local public school system for K-12 and to the UA public higher education system. Especially in Alaska, Federal funds from grants from the US Department of Education require adherence to Section 504 and financial appropriations from State and local government adhere to Title II.

Both Title II and Section 504 require that schools make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and maintain keeping students together in the same classroom “to the maximum extent appropriate.”

When creating digital artifacts, it is important to consider accessible alternatives or additions to your creations. Adding captions to your YouTube videos, using appropriate formatting for web pages and print documents (using <strong> html coding instead of <bold> htlm coding, H1 headings instead of making something bold and a larger font and adding descriptions for images are all things one can add to creations for the benefit of everyone.


Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Education Reform, prepared by the PEER Project

ADA FAQ – State and Local Governments

DART Toolkit II: Legal Issues — ADA Basics

State and Local Governments (Title II)

Questions and Answers on Disability Discrimination under Section 504 and Title



What is a “reasonable accommodation” and what else are those called in the educational setting?

Reasonable accommodations in an online course, fall into two categories. Things like: adding captions to graphics or videos, providing alternative delivery systems for content (visual, oral, written) or properly formatting documents or websites for screen readers, fall into a technology-related category. The other category speaks to cognitive disabilities or physical illnesses, where adjustments or modifications to classroom management might need to be made. For example, giving extended time for taking tests or submitting homework, making allowances for recording lectures or using a notetaker or providing copies of presentation slides might fall into a second category.

Nakonia (Niki) Hayes, from John’s Hopkins, School of Education, has written a great article called, “To Accommodate, To Modify, and To Know the Difference: Determining Placement of a Child in Special Education or “504.” This article helps to explain how ADA, Section 504 and IDEA differ as well as providing some examples of different accommodations that are most usually asked for.

I’m not sure how to answer the second part of this question, “what else are those called in the educational setting?”  My first reaction is to say that reasonable accommodations, at least the technical alternatives should be made because they are just good practice actually benefit everyone, not just those with a disability. This is confirmed by Hayes in the article I just mentioned. “Most teachers see them as simply good teaching strategies.” Captions on a video benefit those viewers who watch but not have earbuds or who might be watching a video in which the speaker has a heavy accent. Consistent and proper formatting on web documents guarantee (well almost) being properly displayed in different browsers or with mobile devices. Making accommodations for cognitive disabilities or for illnesses might force an instructor into evaluating their assessments and homework to make sure the activities are really fundamental to the course requirements and to the success of the student. I might have missed something but that’s my take.


Reasonable Accommodations Explained

DART Toolkit II: Legal Issues — ADA Basics


What might make an accommodation unreasonable?

If an accommodation is something that would fundamentally alter the academic integrity of the course or program or causes a student to be inadequately prepared for some kind of licensing requirement, then the institution may choose to not provide such accommodation. Accommodations are not meant to provide an unfair advantage, they should be provided as an alternative way to fulfill course requirements. According to the Department of Education, Disability Employment 101: Appendix IV section, reasonable accommodations do not include things like eliminating something that is primary responsibility or an essential requirement, lowering standards that are not applied to all others or anything that might be considered an undue hardship both administrative or financial on the employer (or institution).2

2(2012). To Accommodate, To Modify, and To Know the Difference … Retrieved July 22, 2016, from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Exceptional%20Learners/Law/hayes.htm.


Disability Employment 101: Appendix IV

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?


What is IDEA and who does it protect? How does it differ from the ADA?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA) goal is to provide children with disabilities access to a free and appropriate education and to give parents procedural safeguards, or a say in the educational decisions for their child. Students who are protected by IDEA fall into one of a specific thirteen categories which includes both physical and mental capabilities include specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

IDEA is different from ADA in several ways. IDEA is specifically directed as an education-related act protecting children 3-21 to provide free and appropriate public education (FAPE) opportunities. IDEA also provides federal funds to support State and local education institutions to support these students. IDEA also extends some rights to parents in changes that might affect their students.


How IDEA Protects You and Your Child

Key Differences Between Section 504 and IDEA

A COMPARISON of ADA, IDEA, and Section 504


How do ADA, IDEA and other legislation in the readings and your exploration so far apply to you in your working (or future working) life (where might or do you find yourself needing to take ADA, IDEA, etc. into account?)

As an instructional designer, ADA compliance has always been something that I’ve encouraged faculty that I work with to consider when they are developing their course. When you are actively in the creation stage of development, there are several things you can incorporate into the creation mechanics that don’t take much more time to apply at the moment. These same additions will take more time if you have to go back and fix them than if you do it right the first time. Captioning on instructor-created videos is probably the one task that is time-consuming and is often left undone until it is requested. There are services available to assist with this process but of course, that process is not free.

As an instructor, I’ve had to make accommodations for a mental disability. I was given specific directions from the Disability Services office and was able to meet the requirements quite easily. I also had a conversation with the student to see what else I might be able to do in order for the student to feel good and confident about moving through the course. This in an online class which requires text or visual feedback. I tried using different methods for giving feedback: text, graphical through annotations using JING, oral comments, video and setting up synchronous web meetings and asked for feedback from the student. I had hoped to settle on a method that would work best for the student. In the end, it seemed like I was unsuccessful at providing a good mechanism and the student was never able to confirm that one method worked better than the other.

As I mentioned earlier, I consider providing technical accommodations as just good teaching and learning practice and should be a task similar and second nature as proof-reading.


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