Disability and the Law

Students with disabilities are protected against discrimination by federal law.

Disability Services

Most notably, the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and require public institutions (including colleges and universities) to make reasonable accommodations for students with qualifying disabilities who make their disabilities and needs known to the institution.

For the purposes of the law, a disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life functions (for example, walking, talking, breathing, hearing, and seeing). In addition to physical impairments, the laws also cover cognitive and emotional disabilities such as learning and attention disabilities and mental illness.

The law requires institutions that receive federal funds to provide accommodations to students with disabilities provided that the accommodations do not impose an undue financial burden on the institution (in practice, this standard is quite high) and provided that the accommodations do not compromise an essential element of the program or curriculum.