Faculty Legal Insight on Disabilities

Two of the primary laws that effect higher education and disability are Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Title II of ADA, as it is commonly referred to, states that: "No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States...shall, solely by reason of disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Section 504 defines a person with a disability as "any person who...

  • has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • has a record of such an impairment;
  • is regarded as having such an impairment."

At Texas Tech University, a "qualified person with a disability" is defined as one who "meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the educational program or activity."

Section 504, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, protects the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities. Section 504 contains more specific information regarding compliance issues in post secondary institutions. However, the ADA legislation extends the law to private institutions of higher education as well as those receiving federal funding.

Disabling conditions may include:

Acquired Brain Injuries
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Blindness/Visual Impairments
Cerebral Palsy
Deafness/Hearing Impairments
Learning Disabilities
Orthopedic/Mobility Impairments
Psychological Disorders
Speech and Language Disorders
Spinal Cord Injuries
Tourette's Disorder

Chronic Illnesses may include:

Cancer
Diabetes
Epilepsy
Epstein Barr Virus
HIV+/AIDS
Lyme's Disease
Lupus
Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
Multiple Sclerosis
Muscular Dystrophy
Renal Disease/Failure

Texas Tech University is required to provide reasonable accommodations that allow students with disabilities equal access to an education. It is important to note that Section 504 does not require institutions to alter their academic standards.

As specified by Section 504, Texas Tech University may not:

  • Limit the number of students with disabilities admitted.
  • Make pre-admission inquiries regarding whether or not a student has a disability.
  • Use admissions tests or criteria that inadequately measure the academic qualifications of students with disabilities because special provisions were not made.
  • Exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any course of study.
  • Establish rules or policies that may adversely affect students with disabilities.

Modifications and accommodations that Texas Tech University provides for qualified students with disabilities may include:

  • Architecturally accessible buildings and facilities.
  • Reasonable services such as qualified sign language interpreters and captioned videos.
  • Consideration of course substitutions as reviewed on an individual basis (such accommodations need not be made if the institution can demonstrate that the changes requested would substantially alter essential elements of the course or program).
  • Provision of reasonable accommodations such as extended time on in-class assignments or exams, priority seating assignments, use of assistive devices or technology such as tape recorders for class notes, and other accommodations that are reasonable as determined on an individual basis.
  • Other reasonable services and accommodations as determined on an individual basis.

What is a reasonable accommodation?

  • A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment that will allow a student with a disability to perform in a program or have the same rights and privileges as students without disabilities as well as benefit from all educational programs and activities.
  • Reasonable accommodations make it possible for a student with a disability to participate fully in the educational program and for the faculty member to fairly evaluate the student's understanding of the material without interference from the disability.