Other Major Federal Legislation for Individuals with Disabilities

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (PL 93-112)

  • Civil rights law that says no individual can be excluded, solely because of his or her disability, from participating in or benefiting from any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, which includes schools.
  • Adults and children benefit from Section 504
  • Students with disabilities who do not qualify for special education under IDEA may qualify under Section 504.
  • To qualify under Section 504, the disability has to impact a major life function, which includes education.
  • To meet Section 504 requirements, schools must make “reasonable accommodations” for students with disabilities so that they can participate in educational programs provided to other students.
  • Under Section 504, students may also receive related services, such as speech/language pathology, occupational or physical therapy, or counseling.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA; PL 101-336) (1990, amended 2008)

  • An anti-discrimination law that ensures that individuals, both adults and children, with disabilities have access to businesses and other public and private entities. It mandates reasonable accommodations for individuals with special needs.
  • Those protected by ADA are defined as an individual with a physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activity.
  • ADA has two major provisions that affect the education of these students:
    • Applies protection to nonsectarian private schools, including preschools.
    • Requires public schools to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities.
  • ADA most often applies to making school facilities accessible to students with disabilities, such as by adding ramps, elevators, and other modifications to buildings.

Workforce Investment Partnership Act of 1998 (PL 105-220) (1998)

  • Seeks to consolidate, coordinate, and improve employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs in the United States.

Assistive Technology Act (PL 105-394) (1998)

  • Provides federal funding to assistive technology state grant programs that provide information, demonstration centers, and referral services to people with disabilities, allowing access to different types of assistive technology.
  • Establishes advocacy services for individuals needing legal assistance in obtaining assistive technology services.
  • Creates a federal/state partnership funding program that provides low interest loans in order for individuals with disabilities to purchase assistive technology devices.

Disability Categories

The U.S. Department of Education currently classifies students in special education into one or more disability categories. These categories of disability include the following:

Of these thirteen classifications, the two largest are specific learning disabilities, with 47.4 percent of all special education students, and speech or language impairments with 18.7 percent of all special education students. Note that there is not a specific category for students diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. These students are instead grouped into the general category of other health impairment.

Texas Legislation for Individuals with Disabilities

States are allowed to have statutes that add to the protections for students with disabilities but not to take away from what is provided by IDEA. In Texas, they are found in the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 19, Part II, Chapter 89. Adaptations for Special Populations. Specific subsections that may be of interest to an educator are:

  • Confinement, Seclusion, Restraint and Time-Out §89.1053;
  • Content of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) §89.1055;
  • Autism Supplement §89.1055(e)(1)-(11);
  • Extended School Year Services §89.1065;
  • Transition §89.1055(g);
  • Deafness §89.1080; and
  • Visual Impairment and Blindness §89.1055(d) & §89.1085.


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