The ADA & College

Jul 22, 2015
Tagged with: The ADA & College


25 years ago, my life changed forever and I was not even born yet.

The signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush was a landmark moment for individuals with disabilities. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. In order to provide these equal opportunities, the ADA requires that all public businesses and service entities be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, elevators, wide store aisles, and accessible parking spaces among other things help to meet this accessibility requirement. One other key aspect of the ADA is that it reaffirmed components of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Rehabilitation Act 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. Among the programs that are held to the standards of the Rehabilitation Act 1973 and the ADA are all public and private colleges and universities, unless they are religiously affiliated and choose to not comply with ADA or the Rehabilitation Act on religious grounds.

The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act ensures many benefits for individuals with disabilities that are attending college. Among these benefits are reasonable accommodations that make it possible for an individual with a disability to succeed in the classroom. These include, but are not limited to:


Extra time on tests or exams

Accessible seating in the classroom

A sign language interpreter if you are deaf or hard of hearing

Braille materials

Speech-to-text software (Dragon dictation for example)

Not assessing penalties for spelling errors on papers or exams

A note-taker


In order to qualify for these accommodations an individual must have a disability as defined by the ADA and, typically, apply to receive accommodations from the college or university’s department that handles disability related accommodations (Office of Accessibility, Program for Students with Disabilities etc.).

The ADA was a watershed moment for the disabled community. This is especially true for those of us attending, or planning to attend, college. The ADA ensures the receiving of reasonable accommodations that allow those individuals (myself included) to succeed in the classroom and earn a degree. For that, we should all be grateful and celebrate the ADA’s 25th anniversary on July 26, 2015!








Author: Phillip Crain