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Legal Considerations

a. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

“No otherwise qualified individual with disabilities in the United States…Shall solely by reason of his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

b. Definition of Terms

A person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An individual is considered to be a person with a disability if he/she (1) has a disability, (2) has a history of a disability, or (3) is perceived by others to have a disability.

c. Provision of Section 504

Western New England University, as a private institution of higher education that has received federal assistance, is legally bound to prohibit discrimination in the recruitment process, the admission process, and the educational process of students with disabilities. Students with documented disabilities are entitled to receive approved modifications, appropriate academic adjustments or auxiliary aids that will enable them to participate in and have the opportunity to benefit from all educational programs and activities at Western New England University. Under the provisions of Section 504, Western New England University may not:

  • Limit the number of otherwise qualified students with disabilities admitted;
  • Make pre-admissions inquires as to whether an applicant is disabled;
  • Exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any course of study;
  • Counsel students with disabilities into more restrictive career path than are recommended to students who are non-disabled;
  • Measure student achievement using modes that adversely discriminate against a student with a disability; or
  • Establish rules and policies that have the effect of limiting participation of students with disabilities in educational programs or activities.

d. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The purpose of the ADA is to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The ADA applies to all institutions of higher education regardless of receipt of federal funds. There are many provisions to the ADA, but the one that is of most importance to Western New England University and its students is Title II.

e. Title II

Title II of the ADA requires a college receiving federal funds to take appropriate steps to ensure that communications with persons with disabilities “are as effective as communication with others.” “Communication” in this context has to do with the transfer of information.

f. The ADAAG

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) established design requirements, passed in 2010, for the construction and alteration of facilities in the private and public sectors. These requirements are known as the ADA Accessibility Guidelines or "ADAAG." The Access Board develops the requirements as "guidelines" to serve as a basis for "standards" enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). ADAAG derives from an earlier Federal standard, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). The ADAAG now requires warnings on the surface of curb ramps, which remove a tactile cue otherwise provided by curb faces, and at other areas where pedestrian ways blend with vehicular ways. Tactile warnings provide a distinctive surface pattern of "truncated domes" or "truncated bars," detectable by long cane or underfoot, which are used to alert people with vision impairments of their approach to streets and hazardous drop-offs. People who are blind or visually impaired are alerted of impending danger from vehicle impact or a grade change. They are also required along the edges of boarding platforms in transit facilities and the perimeter of reflecting pools. The usage of tactile paving in many circumstances will be required in the United States as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

g. ADAAA

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-325, ADAAA) is an Act of Congress, effective January 1, 2009, that amended the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and other disability nondiscrimination laws at the Federal level of the United States. The ADAAA was a response to a number of decisions by the Supreme Court that had interpreted the original text of the ADA. Because members of the U.S. Congress viewed those decisions as limiting the rights of persons with disabilities, the ADAAA explicitly reversed those decisions. It also rejected portions of the regulations published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that interpret Title I (the employment-related title) of the ADA. The ADAAA makes changes to the definition of the term "disability," clarifying and broadening that definition -- and therefore the number and types of persons who are protected under the ADA and other Federal disability nondiscrimination laws. It was designed to strike a balance between employer and employee interests. The Act retains the ADA's basic definition of "disability" as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, it changes the way that the statutory terms should be interpreted.