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Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Series: Life After IEPs series, May 2021

Changes in Rights to Accommodations and Modifications

The fourth in a four-part series: Life After IEPs Series.

Once high school ends, so do IEPs, this month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explores post-secondary, IEP-free life. Topics discussed include:

Part 1: When Do Things Change, and Why?

Part 2: Changes in Rights to Instructional Services

Part 3: Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

Part 4: Changes in Rights to Accommodations and Modifications

In this fourth installment of the series, we delve into how students’ rights to accessible equipment change when they are no longer eligible for IEPs.

Rights to accommodations and modifications under IEPs

As an initial matter, it’s helpful to distinguish between accommodations and modifications:

  • Accommodations = providing access to the program/curriculum
  • Modifications = change in the program/curriculum itself

Schools must provide any necessary accommodations AND modifications for disabled students to receive FAPE (free appropriate public education). This means that the school must modify the curriculum or other aspects of their program, even if that modification fundamentally changes the nature of the program. Additionally, this means that the cost of a needed accommodation or a modification does not matter; if the accommodation or modification is needed for the student to receive FAPE, the school is legally required to provide it.

Rights to accommodations and modifications under Section 504 and the ADA

As noted in earlier posts, the protections of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required the individual with a disability to provide proof of the disability and to affirmatively request disability-related accommodations.

Notably, while Section 504 and the ADA permit reasonable accommodations, both laws require that the accommodation does not constitute a “fundamental alteration” of the program or service. In other words, reasonable accommodations are required; modifications are not.

Moreover, accommodations under Section 504 and the ADA must be “reasonable.” Reasonableness depends on several factors, and cost is one of these factors. Another factor is whether the reasonable accommodation will be an “undue hardship” to the entity to which the request is made (this typically refers to cost and difficulty in light of the resources of the entity). Thus, a requested accommodation might be reasonable for a successful chain of restaurants but might be unreasonable for a small, local restaurant (though a different, lower cost accommodation might be reasonable for that local restaurant). 

What does this mean?

Individuals with disabilities are not entitled to modifications after they leave high school. Additionally, while reasonable accommodations are required, under Section 504 and the ADA, the school, employer, business, governmental agency, etc. does not have to provide the reasonable accommodation you request if doing so would cause an undue hardship.

**Please note that other laws, including Section 508, state laws, and local ordinances may provide additional rights that may not be available under Section 504 and the ADA. This Transition Tip does not address those other avenues of protection.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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