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Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Independent Living Resources Information Resources 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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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Financial Resources Independent Living Resources Information Resources Series: Life After IEPs series, May 2021

Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

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

Rights to accessible equipment under IEPs

Under federal law, schools are required to provide students with IEPs accessible assistive technology (AT) when those tools are needed for the student to receive FAPE (free appropriate public education). Additionally, the law requires that student be allowed to use these tools at home, in the community, and over school breaks—again, if needed for the student to receive FAPE. It’s important to note that the school must provide the accessible AT to the student even of other students aren’t provided similar devices. For example, the school must typically provide a manual braille writer if a blind/low vision student needs it to do school work even though the school does not provide paper and pencils for nondisabled students to do the same schoolwork.

Rights to accessible equipment under Section 504 and the ADA

As discussed before, individuals with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While there are some other laws (like building codes and state or local statutes) that require reasonable accommodations without a request for them, individuals with disabilities should be prepared to make requests for reasonable accommodations and to provide proof of their disability/disabilities.

In post-secondary life (at a school, in a job, and in the community), individuals with disabilities have the right to accessibility, but they do not necessarily have the right to accessible assistive technology tools. For example, most buildings are required to have ramps for wheelchair users, but they are not required to provide the wheelchair.

However, to the extent that the school employer, or community agency provides tools to nondisabled users, they may be required to provide accessible assistive technology to allow individuals with disabilities the opportunity to access whatever services nondisabled people access through technology. For example, a college might use inaccessible beakers and scales and thermometers in a science lab, so that college would need to provide a blind/low vision student similar access to experiments in the science lab through the use of accessible scientific equipment.

What does this mean?

After you leave, your high school has the right to request that you return any accessible AT paid for by the school—and they almost always make this request. In general, disabled individuals are not entitled to demand accessible AT devices (such as laptops and refreshable braille displays) under Section 504 or the ADA (exceptions noted above). There are alternative resources for accessible assistive technology, so please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for help or more information.

Next week, we’ll explore how rights to accommodations and modifications change under Section 504 and the ADA.

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.

Categories
Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Independent Living Resources Information Resources Series: Life After IEPs series, May 2021

Changes in Rights to Instructional Services

The second 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 second installment of the series, we discover how students’ rights to instructional services change when they are no longer eligible for IEPs.

Rights to instructional services under IEPs

IEPs typically provide a wide range of instructional services for students with disabilities. In addition to the regular instruction all students receive, students with IEPs are entitled to disability-related instructional services, including braille instruction, cane travel instruction, and instruction in using accessible assistive technology.

Rights to post-secondary instructional services under Section 504 and the ADA

Unlike IEPs, the reasonable accommodations required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must be specifically requested by the disabled individual. Please note that the post-secondary school is permitted to require proof of the disability/disabilities for which the reasonable accommodations request is made. Additionally, it is usually helpful to make the request as early as possible and to engage in a dialogue about what reasonable accommodations one needs.

Post-secondary educational institutions include college, universities, community college, vocational rehabilitation centers, and many more. The vast majority of these institutions are subject to Section 504 and the ADA and may not discriminate against disabled individuals.

Section 504 and the ADA provide civil rights protections, but they do not provide specific educational rights. Thus, blind/low vision students in post-secondary education have a right to reasonable accommodations needed to access the regular education provided, but they do not have the right to receive disability-specific instructional services (unless those are part of the school’s regular curriculum).

What does this mean?

After high school, a disabled individual does not have the right to disability-related instructional services that are not part of the regular curriculum. However, the individual DOES have the right to receive reasonable accommodations to access the regular curriculum. Examples of these reasonable accommodations include braille, enlarged print, accessible electronic materials, accessible science lab equipment, accessible class software, etc. However, it is important to remember that, while both Section 504 and the ADA require the school to provide reasonable accommodations, these laws do NOT require the school to teach you how to use these reasonable accommodations.

Next week, we’ll explore how rights to accessible equipment change under Section 504 and the ADA.

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.

Categories
Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Independent Living Resources Series: Life After IEPs series, May 2021

When Do Things Change, and Why?

The first 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 first installment of the series, we examine when and why students are no longer eligible for IEPs.

When do I stop having an IEP?

Most IEPs for blind/low vision students end because the student graduates from high school or “ages out” at age 21, in Maryland.

Why do IEPs stop?

IEPs (individualized education plans) are required by a law known as the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The IDEA provides educational rights for students with disabilities in public school through high school graduation or age 21, whichever comes first. Thus, high school graduation or “aging out” ends a student’s eligibility for an IEP, even if the disability still exists, and even if the student still has educational needs.

What next?

There are other laws that protect individuals with disabilities, including blind and low vision. These laws, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), protect individuals of all ages, but IEPs often provide similar and additional protections. Once the IEP is no longer in effect, blind/low vision students still have Section 504 and ADA protections.

Next week, we’ll explore how rights to instructional services change under Section 504 and the ADA.

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.