Laws and Legislation

There are three major pieces of legislation that affect inclusive postsecondary education (PSE) for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD): Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA); and the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA). For more information beyond this section, refer to the "Resources" section of this website under, "Laws".

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
The Rehabilitation Act of 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. Both public and private educational entities may be recipients of federal funds and thus subject to the non-discrimination requirements of this law. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act created and extended civil rights to people with disabilities. Requirements in postsecondary education include providing necessary accommodations to ensure equal access to students with disabilities in the classroom and other programs and services as well as removing architectural barriers in existing facilities, and ensuring all new construction meets the minimal standards for accessibility. For more resources on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as it relates to postsecondary education for students with disabilities, refer to the "Resources" section of this website under, "Laws".
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is considered the civil rights act for people with disabilities. It built upon the civil rights protections afforded people with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, but extends those rights beyond just entities who are recipients of federal funds. Both public and private educational entities are covered by the ADA and as such have an obligation to ensure that students with disabilities have the same opportunities to benefit from the programs and services offered as those without disabilities. This includes accessibility of their facilities and providing the accommodations necessary for students to engage in the education process in the classroom, or to enjoy the other benefits and privileges available to all students. For more resources on the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to postsecondary education for students with disabilities, refer to the "Resources" section of this website under, "Laws".
Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA)
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (P.L. 110-315) (HEOA) of 2008 reauthorized the Higher Education Act of 1965. It contains a number of important new provisions that will improve access to postsecondary education (PSE) for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). In particular, the provisions addressing financial aid, and those creating model demonstration programs and a national coordinating center for students with I/DD.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) allows students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) to be eligible for the first time for Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), and the Federal Work-Study Program. In the past, students with I/DD were usually not eligible for financial aid when they did not meet certain criteria such as having a regular high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) equivalency, or qualifying through an "ability to benefit" test. The HEOA provides broad authority to the Secretary of Education to waive these criteria, and to declare regulations allowing students with I/DD to become eligible for Work Study jobs if they are enrolled in programs with the Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Education Program (CTPP) designation. Additionally, students with I/DD must maintain satisfactory progress in the program in accordance with standards established by the institution.
For more information about the Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary education Program (CTPP) designation process, refer to the "Resources" section of this website under the sub-header "Program Implementation". Also, refer to the Funding Vignettes under "Developing Inclusive Programs". The language for this section was taken from a policy brief by Think College. For the full brief, refer to the "Policy Brief on the Higher Education Opportunity Act". The full text of the Higher Education Opportunity Act regulations is also available online.

White student with intellectual disabilities smiling

Classes at college are different than high school because everything is different: the teachers, classmates and subjects are different." -Allie