ADA and Section 504
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 formed the legal basis to establish services and programs for students with disabilities and requires equal access to education for disabled students. Section 504, which is still in effect, primarily placed the responsibility of access to higher education on public institutions which received federal funds. The Office of Civil Rights has held that the three basic components of effective communication with students include timeliness of delivery, accuracy of translation and provision of services in a manner and medium appropriate to the message and abilities of the individual with a disability.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states that:
"No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States…..shall, solely by reason of …disability, be denied the benefits of, be excluded from participation in, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
A “person with a disability” includes “any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, has a record of such an impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.
In July, 1990, the disability movement in the United States picked up momentum with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was a sweeping civil rights legislation which provided the legal mandate for colleges and universities to provide access for students with disabilities. The ADA covers all aspects of disability in society including employment, education, telecommunications, private sector services, public sector services, transportation and more.
Roughly ten percent of students have disabilities that impact their educational experience. Reportedly only about three to four percent of the student population utilizes the services that DSPS offers. If a faculty member notices a student using assistive devices and/or suspects that a student's difficulties stem from a disability, they may contact DSPS for ideas for student support. DSPS encourages faculty members to refer students to DSPS or to ask students whether or not they are utilizing services, but the program is voluntary. ADA emphasizes the direct involvement of the student with a disability in the educational process and in related decision-making. An important aspect of a student's success is empowering them with the ability to make their own decisions.
AB 422 (Stats. 1999, Ch 379)
Effective January 1, 2000, AB 422 requires publishers of instructional material to provide the material at no cost in electronic-text for use by students with disabilities for UC and Community Colleges. Electronic text can be used to produce large print, translated and sent to a Braille embosser or accessed directly with speech synthesizers or refreshable Braille displays. Disabled students may contact the DSPS Program at WHCL to see if they are eligible to electronic text at no cost to the student.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and SB 105
Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. For specifics on Section 508 requirements and definitions, including the definition of undue burden, see
According to Legal Update from the Chancellor's Office, SB105 in California applies Section 508 to all purchases made with state funds extending the coverage of Section 508 requirements to anything districts do with state money, including their general apportionment and categorical funds. SB 105 was legally effective on January 1, 2003. The law applies both to students and employees.