Section 504, IDEA and ADA

(what the heck is that?)

A child who has a disability that affects her ability to learn has a right to services under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). For example, a child who has mental retardation or is blind would have a disability that affects the ability to learn. She would need books on tape, materials in Braille or special lessons. She would not be able to learn in the regular classroom exactly like the other children. Every child who receives special services under IDEA is protected by section 504.

Section 504 of the Civil Rights Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination.

A child may have a disability that does not affect his ability to learn. For example, a child may have epilepsy, take pills for it and never have a seizure in school. He may not need any special services. Another child may have a disability that causes him to have poor balance and his bones to be very brittle and break easily. A third child could have AIDS. None of these children may have any problem learning along with other children. If that is the case, they would not receive special services.

Section 504 guarantees all children with disabilities the right to equal access to education. The child with epilepsy may need to take her medication during the school day. The school may insist that its “no tolerance” policy prohibits drugs on campus. Under 504, the child has the right to access to education and the school must make a modification. In this case, it could have the pills kept in the office and have the child take them during lunch time at the office. They cannot refuse to allow her to attend school nor can they refuse to allow her to have needed medicine at school. If the school has broken sidewalks and it is very hazardous to a child with poor balance, under section 504, the parents can insist that the school removed the hazard. The school can fix the sidewalks, or the child may be transferred to another classroom where the entrance is not hazardous.

Notice that the school is required to provide equal access to education. If the child in this example is moved from one third-grade classroom to another, the school has met the requirements of the law. The parent or child may not like the new teacher as well, but that doesn’t mean the school has to fix the sidewalks so he can attend the original classroom.
That's fine for school-age kids, but what about adults?