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Accessibility Services - Student and Parent Information

IDEA, ADA, IEP'S, and Section 504 Plans: What Happens in College?

Many students and families find it difficult to understand how different disability laws affect the provision of services at the college level. Below are three very important laws to understand.


The IDEA stands for The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This is a federal law that governs "special education service delivery" for school children ages 3-21 (or until high school graduation). The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is developed by an educational team (child study team) for each disabled child and indicates how that child's education will be individualized in order to appropriately serve them within an academic environment. The IDEA ensures that the student is afforded the opportunity to be appropriately educated within the K-12 system.

Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a law that "protects individuals from discrimination based on their disability." The Act is divided into seven Subparts. Subpart D applies to K-12 schools, and Subpart E applies to postsecondary institutions.

A 504 Plan is developed when a K-12 student needs certain accommodations and modifications to either the physical space in the school or the learning environment; however, a 504 Plan indicates that there is no need for special education (if there was a need for special education, the student would have been provided with an IEP discussed above).

Subpart E states that post-secondary students must be granted the opportunity to compete with their non-disabled peers.

Section 508

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 covers access to federally funded programs and services. The amended law strengthens Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and requires access to electronic and information technology provided by the Federal government.

The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an "undue burden."

Section 508 speaks to various means for disseminating information, including computers, software, and electronic office equipment. It applies to, but is not solely focused on, Federal pages on the Internet or the World Wide Web. It does not apply to web pages of private industry.


The ADA stands for The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The ADA is a federal civil rights law designed to provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities. The ADA "ensures equal access and opportunity, and also protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination."


The ADAA stands for The American with Disabilities Act Amendments of 2008, which retains the ADA's basic definition of "disability" as an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. However, it changes the way that these statutory terms should be interpreted in several ways. Most significantly, the Act:

Important Points

It is very important to understand that IEPs and 504 Plans do not suffice as adequate documentation to accompany a student to a postsecondary institution since both are required under laws that do not apply once the student completes/graduates from high school. Although students are covered under Section 504 once they enroll in a college, it is a different Subpart, as discussed above. IEP's and 504 Plans are sometimes helpful to colleges, but are often insufficient as a sole form of documentation of a disability.

The key point to remember is that the purpose of the IDEA is to ensure that students are appropriately serviced in the K-12 system, whereas the ADA and Section 504 "only ensure access," because academic success in college is up to the student!

Overall, the responsibilities of the student and of the school are very different at the post-secondary level.

Here are some key points:




Accommodation Arrangements

Objective of Accommodations

It is important to understand that services vary from college to college. Students transferring from one post-secondary institution to another may experience differences in the level of service offered. Any student with questions should contact the Office of Disability Services.

Who We Are

Founded in 1899 by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, the College of Saint Elizabeth has a strong tradition of concern for the poor, for developing leadership in a spirit of service and social responsibility, and a commitment to the promotion of women as full partners in society.

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