Accommodations for Children with Disabilities & the Americans with Disabilities Act
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), publicly funded schools are required to appropriately accommodate children with every manner of disability so that the children can participate in the educational environment. Under IDEA, an individualized education program (IEP) is formed for a disabled child and the necessary accommodations are decided upon and created by the school. In general, modifications for disabled students can be divided into five categories: accessibility, transportation, classroom, physical education and discipline.
Accessibility Rules Under the ADA
Under the ADA rules, all classrooms must be wheelchair accessible. This includes installation of an elevator in two-story school buildings. Additionally, ramps and handicapped parking are required for facilitating easy access to school buildings. Bathrooms must have wheelchair accessible toilets and a lowered sink. In lunchrooms, there must be wheelchair accessible tables. On playgrounds, many schools offer specialized equipment so that wheelchair bound children can use the playground and enjoy their recess freely.
Transportation for Disabled Children Under ADA Rules
Publicly funded schools must provide a handicap-rigged bus with a wheelchair lift and seats designed to secure handicapped children safely. These buses must also have space for assistive devices. Furthermore, an adult is required to ride on these buses in order to assist, supervise, and provide for the care of children on the bus during the trip back and forth to school.
Classroom Setting for Disabled Children Under IDEA
Under the IDEA, students should be placed into a normal classroom setting as much as possible. Any accommodations such as a wheelchair accessible desk are added to the classroom for the school year. Visual and hearing disabled students can have adaptive devices in the classroom to make seeing and hearing easier. Textbooks can be ordered in Braille for blind students, allowing them to participate and read along with the rest of the class.
For severely disabled students, schools are required to employ an aid to remain with that child throughout the day. The aid works with the child, freeing up the classroom teacher to do their job. An aid can help the student with their school work and is also responsible for transporting the student for any medical care required at the nurses office.
Physical Education for Disabled Children
Physical education teachers are required to create adaptive methods so that students can participate in the PE class along with their peers. Accommodating equipment may be used or a student may be given a specially assigned role such as referee. The goal is to accommodate the student by creating participation at their level of skill so that they may enjoy a typical PE experience.
ADA Rules for Discipline of Children With Disabilities
Disciplining disabled children must be handled with more care and consideration than that of their peers. For example, if a blind student tips over a table with paint on it because they did not realize the table was there, the child will not be punished. In most cases, disabled children are not permitted to be suspended or expelled from a school. Instead, disabled children who are acting in disruptive or destructive manners are sent to a temporary isolated class during which time the student’s IEP team determines what to do with the child. The only time a disabled child can be punished equally to their peers is for bringing weapons or drugs onto the school campus.
If you believe that your child’s school has violated the ADA or the IDEA, consider contacting a civil rights or ADA attorney in your area for assistance. A civil rights attorney can help determine if you have a case and if so, file a lawsuit on your behalf.