Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including students in K–12 and higher education. The law is an extension of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), which prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities in programs receiving federal funding. This entry first explains the ADA, then describes its impact on K–12 education, institutions of higher education, and standardized examination and high-stakes testing agencies.

To be eligible for protection under the ADA, an individual must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. In the years following the law’s passage, several federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, narrowly construed this definition of disability, resulting in ...

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