When academic institutions follow Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to pursue their academic ambitions. This act and the subsequent ADA guidelines provide students with disabilities access to digital course materials, websites and apps through anti-discrimination legislation.¹
What’s Included in Section 504?
Section 504 requires K-12 schools, and post-secondary institutions that receive federal funding, to ensure students with disabilities are not excluded from facilities and learning programs. Reasonable accommodations must be made to provide all students with access to education. Private institutions that do not receive federal funding do not have to adhere to Section 504, but they do have to follow the American with Disabilities Act of 1990.² This requires private institutions to make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities, so they can have equal opportunity to pursue education.
How Many Students are Impacted?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics2, the number of students aged 3-21 that received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act numbered 7 million, in the 2017-2018 school year. This statistic underscores the need for accessibility and inclusion in academic institutions, because there is a large population of students that need assistance to meet their learning objectives. The number of students protected by the IDEA has increased from 6.4 million to 7 million, from 2011 to 2018.
Who Does Section 504 Help?
Under Section 504, qualified individuals are protected from discriminatory behavior by academic institutions, employers and government agencies among other organizations. Qualified individuals include those that have a physical or mental impairment that impedes or inhibits a major life function, according to the Department of U.S. Health and Human Services. There are subsequent criteria that must be met in specific situations. Individuals that meet the qualification criteria are entitled to reasonable accommodations, so that they can pursue their ambitions.
What is Reasonable Accommodation?
Reasonable accommodations allow students with disabilities access to classrooms, digital media, websites, and other digital content.³ Accommodations may take different forms, such as special accessibility software and learning portals, but the net result is the same. Formerly inaccessible content and learning forums become usable via reasonable accommodations. These accommodations should be made for students and school employees alike.4
Examples of accessibility in digital forums include:
- Captioned videos and lectures
- Interpreters for vision or hearing-impaired individuals
- Alternative text
- Free assistive technology to use computers
- Accessible PDFs
How Does Section 504 Help Schools?
When academic institutions focus on Section 504 and ADA compliance, they provide all students access to digital platforms, thereby increasing student engagement and class participation. This includes access to the websites, digital apps and mobile apps that give schools visibility among prospective students, donors and parents. Web accessibility also mitigates the risk of a web accessibility lawsuit and other negative consequences associated with the disregard of ADA standards.
How can eSSENTIAL Accessibility Help?
Institutions looking for a comprehensive accessibility solution, combined with website accessibility guidance from industry pros, can trust eSSENTIAL Accessibility for support. We help institutions meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and ADA requirements through a world-class accessibility management platform. Our clients pass accessibility audits that test WCAG, WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1, by providing quality accessibility solutions and supporting our customers’ best interests.
ADA compliance and adherence to ADA guidelines is about more than being socially responsible or following the rules. Students with disabilities deserve an equal opportunity to learn, because it benefits all stakeholders in education. To learn more about accessibility software, accessibility training, and ADA accessibility, please contact the team at eSSENTIAL Accessibility today to request a demo.