Wednesday, September 27, 2017

ADA Accommodations for Good Students

Almost exactly two years ago, in September 2015, we wrote a post about new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice, which were a response to questions about testing accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Justice Department guidelines were very clear and set out the basic principles of the ADA and how they should be applied to testing and accommodations.
Still, we recently had a conversation with a private school parent where the question was raised as to whether a student who was doing well -- keeping up with class work and getting good grades -- would be entitled to testing accommodations under the ADA. So, let's look again at what the law requires, quoting directly from the Justice Department guidelines:

  • "Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity (such as seeing, hearing, learning, reading, concentrating, or thinking) or a major bodily function... 

  • "To be 'substantially limited' in a major life activity does not require that the person be unable to perform the activity. In determining whether an individual is substantially limited in a major life activity, it may be useful to consider, when compared to most people in the general population, the conditions under which the individual performs the activity or the manner in which the activity is performed. It may also be useful to consider the length of time an individual can perform a major life activity or the length of time it takes an individual to perform a major life activity, as compared to most people in the general population. 

  • "A person with a history of academic success may still be a person with a disability who is entitled to testing accommodations under the ADA. A history of academic success does not mean that a person does not have a disability that requires testing accommodations. For example, someone with a learning disability may achieve a high level of academic success, but may nevertheless be substantially limited in one or more of the major life activities of reading, writing, speaking, or learning, because of the additional time or effort he or she must spend to read, write, speak, or learn compared to most people in the general population."

Keep in mind that the ADA is the primary disability law covering most private K-12 schools, although religious schools are exempt from the ADA. A good explanation as to how disability laws apply to private schools was prepared by the National Association of Independent Schools. 

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