The American With Disabilities ACT of 1990 (ADA) was the first civil rights law designed to protect people with disabilities.
It provides safeguards for people with disabilities from discrimination in the work place and other public places.
The ADA also requires public places to provide access and accommodations for those with special needs, including but not limited to: wheel chair ramps; accessible bathrooms; elevators; reserved parking spaces and telecommunication devices.
But what many people don’t realize is that the Americans With Disabilities Act also applies to schools.
The ADA works in conjunction with the Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that students with disabilities up to age 21 receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
FAPE is designed to provide an education that students with disabilities will benefit from and will prepare them for either further education, a job, and/or independent living.
Parents must educate themselves on what accommodations and services their children are entitled to.
Because, sadly, all to often, the Committee for Special Education (CSE) wants to spend the least amount of money as possible on children with special needs.
If they suspect they can get away with not providing entitled services they will not disclose what’s available.
It was our personal experience that even though my daughter’s unpredictable seizure disorder and her Individual Education Plan (IEP) entitled her to a 1:1 aide, the CSE Chair Person kept telling me they couldn’t find an aide for her and decided she should just wear a helmet instead.
Being the patient, unenlightened and naive parent that I was, I thought well, if there isn’t anyone available to do the job than all we can do is wait until someone comes along.
But I reached the end of my rope when my daughter had a seizure and fell off her chair at school one day.
I marched into the CSE Chair Person’s office and gave her the option of an aide or a lawsuit.
Lo and behold, the very next day, my daughter had her first 1:1 aide!!
So, if parents don’t know what services their children are eligible for, chances are great that the school will try to get away with providing as little as possible.
Depending on each students diagnosis and unique needs they will be eligible for certain special services and accommodations.
Braille text books; talking text books; sign language lessons and interpreters; accessible bathrooms and buses; 1:1 aides on the bus and in the classroom; iPads and/or other assistive technology devices; scribes; readers; note takers: extra time to take tests or complete assignments; modified assignments; alternative testing; physical therapy; occupational therapy; speech therapy; and modified physical education class are just a few of the special education services your child may be entitled to.
If you believe your child with special needs is eligible for special education services or it has already been determined that he or she is entitled them but it is not receiving them, my best advice is to have your child evaluated by an independent psychologist, psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician or other qualified professional.
Then do your own research to determine what special services your child is eligible to receive and then schedule a meeting with your school’s Committee on Special Education.
When you are armed with all your new found knowledge and professional evaluations, call a CSE meeting and demand that the special services, accommodations, modifications, and equipment that your child is entitled to be provided.
If you still don’t get satisfactory results, threaten to get your lawyer involved.
If that doesn’t do the trick, as a last resort you can always file a formal complaint with the US Department of Education.
Every child deserves a quality education and a safe learning environment, including students with disabilities!
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