Cross-posted from the Office for Civil Rights Blog
July 26, 2021
This week, we celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a watershed civil rights law that mandated the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Since its enactment in 1990, the ADA has played a crucial role in expanding protection against discrimination in education. Schools across the country—serving students from pre-K through graduate school—must make their offerings available and accessible to all students, including those with and without disabilities.
Even with the power of the ADA and an earlier disability civil-rights law known as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, many students with disabilities continue to face steep challenges. The Office for Civil Rights’ recent report on Education in a Pandemic: The Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 on America’s Students shows that the pandemic has disrupted the education, related aids and services, and accommodations students needed to support academic progress, exacerbating longstanding disability-based disparities in academic achievement.
Today, OCR and the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released a joint resource to address another pandemic-related challenge: the impact of ongoing health problems related to COVID-19. This resource—Long COVID under Section 504 and the IDEA: A Resource to Support Children, Students, Educators, Schools, Service Providers, and Families—shows how young children and students of all ages who have long COVID may be entitled to disability-related supports, services, and accommodations under Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
As our nation continues to wrestle with the pandemic’s challenges, we encourage you to take a look at the Department’s extensive resources to support students with disabilities, their families, and their schools—all designed to ensure that students with disabilities continue to receive an equal opportunity to learn. These resources include:
- ED COVID-19 Handbook Volumes I, II, and III.
These three volumes of guidance provide support to schools in reopening safely and equitably. Volume 1 provides strategies for safely reopening elementary and secondary schools. Volume 2 focuses on the social and emotional needs of students and educators returning to school. And Volume 3 concentrates on institutions of higher education. Each addresses the rights of students with disabilities and shares practices for supporting students with disabilities as schools modify their operating procedures.
- Civil Rights and School Reopening.
OCR’s Questions and Answers on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment discusses schools’ responsibilities to ensure students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to learn, including during remote instruction.
As we mark the ADA’s anniversary, we also honor the dedication and tireless commitment of advocates within the disability community who led the way to its passage. In OCR, we take inspiration from these leaders and dedicate ourselves fully to advancing equity and access for students with disabilities, and to ensuring educational environments free from discrimination so that all students have the opportunity to thrive.
Suzanne B. Goldberg
Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Operations and Outreach
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education