Faculty Handbook Chapter 4 - Definition of Disability

Faculty Handbook Chapter 4: Definition of "Disability"

In section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act—the legislation that guarantees specific rights to people with disabilities—there is no list of disabilities. Instead, a disability is defined by: the individual (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such impairment. The law is written for broad coverage.

The Center for Accessible Resources (CAR) and Lane Community College (LCC) serve a wide range of students with disabilities, including medical and psychological conditions, mobility and neurological impairments, hearing and vision loss, and learning disabilities. This might mean that a student's disabilities may not be visible or readily apparent. If you have questions about a student receiving accommodations, it is important to not question them regarding their diagnosis or disability, but to contact CAR.

See this PDF: Disability Rights Handout from the Office of Civil Rights for more information.

Legislation Supporting the Need for Services

Following the enactment of legislation requiring institutions of higher education to provide access to students, Colleges and Universities have experienced significant increases in the enrollment of students with disabilities. The two primary pieces of legislation that place obligations on colleges and universities include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Both require access beyond architectural barriers to include accommodations providing equal access to all aspects of recreational and academic opportunities.

Specifically, Section 504 provides that:

“No otherwise qualified individual with disabilities in the United States . . . Shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance . . . .”

Furthermore, Subpart E of 504 specifically addresses mandates for institutions of higher education requiring that an institution be prepared to provide appropriate and reasonable accommodation to policies and practices to allow students with disabilities to participate in the same activities and programs as non-disabled students. It is therefore the responsibility of faculty and staff of the college to provide accommodation to ALL QUALIFIED students through the assistance of the Center for Accessible Resources (CAR).

Here, “otherwise qualified” means one who is able to meet the same academic requirements and standards as non-disabled students.

Breaking down the Americans with Disabilities Act and 504

  • The ADA is a federal law designed to give civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities to stop discrimination.
  • It applies to employers, state and government agencies, places of public accommodation, transportation facilities, telephone companies, and the U.S. Congress.
  • Title II of the ADA states that public colleges and universities are required to provide auxiliary aids and services to qualified students with disabilities.
  • Providing these services does not mean these students get special treatment, but rather ensures equal opportunity to participate in classes and activities offered by the college.
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities, public and private, which receive federal financial assistance.

Additionally, under the provisions of Section 504 the College MAY NOT:

  • Limit the number of otherwise qualified students admitted that have a disability;
  • Make pre-admission inquiries as to whether an applicant has a disability;
  • Exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any course of study;
  • Provide less financial assistance to students with disabilities than is provided to other students, or limit eligibility for scholarships on the basis of disability;
  • Counsel students with disabilities into more restrictive career paths based solely on their disability;
  • Measure student achievement using modes that adversely discriminate against the student with a disability;
  • Establish rules and policies that have the effect of limiting participation of students with disabilities in educational programs or activities.