Disability Resource Center

Legal Information

Disability Laws in Higher Education

Section 504-Rehabilitation Act of 1973

In 1973, Congress passed Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability (29 U.S.C. Section 794). It states:

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States. . . shall solely by reason of her or his 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. . . .

The Office of Civil Rights in the U. S. Department of Education enforces regulations implementing Section 504 with respect to programs and activities that receive funding from the Department. The Section 504 regulation applies to all recipients of this funding, including colleges, universities, and post secondary vocational education and adult education programs. Failure by higher education schools to provide auxiliary aids to students with disabilities that results in a denial of a program benefit is discriminatory and prohibited by Section 504.

Section 504 requires that we inform faculty, administration, and staff of the following:

  1. They can exclude no student from any course, major, or program solely based on a disability.
  2. This law mandates that certain academic adjustments, commonly called accommodations, be employed, especially regarding the provision of alternative testing and evaluation methods for measuring student mastery, unless such an alternation would result in a modification to course objectives.
  3. Modifications, substitutions, or waivers of a course, major, or degree requirement are discussed in the regulations implementing Section 504 and may be necessary to meet the needs of some students with learning disabilities.
  4. Changes in time limits to complete a degree may have to be made.
  5. It is discriminatory to restrict the range of career options in counseling/advising students with disabilities as compared to non-disabled students with similar interests and abilities unless such counsel is based on strict licensing or certification requirements in a profession that may comprise an obstacle. In such cases, the counselor/advisor should inform the student of these requirements so he or she can assess them in light of the disability and make an informed decision.

The American with Disabilities Act of 1990

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is the civil rights guarantee for persons with disabilities in the United States. It provides protection from discrimination for individuals based on disability. The ADA extends civil rights protection for people with disabilities to employment in the private sector, transportation, public accommodations, services provided by state and local government, and telecommunication relay services. The significance of this legislation is no less than the civil rights acts in the 1960s for minorities.

A person with a disability is anyone with a physical or mental impairment (has a history of such a condition, or perceived by others as having a disability) that substantially impairs or restricts one or more major life activities, such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. The term physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, speech, hearing, visual and orthopedic impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, AIDS, mental retardation, emotional illness, and specific learning disabilities such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, dyslexia, minimal brain dysfunction and developmental aphasia.

The federal government has required post secondary institutions receiving federal monies to comply with a similar disability nondiscrimination law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Rights of Qualified Students with Disabilities

  • Right to be considered for admission based on your qualifications rather than your disability
  • Right to receive appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that you have equal access to programs
  • Right to self-disclose your disability only if you choose to do so

Student Responsibilities

  • Responsibility to self-identify as an individual with a disability if you choose to make a request for academic or housing adjustments
  • Responsibility to meet course and program standards and fundamental objectives
  • Responsibility to pay for any updated evaluations needed to provide appropriate documentation
  • Responsibility to provide documentation of a current disability and need for adjustments
  • Responsibility to know and follow reasonable procedures for requesting academic adjustments
  • Responsibility to make timely requests

Hours of Operation

Monday - Friday
8:00am to 4:30pm

Contact Info

Disability Resource Center
Memorial Hall 143
1 University Circle
Macomb, IL 61455

Email: disability@wiu.edu
Phone: (309) 298-2512
Fax: (309) 298-2361