March 3, 2020 / by LiteracyUntangled

Dyslexia: Relevant Federal Education Laws – The American with Disabilities Act

Did you know there are specific education laws related to dyslexia? If you live in the US and your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia, especially if you are in the beginning or going through the IEP process, there are two laws you need to be aware of: The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). How exactly are these laws relevant to dyslexia? Today we’ll delve deeper into ADA and find out.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This law applies to entities that receive federal funding (business, non-public service providers, etc.) and includes public schools. Now let’s first look at how ADA defines “disability”.

§ 36.105 Definition of “disability”

  •  (a) 
    • (1)  Disability means, with respect to an individual: 
      • (i)  A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
  • (b) 
    • (1)  Physical or mental impairment means:
      • (ii)  Any mental or psychological disorder such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disability.
    • (2)  Physical or mental impairment includes, but is not limited to, contagious and noncontagious diseases and conditions such as the following: orthopedic, visual, speech and hearing impairments, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, intellectual disability, emotional illness, dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic), tuberculosis, drug addiction, and alcoholism.
  • (c)  
    • (1)  Major life activities include, but are not limited to:
      • (i)  Caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, writing, communicating, interacting with others, and working;

So what does this mean? It means ADA is very clear on the definition of and how it relates to students with dyslexia and ADHD. The words dyslexia and ADHD are specifically used in this statue! The statue also states that major life activities that may be affected by disability include “learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, writing, communicating…” There is no ambiguity about the use of the word dyslexia or whether or not it is a real disability!

Now let’s look at the section of ADA that covers 504’s and accommodations:

Title III of the ADA covers professional/education examinations and courses. It require these entities to provide equal access to the curriculum for persons with disabilities – in other words a 504.

§ 36.309 Examinations and courses ADA Title III: Public Accommodations

  • (a) General. Any private entity that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes shall offer such examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to persons with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements for such individuals.

Under (b) Examinations and (c) Courses of Title III, required types of accommodations and modifications are listed for someone who qualifies as having a disability. In fact, (b) Examinations (1)(v) specifically mentions IEP’s and 504 Plans.

  • (b) Examinations
    (1)(v) When considering requests for modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids or services, the entity gives considerable weight to documentation of past modifications, accommodations, or auxiliary aids or services received in similar testing situations, as well as such modifications, accommodations, or related aids and services provided in response to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or a plan describing services provided pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (often referred as a Section 504 Plan).

This part of the statute directly relates to the Examinations section on IEP’s and 504’s. It does not say an entity must provide requests for modifications and accommodations but “gives considerable weight to documentation of past modifications, accommodations …. received in similar testing services.” If your child routinely refuses accommodations during testing, schools may uses this statute to justify reducing the number of testing accommodations your child is currently receiving. However, they must have documentation proving your child is refusing the accommodation.

Knowing the rights provided to your child under ADA is the first step to getting your dyslexic child, at the minimum, a 504 Plan. Remember, your child can qualify for 504 Accommodations without having an IEP.

Next we’ll delve into The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the how it directly relates to dyslexia and special education.

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