In September 1973, Congress passed Public Law 93-112, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which was amended in 1974 by Public Law 93-516. Section 504 of the Act states:
“No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States . . . shall solely by reason of his handicap, 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.”
In May 1977, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare issued regulations implementing Section 504. This nondiscrimination statute and the regulation issued under it (specifically sub-part E) guarantees a right of entrance for qualified handicapped students into our nation’s colleges and universities.
The regulation, as written, extends coverage, as well to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. In May 1980, the Regulation was reissued and codified as 34 Code of Federal Regulations 104 by the Department of Education. Section 504 represents the first Federal Civil Rights Law protecting the rights of handicapped persons. The language of the law is comparable with that of Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which defined discrimination in education on the basis of sex.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (PL 101-336) further refines protection of disabled persons’ rights and extends these protections to the private sector.
A qualified handicapped person is defined as one who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in an education program or activity. A qualified handicapped student, in accordance with 34 CFR Section 104.3 (j) and (k)(3), includes any person who:
- Has a documented physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of life’s major activities (e.g., walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, working, or learning);
- Has a record of such impairment, or;
- Is regarded as having such an impairment and who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the College’s education programs and activities.
Virginia Western Community College is committed to uphold the following conditions, among others, that are set forth in 34 CFR Part 104:
- The College ensures that all qualified students with disabilities are eligible for modifications of the College’s academic requirements as are necessary to ensure that the requirements do not have the effect of discriminating against them.
- The College ensures that alternate testing and evaluation methods for measuring student achievement may be necessary for students with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills (except where these are the skills being measured).
- The College ensures that auxiliary aids and services will be provided to students when necessary to ensure that such students are not denied the benefits of, excluded from participation in, or otherwise subjected to discrimination under the College’s programs and activities.
- The College ensures that it will not limit the number of students with disabilities being admitted.
- The College ensures that preadmission inquiries as to whether an applicant is disabled are prohibited.
- The College ensures that no student may be excluded from any course of study solely on the basis of a disability.
- The College ensures that prohibitive rules such as those barring tape recorders from the classroom must be waived for certain students with disabilities.
- The College ensures that students with disabilities may have preferential classroom seating to accommodate specific disabilities.
- The College ensures that special equipment or devices used in the classroom (and, in some cases, teaching techniques that rely upon sight, hearing, or mobility of students) may require adaptation by faculty in individual disability cases including the switching of classrooms.
- The College recognizes that it is discriminatory to counsel students with disabilities toward more restrictive careers than non-disabled students unless such counsel is based on strict, defensible licensing or certification requirements in a profession.
The regulation also states that the College is not required to provide ramps, elevators, and other devices to remove physical barriers in every building or in every part of a single building, but is required to make every program, viewed as a whole, accessible.
It is the College’s responsibility to provide parking for persons with disabilities near each of the College buildings that have been made accessible. With the number of mobility impaired students increasing annually, it will be necessary to strictly enforce parking and transportation rules to ensure that space is available for their vehicles.
Students requesting academic adjustments are responsible for providing evaluations that clearly identify the disability. (Please see General Documentation Guidelines, page XVIII.16.0.) Documentation should provide sufficiently recent information regarding the disability to permit the College to determine whether the requested adjustments or accommodations are appropriate. The burden for payment of evaluations rests with the student, not the College. The College has the right to determine, based upon the evaluative data, what adjustments and/or accommodations are reasonable and necessary. Once documentation is provided, the College agrees to provide academic adjustments and accommodations within a reasonable time.
Lastly, the regulation states that if the Director, Office of Civil Rights, finds that the institution has discriminated against a person on the basis of disability, termination of federal financial assistance could result. Although administrative processing of complaints through the Office of Civil Rights are encouraged, disabled students who feel discriminated against, have the right to go to court to settle their claims.