Disability Law and Higher Education

A Legal Framework

Several federal laws provide a framework for protecting the rights of and providing access for college students with disabilities. Additionally, University policy addresses nondiscrimination on the basis of disability.

In this legal framework, the University may not:

  • Limit the number of students with disabilities admitted
  • Exclude a student with a disability from any course of study on the basis of his/her disability
  • Counsel students with disabilities towards a more restrictive career than students without disabilities, unless such counsel is based on strict licensing or certification requirements in the profession
  • Measure student achievement using modes that adversely discriminate against students with disabilities
  • Institute prohibitive rules that may adversely affect the performance of students with disabilities

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and applies to all programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. It requires an institution to make reasonable academic adjustments and accommodations to allow students with disabilities full participation in the same programs and activities available to students without disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990: The ADA is comprehensive civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education (e.g., public colleges and universities), transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. Its purpose is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. 

The ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008: The ADA was amended in 2008 and broadened the meaning and interpretation of the ADA definition of disability, reiterating that the scope of the ADA was intended to be broad and inclusive.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 508, and as amended in the 2018 Section 508 Refresh, establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government. It requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities and affects colleges and universities that receive any funding from the federal or state government.

University Policy 501.1: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability Regulation:  UNC Charlotte’s Policy 501.1, consistent with disability rights laws, establishes that the University will operate its programs, activities, and services to ensure that no qualified individual with a disability is excluded from participation in, denied benefits of, or subjected to discrimination solely by reason of disability. This regulation includes procedures for complaints of discrimination based on disability.