Legal Rights & Protections

In this module we will be taking a look at the legal aspects of disability. First, you will be presented with an overview of the history of discrimination for people with disabilities. We review this history to give you a better understanding of when and why the laws that now protect the rights of people with disabilities were put into effect. Within this overview you will learn about two landmark cases [Mills v. Board of Education, and Pennsylvania Association of Retarded Citizens (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania] that helped pave the way for the right to education for all students with disabilities.

Following this brief history, we will focus on three important laws for people with disabilities. First we will examine the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (1975), which has been re-authorized several times. We will also examine the most current provisions of this act. Next, we will study Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973), an important law that extended civil rights to people with disabilities. The third law we will discuss is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990). This law is similar to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, but extends to more parts of our society; we will go over the similarities and differences between these two laws. Let’s begin with a trip back through time and a look at the history of disability discrimination.