Legal Rights & Protections


In this unit of instruction we covered three major laws that impact special education:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: 1973 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): 1990

IDEA was introduced so that states would be held responsible for educating all individuals who have disabilities. IDEA states that every child is entitled to a free and appropriate education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) possible. IDEA also set up due process safeguards to protect the rights of students with disabilities and their families.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was patterned after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and serves to protect the civil rights of people who have disabilities. Section 504 states that any business, institution, or agency that receives federal funds cannot discriminate against any person because that person has a disability, or is regarded as having a disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is also a civil rights law that has the same stipulations as Section 504. The ADA just expanded these stipulations to cover those entities that are not federally funded. This includes both public services, and private sector employment.

By learning about these three laws, you have gained valuable information that impacts the fields of special education and human services every day. If you plan to pursue a career in one of these fields, you will be at a great advantage by having this knowledge. Laws are always evolving and being amended as time passes, so you will want to stay current about how these changes impact the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

In the future when you hear that one of these laws is being reauthorized, you will have a better understanding of what is being changed, and why. Knowing how these laws impact special education and more importantly, life in our society is a key element in working with people who have disabilities. And no matter what career you choose, knowing how our laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities will help you better recognize and defend the rights of others!