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Disability Access to Education

Students with disabilities receive special accommodations at school. This section of Education Law provides information on special education and disability access laws. There is an overview of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), IDEA violations, and answers to questions on disability discrimination. Reporting an alleged IDEA violation can be bureaucratic issue, involving federal laws and legislation being applied at a state or local level. Indeed, each state also has its own special education laws, involving procedures like an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting, the placement of disabled children in schools, among others. Choose from the list below to learn more.

Special Education and Disability Access: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) conditions the receipt of federal funding on state authorities' development of policies ensuring free and appropriate public educational access for children with disabilities by local agencies. A major component of the law is the requirement that local educational agencies develop, at a minimum on an annual basis, individualized educational programs (IEP) for each disabled child. These plans lay out the current educational status of the child and the goals and objectives for the child to meet. Parental consent and involvement in these programs is also protected.

The free and appropriate public education guaranteed by IDEA must meet standards set forth by state educational agencies and must include education at preschool, elementary, and secondary school levels. This education must be provided in conformity with the individualized education programs required under IDEA. State and local agencies share responsibilities under IDEA, with state agencies responsible for addressing complaints through investigation and hearing appeals, and local agencies responsible for developing and implementing IEPs for each disabled child.

How to Prepare for IEP Meetings

Schools are required to meet with the parents of disabled children covered by IDEA to discuss the IEP they developed to meet the child's educational needs and goals. These meetings can be stressful for parents and school administrators can sometimes push parents to accept their recommendations through intimidation or because the parents are unsure of their rights. Particularly in a struggling economy, schools may be tempted to cut expenses by discouraging access to special programs for disabled students. Parents can help represent their disabled children with some basic preparation including:

  • familiarizing yourself with your child's legal rights to special education
  • talking to other parents and organizations
  • determining your options
  • obtaining a copy of the school's IEP form
  • becoming an expert in your child's educational performance and needs
  • developing an ideal IEP
  • gathering information and material that supports your ideal IEP
  • determining who will represent the school in IEP meetings
  • inviting others to attend the IEP meetings on your child's behalf
  • preparing questions in advance of the IEP meeting

The IEP plan presented by the school should include information that indicates how their school experience will be structured. It should indicate whether your child will be in a classroom or a program during the bulk of the day, will indicate the goals and objectives of the program, will indicate whether and which related services will participate in executing the IEP, and will list support programs that will help older children transition into vocational or advanced placement.