Discrimination against people with disabilities
Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities under any program or activity receiving or benefiting from federal financial assistance, which often includes educational entities. The obligation is to provide academic adjustments - academic modifications and auxiliary aids and services to ensure students have equal opportunity to participate in the program.
Equal opportunity to students with disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act and state public accommodation law require most schools, colleges and universities to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures to ensure equal opportunity to students with disabilities.
Public education for children with disabilities
Education Act 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. is a federal law modeled after the Massachusetts General Law Chapter 766 that requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.
Any child who qualifies for special education services will receive services following an evaluation and the development of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP is developed by a team of interested parties such as:
Public education environment for children with disabilities
The Massachusetts Public Education Law, Ch. 766 M.G.L. c. 71B, §§ 1 - 16 guarantees a "free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment" to all school-aged children (ages 3 to 21) regardless of disability.
The law also mandates support for children with disabilities who may be bullied, providing that whenever the evaluation of the IEP team indicates that the child has a disability that affects social skills development, or that the child is vulnerable to:
- Harassment or
- Teasing because of the child’s disability
The IEP will address the skills needed to avoid and respond to bullying, harassment or teasing.
Legally blind adults have the right to learn Braille
Massachusetts Braille Literacy Law M.G.L. c. 6, § 133G affords legally blind adults the right to learn Braille through the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB). MCB is required to offer instruction up to the grade 2 Braille level.
Additionally, the vocational rehabilitation and independent living programs MCB provides must evaluate the appropriateness of Braille instruction for each program participant. The assessment shall include:
- The person’s efficiency in reading and writing print as compared with a person of similar intellectual ability;
- The person’s stamina in using print before fatigue occurs; and
- The person’s prognosis for further sight loss.
Braille instruction for legally blind students
M.G.L. c. 71B, §3 entitles school-age children who are deemed legally blind to receive Braille instruction as part of their school's special education services. The school district must also assess the appropriateness of Braille instruction for the child.
Transitional planning for people with disabilities graduating or turning 22
Massachusetts Transitional Planning Services, Turning 22 (Commonly Known as Chapter 688) M.G.L. c. 71 B, §§ 12A - C provides a transitional planning process for eligible people with disabilities who will lose special education services upon graduation or upon turning 22.
An assigned agency develops an Individual Transitional Plan describing the services needed. The Individual Transitional Plan must be agreed upon by
- The Department of Education
- The Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and
- The person with disabilities or
- Their guardian(s)