Legal and Advocacy
To give people with disabilities an equal opportunity, there are many laws:
- IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
- ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
These laws have changed education, employment and community living for all persons with disabilities of all ages.
It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities under these laws. Your rights include your protections under each law, and provide equal access to education, employment, communication, housing, transportation, and the community. Your responsibilities include having knowledge of your rights, but also the actions you must take in order to request accommodations.
Learn more about each of the laws that are specific to people with disabilities. There are also other laws with protect you and your information for education and healthcare. The following laws provide protections within education, employment, transportation, housing, communication and the community.
- IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education and Improvement Act): Provides for the special education of children and youth with disabilities, ages birth to 22.
- ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Provides civil right protections to all persons with disabilities in education, employment, communication, housing, transportation, and the community.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: Provides equal access for people with disabilities to programs and services which receive federal funding.
- FERPA (Families Education Rights and Privacy Act) protects the records of students in educational programs. It allows parents the right to inspect and review their student's education records until they turn 18. A process is established to challenge or correct information in a student's file. Schools must have written permission to release any information from a student's education record.
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act): Health and medical information is private. HIPAA reduces the risk of disclosure or misuse of IIHI (Individually Identifiable Health Information). HIPAA limits who can look at and receive health information. HIPAA covers communication of confidential health information. Health information cannot be used or shared without written permission. Patients have the right to see and get a copy of their health records.
- The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of race or color, national origin, religion, sex, family status and disability in most housing.
You are responsible to request accommodations under each of these and other laws. This requires you to have advocacy skills. Advocacy is the skill to understand your disability and your needs, and the ability to explain your needs to others. Becoming an effective self-advocate is necessary for everyone, and it is a skill you will use the rest of your life. It is very important to your access of accommodations and protections under all laws. Your responsibilities to request accommodations include:
- Know your abilities and needs.
- Understand your responsibilities to comply with each law.
- Be ready to explain your needs and request accommodation using the correct procedures in advance.
- Have documentation of your disability.
Education and Training
- Understand your responsibilities in complying with the laws regarding education.
- Eligibility, services and supports may vary between schools and programs.
- Contact the appropriate office or disability services and apply.
- Ask for needed accommodations when classes or training begin.
- Stay in touch with your counselor or support staff at the disability resource center.
- Follow the procedures outlined by the office of disability services.
- Be qualified for the jobs for which you apply.
- If you need accommodations in the application process, disclose your disability and explain your needs.
- State your skills and needs and request accommodations in the correct manner.
- Understand your responsibilities in complying with the laws for employment.
- Understand your responsibilities in complying with the laws regarding accommodations for public access, transportation or housing.
- In advance, request the need for accommodations for services such as doctor appointments, public meetings, etc.
- State your needs and request accommodations in the correct manner.
Guardianship, Estate Planning and Trusts: At age 18, a person is considered an adult with all rights, responsibilities, and consequences. If there are concerns about the person's ability to make decisions in areas such as finances, healthcare, housing, etc. then it may be necessary to secure partial or complete guardianship of that person's affairs. Other planning for the individual's welfare may include trusts and estate planning.