Certain federal and state laws give rights and protections to individuals with disabilities.  School children with disabilities most often rely upon the federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, but state statutes also give rights and protections to individuals with disabilities.  The IDEA defines the meaning of the term “disability,” as does Tennessee state law.

Both the IDEA and Tennessee state law have similar definitions for the word disability. Designed specifically to outline and protect the needs and rights of students with disabilities, the IDEA defines a disability as mental, hearing, visual, verbal, behavioral, muscular, skeletal, and other health issues. Under Tennessee state law, a disability, broadly speaking, is physical or mental health issues that significantly and adversely affect an individual’s life, such as an individual’s inability to groom or dress himself or herself independently.  However, Tennessee law clearly excludes addiction to and use of illegal drugs as a disability.

There are differences between the IDEA’s list of disabilities and Tennessee law’s list of disabilities, and not every single medical condition qualifies as a disability under the IDEA. However, the IDEA and Tennessee law have similar lists of disabilities. The lists include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), vision impairment, hearing impairment, learning disabilities (such as dyslexia), traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), behavioral problems, and muscle problems.

The above list of disabilities is not all-inclusive. However, the IDEA and Tennessee law cover individuals who are afflicted with one or more disabilities. Under the IDEA, individuals with many disabilities can receive reasonable accommodations and appropriate services if they have the proper documentation for and proof of their multiple disabilities and their multiple disabilities fall within the IDEA’s and Tennessee law’s lists of disabilities.

Other statutes, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, may define the word disability even more broadly.

If you or your child has a disability and you feel your or your child’s rights are being ignored, incorrectly applied, or violated, you may have legal remedies available to you and your child. If you have questions about the IDEA, the ADA, other federal or state disability laws, and related statutes, talk to a lawyer. For more information, to have your questions answered, and to have your concerns addressed, contact Nashville Disability and Education Attorney Perry A. Craft.