school class roomIndividuals with disabilities are humans, make valuable contributions to society, and deserve to be afforded the same respect, common decency, and opportunities as the respect, common decency, and opportunities given to individuals without disabilities.  Federal and state laws, such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004, ensure that these rights are protected and require that people with disabilities are included in the classroom, given fair treatment, and given equal access to an education, and more.  Thus, equality and inclusion extend to all people, including individuals with disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Act forbids disability-based discrimination in programs and activities administered by or financed in part by the federal government, in in-house federal jobs, in federal contract jobs, and more.  As a result, the statute applies in a variety of contexts. For example, Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act applies when qualified federal employees with disabilities face disability-based discrimination. Section 503 covers situations concerning the hiring, retention, and promotion of disabled, but qualified, freelance employees with federal contracts and any disability-based discrimination they face.

Section 504 applies when qualified people with disabilities face disability-based discrimination in programs and activities administered by or financed in part by the federal government.  These programs and activities include community projects receiving federal funding, elementary schools, universities, and technical schools. Section 508 dictates that private citizens with disabilities and federal employees with disabilities have access to all information, including electronic information, gathered and maintained by the federal government.

The IDEA requires schools to provide free and appropriate classroom-based accommodations and services to qualifying students with disabilities, to identify and examine potential students with disabilities, and to not charge parents for the identification and examination of potential students with disabilities. As a result, the IDEA applies specifically to situations in education settings. Nevertheless, the IDEA does not apply to every single education-related situation, as it does not apply to any education-related situation past high school. For example, the IDEA applies only for students from kindergarten to high school when said students are determined to have disabilities and need special services and/or accommodations inside the classroom.

If you or a loved one has a disability and is having difficulty receiving services, know this: You have rights and legal remedies available to you under the Rehabilitation Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other laws. For more information, contact Nashville Disability Attorney Perry A. Craft.

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