While I was out, the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights released a letter praising the changes in American society caused by the passage of the ADA:
America is undeniably stronger because of the ADA and the contributions individuals with disabilities have made to every aspect of our society. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has played an important role in implementing and enforcing the ADA, by working with state and local education agencies as well as postsecondary institutions to make groundbreaking strides in providing access to opportunities for students with disabilities on a nondiscriminatory basis. ... We now know that many changes originally intended to benefit students with disabilities often improve the college experience for everyone. A college’s math course redesigned to meet the needs of students with learning disabilities turned out to be helpful to many other students in the math course. Real time captioning intended for students who are deaf or hard of hearing provides every student two ways to receive the instructional material. “Universal design” in web materials enhances the flexibility and cross platform usability of instructional sites for all students across different operating systems, browsers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and multimedia.
The letter also refers to a new “Wounded Warriors Initiative” started by the Education Department. So You Want to Go Back to School is an informational letter to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from the office for civil rights, spelling out their rights under ADA and Section 504.
The letter points out that wounded soldiers, unlike others with disabilities, may have no first-hand knowledge of disability laws. And colleges and universities may also have little experience in working with students who may have post-traumatic stress disorder, multiple amputations, burns, traumatic brain injury, and other injuries common among veterans of our most recent conflicts.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.