Former President George H.W. Bush enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which impacts thousands to have employment opportunities, and participate in State and local government projects. This bill lives on as part of his legacy following his death at age 94 on Nov. 30.
The ADA is one of the most comprehensive bills allowing all Americans to have equal opportunities. His bill helped change the way of public schools, as every student reserves the right for equal opportunities in education.
Programs under this bill include the 504 plan (specialized plans for those with disabilities in order to increase their success in school) and Individual Education Program (IED).
The ADA covers anyone with a physical, sensory, cognitive, or any other mental disability.
This act carries to off-campus activities, employment, and other educational opportunities as the government cannot discriminate against one’s disability.
At school, students are able to acquire a 504 plan to assist in accommodating a disability. Typically, the student struggling can set up a meeting with a counselor, or be referred by a teacher.
“Before we put a 504 in place we will suggest some sort of accommodation for the student such as adding time for a person,” said Principal Brian Ginter. “If that doesn’t work, that’s when you go into a 504 plan. It’s not as intrusive as an IEP would be, but it’s not something as simple to do.”
An IEP can be used if the student requires more assistance than a 504 plan entails.
“If you start to adjust the amount of homework a student might have, or you’re able to access a computer during a test, or you need a calculator for something that you normally wouldn’t need a calculator for that’s when you start to get into things covered in an IEP,” said Ginter.
All of what’s on the IEP must be done as it’s a legally binding contract between the school district and the student. Typically, one starts with the least intrusive plan and adjusts the plan later as needed.
“To get an IEP you need to be tested to see what specific type of learning disability you have. Once that’s determined, you can get an IEP,” said Ginter. “However to get a 504 if you want one you can if other small accommodations haven’t helped you.”
Additionally, under ADA, schools and public services must meet the design requirements to provide equitable use, low physical effort, and size and space approach into the design for a facility. Failure to comply with these mandates results in a fine or lawsuit.
“Anything we’re touching here has to have ADA accessibility,” said Ginter. “Anytime you’re going to do construction, you have to make it all ADA compliant.”
In public school districts, they must provide a free education including accommodating the needs of their students. This can include anywhere from physical therapy to allowing more time on tests for students.
“My students are independent living school students that have all different types of disabilities from autism, to intellectual disabilities that are all on a certificate of completion track,” said special education teacher Kaci Rodericks. “In terms of education, I think the main thing is that it gives the students with special needs a chance of having accessibility.”
ADA has a great impact on many students like senior Nathan St. Geme: “The ADA means everything to me. It allows me to access places in my daily life. Any place that has steps, if not the ADA would not allows me to step into the place. Because of the ADA I can ride the buses, which is important because I am unable to drive. If it weren’t for the ADA, I would not have my independence.”
Accommodating the needs of the students benefits them in and outside of school: “I think [ADA] will have more of an impact on them once they transition from high school because they are going to be more accessible to community needs and services, and getting a job is a goal for the majority of my students and I think it will help them in that area,” said Rodericks.
ADA continues throughout college, .”..beyond just Rio, the ADA allows me to go to college without worry of not being able to access whatever I want,” said St. Geme.
ADA provides students with skill sets to be successful outside of school by its educational programs. Yet, each year more arrangements are being made to assist those under the act.
“Still there is a lot of work ahead in that field but it’s a step ahead for people with special needs especially on the moderate to severe track like students that I have,” said Rodericks.
Bush’s act will allow students to continue their education, or start in the workforce with equal opportunities.