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The Laws that Guide Us

Disability Laws in Postsecondary Education

A student with a disability is entitled by law to equal access to University programs. Two federal laws protect persons with disabilities in postsecondary education: the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub. L. No. 93-112, as amended), the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (Pub. L. No. 101-336) and that ADA Amendments Act  (Pub. L. No.110-325).

The Rehabilitation Act

Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is generally regarded as the first civil rights legislation on the national level for people with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a program access statute. This statute prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program or activity offered by an entity or institution receiving federal funds.
         Section 504 (as amended) states:
         No otherwise qualified person with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely on the basis of disability, be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity provided by any institution receiving federal financial assistance.
Under Section 504, institutions are required to appoint and maintain at least one person to coordinate efforts to comply with the requirements of Section 504 (Section 504 Coordinator). This individual or office has the ongoing responsibility of assuring that the institution/agency/organization practices nondiscrimination on the basis of disability and should be included in any grievance procedures developed to address possible instances of discrimination brought against the institution. At UL Lafayette, the office of the ADA Coordinator is housed in Human Resources (337) 482-6242.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

The ADA is a federal, civil rights statute that prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. The five sections of this law include employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, telecommunications, and miscellaneous provisions. The ADA provides additional protection for persons with disabilities in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ADA is designed to remove barriers that prevent qualified individuals with disabilities from enjoying the same opportunities that are available to persons without disabilities.  
Universities are covered in many ways under the ADA. Employment is addressed by Title I, accessibility provided by public and private entities as addressed by Titles II and III, transportation is addressed under Title IV, and miscellaneous items are addressed under Title V.


Institutions that receive federal funds are covered under Section 504. Universities are also covered under ADA. ADA does not supplant Section 504; however in situations where the ADA provides greater protection, ADA standards apply. Therefore, universities must adhere to both the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA.

Disability Definition

The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person:

• who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,
• who has a record of the disability, or
• who is regarded as having a disability.

Mental Impairment

A mental impairment is defined as any psychological disorder, such as organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or a specific learning disability.

Major Life Activity

(A) IN GENERAL- For purposes of paragraph (1), major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
(B) MAJOR BODILY FUNCTIONS- For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
(3) REGARDED AS HAVING SUCH AN IMPAIRMENT- For purposes of paragraph (1)(C):
(A) An individual meets the requirement of `being regarded as having such an impairment' if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited under this Act because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.
(B) Paragraph (1)(C) shall not apply to impairments that are transitory and minor. A transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less.

Physical/Medical Impairment

A physical impairment is defined as any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfiguration, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems:
Hemic and Lymphatic
Respiratory (including Speech Organs)
Skin and Endocrine
Special Sense Organs