504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; states that “no otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of the handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Compliance with this law requires that academic institutions like Indiana University Kokomo provide the same opportunity for students with disabilities to achieve success in the classroom that it provides to other students. In other words, equal access to education is achieved when physical and instructional barriers to learning are removed and the student is allowed to compete on the basis of his or her academic abilities alone. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) reinforced the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act by requiring that all public facilities, services, and communications be accessible to persons with disabilities and that auxiliary aids and services be provided unless an undue burden would result.
Reasonable accommodation is the term used by the ADA for modifications made to the learning environment that help create equal educational opportunity. It does not require that students with disabilities be given special advantages in order to help them pass nor does it require they be graded on a scale different from their classmates. On the contrary, it refers to steps that can be taken without significant difficulty or expense to allow otherwise qualified students to fulfill course requirements by limiting as much as possible the effects of their disabilities on their performance. If reasonable accommodations are not evident, effort must be made to look for accommodations by:
- providing alternative ways to fulfill course requirements
- developing and implementing innovative teaching techniques
- providing supervised tutorial assistance and adaptive technology
- tailoring course requirements to individual needs, and
- modifying testing procedures to ensure measurement of a student’s abilities and not his or her disability.