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Expert Lecture: Anna Bitencourt on Federal Laws About Effective Communication Access” video


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TEXT: Anna Bitencourt – staff attorney, NAD. Federal laws about communication access.

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Anna uses sign language.


There are three federal laws that work together to protect the rights of children and adults with disabilities in education, employment, and the community. The three laws are: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act was the first disability civil rights law to be enacted in the United States in 1973. This law prohibits discrimination of qualified individuals with disabilities by entities that receive federal funds. Many public and some private institutions receive federal funds. Qualified individuals with disabilities may not be excluded from participating in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal funds.

The IDEA also requires procedural safeguards. If parents are not satisfied with the IEP, parents can request a mediation session or a due process hearing. The hearing officer’s decision can be appealed by either party. Lastly, the IDEA also requires a transition plan for all students who have an IEP. The purpose of the plan is to facilitate the student’s move from school to postsecondary education or the workforce.

The ADA extends the protections of the Rehabilitation Act to all areas of public life, regardless of whether they receive federal funds. The ADA is divided into five titles: Title I covers all aspects of employment; Title II covers access to state and local  government services; Title III covers access to places of public accommodations operated by private entities; Title IV covers telecommunications; Title V includes miscellaneous provisions.

A qualified individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having an impairment.


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