NAICU Washington Update

ADA regulations on 2008 amendments

February 18, 2014

On January 30, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to incorporate the statutory changes in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The DOJ is proposing to add new sections to its Title II and Title III ADA regulations to provide more detailed definitions of “disability” and to make consistent changes in other sections of the regulations. If your institution would like to weigh in, comments to the DOJ must be submitted on or before March 31, 2014.

The 2008 ADA amendments are intended to provide expansive coverage for individuals with disabilities in employment, education, and public facilities. With the enactment of the ADA amendments of 2008, more college students and more national test takers (CPA, LSAT, etc.) with learning disabilities can get accommodations. Colleges and universities already comply with ADA as employers, and providers of education. College disability offices say most colleges and universities have been generous in providing accommodations for their students and employees.

There are three major items in the proposed regulations colleges should be aware of:

1. Definition of disability

The regulations propose to further define disability by including “learning disabilities,” such as Attention Deficit Disorder and dyslexia, within the meaning of “physical or mental impairment.” These are included as illustrative examples of learning disabilities. The DOJ recognized that covered entities were not providing accommodations for these clinically diagnosable impairments covered under the ADA. Thus, they are proposing to specifically list them.

For colleges and universities, this change means there will most likely be more requests to accommodate students with learning disabilities for test-taking or other class work. These accommodations might include a quiet testing area, longer test time, or note takers, for example.

2. Affirmation of academic standards

The DOJ affirms that nothing in the ADA is intended to alter academic standards at colleges and universities, and that Congress did not intend for there to be any changes in the law with regard to “providing reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures that would fundamentally alter the nature of programs.” Therefore colleges would not be expected to reduce academic standards when providing accommodations.

3. Feedback from colleges

The DOJ would like feedback from colleges about their estimates of the number of students with learning disabilities who have asked for accommodations since the implementation of the 2008 law, and how many students would likely ask for accommodations with the implementation of the regulations. They would also like to know more about their estimates on the cost of implementing the law by providing accommodations for these students.

The Department estimates that in the first year of implementation, 142,000 students would take advantage of accommodations; and over 11 years, 400,000 college students, and 800,000 national test takers, would use accommodations. The year-one cost estimate for providing the necessary requirements is between $36.2 million and $61.8 million for both institutions of higher education and national testing entities.

The proposed regulations cover additional issues that may impact individual institutions, so it would be advisable to review the regulations to determine how they would affect your institution.

For more information and background, see these previous NAICU articles on ADA Amendments

Revised Disabilities Act in the Works - June 12, 2008  

House Passes ADA Restoration Act - June 27, 2008

Bush Signs ADA Amendments - September 30, 2008

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