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High School vs College

It’s a good idea to get to know how ADA/504 and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) are different. Here’s what you can expect from ADA/504 when you get to college.

Here’s what you can expect

What is the law?

High School: IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

College: Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)

What is the intent of the law?

High School: Free appropriate education for all students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.

College: Ensure that no otherwise qualified person is discriminated against in federally funded programs.

Who is covered under the law?

High School: All infants, children and youth requiring special education until age 21 or graduation from high school.

College: All qualified persons who meet entry criteria of the college and can document a disability as defined by ADA.

What is a disability?

High School: IDEA provides a list of disabilities and includes specific learning disability.

College: Any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Who is responsible for identifying and documenting need?

High School: School districts are responsible for identifying, evaluating students, and planning educational programs.

College: Students are responsible for self-identifying to the college and providing documentation of their disability.

Who is responsible for initiating service delivery?

High School: School districts are responsible for providing special instruction, individualized instruction plans, and/or accommodations.

College: Students are responsible for requesting disability services and/or accommodations. These are provided at no cost to the individual or family.

What related services are mandated?

High School: School districts must provide rehabilitation counseling, medical services, personal aides, social work and other services as needed in the school day.

College: College provide physical, academic, and program access. Related services of a personal nature are the responsibility of the individual or family.

What about self-advocacy?

High School: The parent or guardian is the primary advocate. Students learn about their disability, the accommodations they need, and ways to become a self-advocate.

College: Students are expected to be their own advocates.

Who is responsible for enforcing the law?

High School: IDEA is basically a funding statute, enforced by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the U.S. Department of Education.

College: ADA/504 are civil right statutes, enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the Department of Justice, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Information adapted from: Kay McVey, Faculty Development Specialist, PROJECT CONNECT, Henderson State University; Arkadelphia, Arkansas.



If you have any questions about the differences between IDEA and ADA/504 that aren’t covered here, contact us.We look forward to hearing from you!

(605) 256-5121