Table of Contents
Disability Rights Texas Handout
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Providing Students with Disabilities Accessible Educational Services During COVID-19 Emergency Circumstances
During this time of national emergency due to COVID-19, Disability Rights Texas understands that our state’s educators are working diligently to adapt to the fluid circumstances to continue to provide quality education to their students while also working together to slow the rate of infection. Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) offers support to Disability Service Offices at Texas postsecondary educational institutions while they work to ensure that the changes their institutions are making to their teaching methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 do not leave students with disabilities behind.
Applicable Laws and What That Means for Postsecondary Institutions
We understand that postsecondary institutions have and will continue to face difficult decisions regarding how to protect their students, faculty, staff, and broader communities from the spread of COVID-19. As postsecondary institutions make these decisions, they will be considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local public health officials. However, complying with such guidance should not create civil rights concerns for students with disabilities.
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, including Postsecondary Educational Institutions.
- Title III of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination by places of public accommodation, also including Postsecondary Educational Institutions.
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) prohibits disability discrimination by Postsecondary Educational Institutions receiving federal financial assistance.
Changes to curriculum delivery methods, such as distance learning, will require that postsecondary institutions revisit and revise the approved accommodations of some of their students with disabilities. All lectures and class materials and online learning tools must be accessible to ALL students with disabilities. Fortunately, there are a plethora of technologies available that can make this possible for a variety of disabilities.
Postsecondary institutions should also be mindful that as places of public accommodation, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, also requires that their communications to students, faculty, staff, and the community be equally effective to individuals with disabilities. As such, information and materials must be provided, as appropriate, in alternate formats to facilitate effective communication for individuals with disabilities. In the rush to move many educational services and opportunities online nearly overnight to protect against transmission of the COVID-19, accessibility may be lagging. The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has created a webinar covering the basics of non-discrimination laws and what it means for coursework and resources to be accessible to individuals with disabilities. The video offers tips for universities to help ensure that materials are accessible. If postsecondary institutions need technical assistance to make their online learning accessible, they can contact the Office of Civil Rights Web Access team at OCRWebAccessTA@ed.gov.
Below is a list of these and additional resources that may be helpful to postsecondary institutions, their students, and their faculty while navigating these uncertain times.
U.S. Department of Education- COVID-19 Resources:
- Fact sheet for protecting students’ civil rights during COVID-19 response
- Webinar from OCR
- List of more generalized COVID-19 resources for schools of all levels
- Auxiliary Aids and Services for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities: Higher Education’s Obligations Under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA
National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD):
- Coronavirus-COVID-19 & College Students with Disabilities: A list of resources for students, disability resource professionals, faculty, and other college stakeholders
Resources on How to Make Courses ADA & Section 504 Compliant:
- Designing an Accessible Online Course: A toolkit to assist campuses who are quickly moving online in response to COVID-19 created by the Southwest ADA Center
- Remember Accessibility in the Rush to Online Instruction: 10 Tips for Educators, by the National Deaf Center
- Remote Interpreting Services, by the National Deaf Center
- Assistive Technologies: Support, Advocacy and Assistive Technology to Facilitate Online Higher Education for a Variety of Different Disabilities
We are confident that educators at postsecondary institutions are committed to ensuring that their students with disabilities have equal access to educational opportunities while we all work together to slow the COVID19 infection rates. We are here to support Disability Services Offices and their students and hope that these resources are helpful.
Created: June 5, 2020
Publication Code: n/a
Disclaimer: Disability Rights Texas strives to update its materials on an annual basis, and this handout is based upon the law at the time it was written. The law changes frequently and is subject to various interpretations by different courts. Future changes in the law may make some information in this handout inaccurate.
The handout is not intended to and does not replace an attorney’s advice or assistance based on your particular situation.