Overview of Section 504 involving higher education

Section 504 just like ADA addresses discrimination of disabled persons in public entities. This section is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. According to Section 504: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability… shall, solely by reason of … disability, 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,” (Mezey, 2004, p 160). This implies that so long an institution is public (or funded by the federal government), the institution cannot deny access or discriminate against disabled persons.

Section 504 is applicable in higher education institutions and therefore disabled persons who get access to postsecondary education ought to be protected under this section. Some of the higher education institutions that receive federal funding include universities, postsecondary vocational programs as well as colleges (Alexander & Alexander, 2005). Private entities which are accessed by the public are not covered in this section unless if they receive federal funding. However, ADA effectively covers this potential loophole. It is also that the institution of higher education is not supposed to enquire of the student’s disability status.

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It is in fact illegal as per Section 204 for university official to enquire about disability status of applicants to the institution since this is discriminatory. Nevertheless, the institution is supposed to comply with the requirements of Section 504 once the student has disclosed the disability since they become qualified (Siegel, 2009). As such, it is the responsibility of the institution to make sure that auxiliary aids are put in place where they never existed so that the disabled person is facilitated in participating in all relevant activities effectively.

The officials in higher education institutions are mandated by Section 504 to make adjustments that enable participation of the disabled students in several ways. These auxiliary aids that are provided should aim at meeting the disability points of the student and therefore they need not be too complicated and burdensome to the institution. Some of the academic adjustments that may be made in order to accommodate a disabled student as per Section 504 include offering lectures in taped recorded notes, integrating videotext displays, providing talking calculators, and offering interpreters among other auxiliary aids.

It is also the mandate of the institution (professor) to offer makeup exams if necessary and the exams are not supposed to be timed (Russo & Osborne, 2008). Since the disabled student bears the largest burden of initiating Section 504 work, it is important that the student seek assessment services to prove that he or she has a disability. To diagnose a learning disability in postsecondary students, the student can undergo a screening test during intake. In addition it is also advisable that the student record the disability with the institution’s officials.

In some cases, psycho-educational evaluation can be conducted to help in ascertaining the presence of a disability (Mezey, 2004). Once such disabilities are recorded, the administration can in addition to providing auxiliary aids offers some advantages to the students. Such would include being given a first hand in registration, the administration may waive on some requirements such as language requirements, the student may be allowed to withdraw from a course even at late stages without being penalized, additional time may be added to complete a module or a program and the student may also substitute a course (Siegel, 2009).

Disabled students’ attitudes toward faculty According to Rao (2004), disability issues have been discussed and researched extensively. Specifically, the area of attitudes towards disabilities has been focused due to the realization that attitudes can act as barriers toward the wellbeing of disabled persons. It is however unfortunate that the topic of attitudes towards disabilities has not been looked into from a faculty perspective.

Under this perspective, there exist two aspects of attitudes with the faculty in higher education having certain attitudes towards disabled students and the students having certain attitudes towards the faculty. While exploring the attitudes that disabled students in postsecondary institutions have towards faculty, the Americans with Disabled Act and Section 504 are constantly revisited. This is more so with consideration that these regulations require the student to take the initiative of disclosing their disability status (Simoncell & Hinson, 2008).

When talking about attitudes, it should be noted that there is no universal definition of attitude. In this context however, attitudes are considered as psychological set of emotions that end up making a person to behave in a certain way (Ogden & Menter, 2008). An individual perceives something and then conceptualizes the observation which is later affects the individual’s emotions and consequent behavior. That means that the emotions thereof may be negative or positive and hence a positive or negative attitude.

Disabled students in colleges and universities tend to develop either positive or negative attitudes mainly depending on the way the faculty receives and treats the students. On the other hand, the way an institution of higher learning treats a disabled student is highly dependent on the level of adherence to the requirements of ADA and Section 504. A student’s understanding of his or her obligations in as far as the requirements and provisions of ADA and Section 504 also determine how the students react towards the faculty.