In November, 2014, the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (DOE) issued joint guidance about the rights of students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities to effective communication. According to the guidance, public schools are responsible for ensuring communication with students with disabilities is as effective as communication with all other students.
The new guidance is important for students with disabilities for the following reasons:
- Effective communication: Under the ADA and its regulations, public schools must ensure that communication for students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities is as effective as communication for students without disabilities. This is in marked contrast to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which requires only that a free appropriate public education is provided that is of educational benefit to the student.
- Requested aids: Under the ADA and its regulations, public schools must give primary consideration to the aids the student requests to assist in communications.
- Protection for all students: The protections provided under ADA and Section 504 do not require that a student also be IDEA eligible. This means that students with disabilities who are not enrolled in special education programs are also protected.