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How the ADA applies to colleges and universities in California

Frequent readers of our blog are no strangers to the fact that if public schools want to continue receiving federal funding and avoid civil litigation, they will want to adhere to all state and federal laws, especially those regarding students with special needs. Here in California, as well as all states in the country, one such law is the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Often seen talked about in the employment law circle, the ADA also applies to schools as well. Any school receiving federal funding here in California -- whether it's a K-12 school or a college or university -- must comply with the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against any student with a disability.

A student is considered to be disabled if they meet certain requirements laid out by Title II and III of the ADA such as having a "physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." In many cases, a person does not have to have a history or record of an impairment to qualify as disabled, they only have to show that their condition is affecting their ability to learn, meaning the school must provide them with reasonable accommodations to facilitate learning.

As an out-of-state case recently demonstrated, failing to comply with the ADA can lead to civil litigation. Depending on the facts of the case, a court may award damages to a wronged student as well. But because of the complexity of these cases and the average person's understanding of the law, taking on such litigation on your own is not considered a good idea.

Though a lawyer may be an added expense, they are typically considered a necessary one, especially because their experience can mean the difference between receiving compensation in a civil lawsuit and missing out on the chance to get the justice you deserve.

Source: Disability Rights California, "Rights of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education," July 2012

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