The University of Texas at Austin acts in accordance with two relevant laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
“No otherwise qualified person with a [disability] in the United States shall, solely by reason of a [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.”
A person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. An individual is considered to be a person with a disability if he/she (1) has a disability, (2) has a history of a disability or (3) is perceived by others as having a disability.
A qualified person with a disability is defined as a person who meets the requisite academic and technical standards required for admission or participation in the post-secondary institution’s programs and activities.
Under the provisions of Section 504, The University of Texas at Austin may not:
- Limit the admission of otherwise qualified students with disabilities;
- Make pre-admission inquiries as to whether an applicant has a disability;
- Exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any course of study;
- Provide less financial assistance to students with disabilities than is provided to other students;
- Measure student achievement using modes that adversely discriminate against a student with a disability; or
- Establish rules and policies that have the effect of limiting participation of students with disabilities in educational programs or activities
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
On August 7, 1998, Congress amended Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to include proper access to electronic and information technology. This requires agencies that develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology to ensure that the materials are accessible. Therefore, the university must make university-maintained Web site and video materials accessible (i.e. Web sites should allow for the use of speech output systems for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and videos must be captioned for individuals who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing and audio described for individuals who are blind/low vision).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is civil rights legislation that extends the anti-discrimination legislation of Section 504 to all institutions of higher education whether or not they receive federal financial assistance. The purpose of this act is to provide a clear and comprehensive mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. This statute became effective for public entities on January 26, 1992. It provides comprehensive civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, state and local governments, public accommodations and telecommunications.
ADA Amendments Act of 2008
This new law, which clarifies the intent of the ADA, was signed September 25, 2008 and went into effect on January 1, 2009. This law expands the definition of major life activities, and specifies that one should not consider mitigating measures (i.e., medication, prosthetics, assistive technology, etc.) when determining eligibility for accommodations.
The ADA requires existing facilities of some agencies to be accessible. The University of Texas at Austin has a compliance plan to make all existing facilities accessible to people with disabilities where access is readily achievable and not an undue burden. For new construction or renovations, The University must be in compliance with the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS), which are administered and monitored by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). The TAS guidelines have been certified by the United States Department of Justice as conforming to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).