Monday, August 23, 2010

Big Changes to §504: Do They Affect Special Education - Part II

US Supreme Court building, front elevation, st...Image via Wikipedia
In the previous post in this series, we discussed the buzz during my summer rock tour on special education law concerning the changes to §504 and the ADA. The big question seems to be how the changes will affect the education of children with disabilities.

Congress was very upset with two lines of court decisions stemming from two opinions by the U. S. Supreme Court. One line of cases began with Sutton v. United Airlines 527 US 471, 30 IDELR 681 (1999). There the Supremes ruled that in determining eligibility for employees with disabilities who have used mitigating measures, such as medication or contact lenses, the disability must be measured by taking the mitigating measures into account. (Under §504 and ADA to be eligible, a person must have a disability that substantially affects a major life activity.)

Another involved cases following the decision in Toyota Manufacturing v. Williams 534 U.S. 184, 102 LRP 6137 (2002). In that case, the Court held that people who have impairments that substantially limit a life activity are not protected where the limitation is one that would substantially affect the lives of most people. The Supremes ruled that this would not be a major life activity.

It was in reaction to these changes that Congress changed the laws. More on the changes in the next post in this series.

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