1. Accommodating Disabilities in Higher Education: Requirements Under Section 504 and the ADA

Accommodating Disabilities in Higher Education: Requirements Under Section 504 and the ADA

Accommodating Disabilities in Higher Education: Requirements Under Section 504 and the ADA
Event ID: 72641
Session ID: 15630

Duration: 90 minutes including question and answer session.
Presenter: Tess O'Brien-Heinzen, attorney at law, Boardman and Clark LLP
Price: $299.00 webinar or On-Demand, $399.00 webinar and On-Demand. Each option may be viewed by an unlimited number of attendees in one room. On-Demand includes full audio presentation, question and answer session, and presentation slides.
Credits:This program has been approved for 1.5 general recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute. This program is valid for 1.5 PDCs for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP.
Who Should Attend? HR, university counsel, college and university administrators, special education directors, and student services professionals, faculty
Best For: Higher education


The ADA, which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with a disability, requires colleges and universities to accord reasonable accommodations to students unless it causes undue hardship or a direct threat of harm. The ADA’s purpose is to “level the playing field” for all students. Under the 2008 ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) Congress instructed courts to interpret the definition of a “disability” broadly, in effect reversing a decade of ADA decisions. Furthermore, colleges and universities are required to engage in the “interactive process” with a student requesting accommodations. As a result it is now easier for students seeking protection under the ADA to successfully claim a disability and obtain protections and accommodations under Section 504. In addition, in 2014, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights came out with new guidance on requirements of effective communication requiring colleges and universities to give primary consideration to a student’s request for accommodations in this area. Accommodations can include: academic adjustments, related disability services accommodations, accommodations relating to admissions and recruitment, and others. Students, however, also have responsibilities, and these center primarily around documenting the disability and the interactive process. The penalties of noncompliance for colleges and universities can be substantial, and the risks come from both students and the courts and regulators. Please join Tess O’Brien-Heinzen, attorney at law, for a clear overview of the ADAAA and related Section 504 disabilities accommodations requirements. Ms. O’Brien-Heinzen will offer college and university administrators step-by-step guidance for satisfying their obligations under these important laws and regulations.


Just a sampling of what this webinar will cover:

  • Review applicable laws and regulations:
    • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
    • Office of Civil Rights (OCR)
    • Private Actions
    • Key state and local ordinances
  • Discuss relevant differences between higher education and secondary level Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requirements
  • Understand how the ADA’s broadened definition of a disability affects accommodations requirements
  • Review key definitions including: “individual with a disability,” physical impairment that limits a “major life activity,” the broader definition of impairment, etc.
  • Hear the relevance of current and past use of drugs in deciding if a student is eligible for accommodation
  • Find out how the “interactive process” affects the accommodation process
  • Know what academic adjustments might be included in a student accommodation
  • Know how auxiliary aids and services are affected
  • Find out the role of the disability services coordinator and related grievance procedures
  • Determine what accommodations need to be made during the admissions and recruitment process
  • Discuss the student’s responsibilities under the interactive process
  • Find out what constitutes “undue hardship”
  • Know how “direct threat,” “risk of suicide,” “campus violence,” etc. come into play
  • Recognize when mental disabilities need to be accommodated



Your conference leader for “Accommodating Disabilities in Higher Education: Requirements Under Section 504 and the ADA” is Tess O'Brien-Heinzen, attorney at law, Boardman and Clark LLP. Tess's practice focuses on school law and general litigation. She provides legal consultation to the School Law Group with respect to issues under the ADA, ADAAA, Section 504, and the IDEA. She is also a frequent speaker and writer on this area of the law. She published “Accommodating Parents and Visitors with Disabilities in Schools" in the September 2013 School News and “The ADAAA: Key Changes to Disability Law" in the May 2012 Wisconsin Lawyer. Tess is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is admitted to practice before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. She earned her J.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and clerked for the late Justice William Bablitch of the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

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