College vs. High School

College vs. High School: Provision of Accommodations

Part of the transition process to college includes recognizing and understanding the differences between the legal frameworks under which students with disabilities are served. 

The table below shows a comparison of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).




Requirements in the Law

Provides a free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment. Extends coverage of section 504 to employment, public and private educational institutions, transportation providers and telecommunications, regardless of the presence of any federal funding.

Definitions in the Law

Specific disability categories are defined in the law; covers students with educational disabilities that require special services from specially trained teachers. Not all students with disabilities are eligible. Definition of disability essentially same as Section 504 and extends coverage to persons without disabilities who may be related to or associated with a person with a disability; Includes HIV status, contagious, and non-contagious diseases.

Who is Covered

Covers students with educational disabilities that require special education services ages 3 to 21 or until graduation. Protects all persons with a disability from discrimination in an educational setting based solely on disability.

Services Provided

Offers educational services that are remedial in addition to services available to all mainstream students (ie, PE, Art, field trips). Eliminates barriers that would prevent a student from full participation in programs/services offered to the general school population.


Schools receive federal funding to provide remedial services. Requires that schools not discriminate based on student's disability and must provide appropriate accommodations, but schools receive no additional financial support to provide support services or auxiliary aids.



The school district is responsible for identifying and evaluating students with disabilities. The student must self-identify as having a disability and must provide adequate documentation of disability.
Evaluations are the responsibility of the school and are performed at no expense to student/parent. Evaluations/documentation of disability are the student's responsibility and expense.
Parents must consent to evaluations and placement decisions. The student has responsibility for advocacy, negotiating accommodations plan.



Individual Education Plan (IEP) developed with parents, teachers. and other specialists involved. Accommodation plan developed with student and Disability Services Coordinator on campus.

Classroom Placement

Placement must be in the least restrictive environment; may be special classrooms, resource, or regular classroom. (Elementary and secondary students). All courses are mainstream with accommodations provided to students who qualify under ADA.

About IDEA

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.

About the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and its amendments makes it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA also outlaws discrimination against individuals with disabilities in state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications. This link explains the ADA, Titles II and III.

More information about the ADA