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May 26, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions About the June 29, 2010, Dear Colleague Letter1

General Issues

  1. Does the June 29, 2010, Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on access to electronic book readers impose new legal obligations?
  2. A: No. The DCL discusses long-standing law. Specifically, it addresses key principles of Federal disability discrimination law: the obligation to provide an equal opportunity to individuals with disabilities to participate in, and receive the benefits of, the educational program, and the obligation to provide accommodations or modifications when necessary to ensure equal treatment. Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), these legal standards apply to entities that receive Federal financial assistance, including elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions. (In this FAQ, the term “schools” refers to all these types of institutions.) Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (Title II), these obligations apply to entities of state and local government, including public schools.2

    The DCL outlines concerns on the part of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (Department), raised in the context of their resolution of several cases, regarding compliance with these long-standing requirements.

1 The Department of Education has determined that this document is a “significant guidance document” under the Office of Management and Budget’s Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices, 72 Fed. Reg. 3432 (Jan. 25, 2007), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/regulatory_matters_pdf/012507
_good_guidance.pdf
. OCR issues this and other policy guidance to provide recipients with information to assist them in meeting their obligations and to provide members of the public with information about their rights under the civil rights laws and implementing regulations that we enforce. OCR’s legal authority is based on those laws and regulations. This document does not add requirements to applicable law, but provides information and examples to inform recipients about how OCR evaluates whether covered entities are complying with their legal obligations. If you are interested in commenting on this guidance, please send an e-mail with your comments to OCR@ed.gov, or write to us at the following address: Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202.
2 The Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by private schools, among other entities.

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Last Modified: 11/16/2011