OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY
- Does the DCL mean that schools cannot use emerging technology?
- Does the DCL apply to elementary and secondary schools?
- Does the DCL apply to all school operations and all faculty and staff?
A: No. On the contrary, the Department encourages schools to employ innovative learning tools. Because technology is evolving, it has the capability to enhance the academic experience for everyone, especially students with disabilities. Innovation and equal access can go hand in hand. The purpose of the DCL is to remind everyone that equal access for students with disabilities is the law and must be considered as new technology is integrated into the educational environment.
A: Yes. The DCL grew out of complaints filed with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and DOJ that concerned postsecondary education. However, the principles underlying the DCL — equal opportunity, equal treatment, and the obligation to make accommodations or modifications to avoid disability-based discrimination — also apply to elementary and secondary schools under the general nondiscrimination provisions in Section 504 and the ADA. The application of these principles to elementary and secondary schools is also supported by the requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities. For more information, see Question 13.
A: Yes. All school operations are subject to the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA. Thus, all faculty and staff must comply with these requirements.
Section 504 and the ADA require that covered entities designate at least one person to coordinate their compliance efforts, and that they adopt and publish grievance procedures to resolve complaints of noncompliance. In addition, postsecondary schools often designate certain staff or offices (sometimes referred to as disability student-services offices) to assist students with disabilities.
The law applies to all faculty and staff, not just a Section 504 or ADA coordinator or staff members designated to assist students with disabilities. All faculty and staff must comply with the nondiscrimination requirements of Section 504 and the ADA in their professional interactions with students, because these interactions are part of the operations of the school. So, for example, if an adjunct faculty member denies a student who is blind an equal opportunity to participate in a course by assigning inaccessible course content, the school can be held legally responsible for the faculty member’s actions. Therefore, schools should provide, and faculty and staff should participate in, professional development about accessibility and emerging technology, and about the role of faculty and staff in helping the school to comply with disability discrimination laws.