A r c h i v e d   I n f o r m a t i o n

Applying Federal Civil Rights Laws
to Public Charter Schools

Selection of Facilities to Provide
Access to Students with Disabilities

For some people with physical disabilities, an otherwise outstanding program may as well not exist if it is located in an inaccessible facility. Section 504 and Title II require that persons with disabilities have access to the programs and activities offered at public schools. Because charter schools often open in older buildings that may lack attention to accessible design or in contemporary or renovated buildings that were not originally designed for use as public schools, it is important that you be aware of these requirements.

16. Are there requirements for physical access that apply when I select the facilities that will house my charter school?

Yes. An LEA (including your charter school if it is its own LEA) may not deny persons with disabilities, including parents and students, the benefits of programs and activities offered at its schools because of inaccessible facilities. The selection of the facility for your charter school may not result in excluding or limiting enrollment of people with disabilities from any school program or activity.

    The program accessibility requirements of Section 504 and Title II often involve complex issues. For technical assistance regarding accessible programs and facilities, please contact the OCR Office that serves your state.

17. Are there different legal requirements that apply to charter schools located in existing facilities as compared to newer facilities?

Yes. For existing facilities, a charter school’s programs and activities, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to individuals with disabilities. Both the Section 504 and Title II regulations permit considerable flexibility in meeting this legal standard. For example, structural changes are not required in existing facilities if nonstructural methods are effective in achieving program accessibility.

For new construction and alterations, Section 504 and Title II require that a new or altered facility (or the part that is new or altered) must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The focus here is on providing physical access to buildings and facilities in addition to programs and activities. This means you must make sure that a child with a physical disability has access to every part of the new building or the parts that are newly-altered.

For example, if your charter school is in a new building, all parts of the building, including the third-floor chemistry labs, must be accessible for use by persons with disabilities. In contrast, if your charter school is in an existing facility, you might be able to meet the program accessibility requirement by locating at least one chemistry lab in an accessible location like the first floor.

18. How do I know if a building is considered an existing facility or new construction?

Any building or alteration by or on behalf of your LEA or your charter school for which construction began since June 1977, is considered new. Any construction or alteration that was not done by or on behalf of your LEA or charter school is likely to be considered an existing facility, regardless of its age.

    Any construction that began before June 4, 1977, is considered existing. Any construction or alteration by or on behalf of your LEA or charter school that began after January 26, 1992, is considered new. Construction that began on or between those two dates is new under Section 504 and existing under Title II. In these cases, the more stringent standard for new construction would apply.

19. What should I consider when acquiring the space in which I operate my program?

In summary, when you purchase, take title to, lease, or rent a facility, you are encouraged to look for the most accessible space available. At a minimum, you must make sure that the educational program, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, in accordance with the requirements for existing facilities. Construction or alteration initiated by you or for your charter school must also meet standards for new construction.


[Schools Affected by Desegregation Plans or Court Orders]

[Educating Students Who Are Limited-English Proficient]