The road to civil liberties and rights for those with disabilities has been a long one.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight some of the most influential Federal civil rights law that ensures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

At the Independence Center, part of our mission is to empower persons with disabilities and remove barriers, which prevent integration and equal opportunity. While it can be extremely difficult for adults with disabilities to feel integrated in their environment, it is arguably even more challenging for children with disabilities to feel included in the classroom. Educators and lawmakers are making strides to aid children with disabilities to not only succeed, but also feel included in the classroom setting.

A Little Background on IDEA:

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal statute that authorizes aid for the education of nearly 6.5 million children with disabilities in the United States. IDEA requires public schools to create an individualized education program (IEP) for any child that falls under the realm as disability as defined by IDEA.  In order to create an effective IEP, parents, teachers and other school staff must work together to examine the student’s unique needs.  The process of creating the IEP involves all of these individuals, along with the student at times, constructing a plan for the student’s educational need. 

IDEA was revised in 2004 and changed the focus of special education from providing separate services for students with disabilities to including more students in mainstream classrooms. Schools are required to place students in inclusive classrooms, when appropriate, in order to provide the social and academic benefits of taking part in the general curriculum. This inclusion can aid in a child’s feeling of acceptance and motivation for schoolwork.

Assistive Technology through IDEA:

The federal government recognized the importance of assistive technology for students when it revised the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997 and again in 2004. IDEA states that school districts must consider assistive technology for any child in special education. That means that for any child receiving special education services, the educational team must ask if there is a device that will “increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities” of that child.

Raising awareness about creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment is extremely vital. Not only will it improve a child’s performance and attitude toward education, but will keep their peers and teachers informed and open-minded.

What are your thoughts on this act and how it has affected our education system?