Disability Law Series: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

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?


Reasonable Accommodation: Housing

Reasonable accommodation is a right individuals with disabilities have in regards to housing. According to the Supportive Housing and Homeless Programs (SHHP), a reasonable accommodation is a change, adaptation to a policy, program or services afforded to a person with a disability as defined under the federal civil rights law.
This means an apartment complex must allow an exception to a rule or policy if it would afford a tenant who is disabled an equal opportunity to use and enjoy an apartment at the complex. An accommodation that allows tenants who are disabled to experience the full benefit of tenancy must be made unless the accommodation imposes an undue financial or administrative burden on a housing provider.
Some examples of reasonable accommodation may include:

  • An apartment complex must make an exception to the “no pets” policy and allow a blind or visually impaired person, who is qualified to rent a unit, to live in the apartment with a guide dog.
  • If an apartment complex has a “first come, first served” parking policy for its tenants, the tenant can request that management grant a reasonable accommodation in its parking policy and reserve a parking space for them near their apartment, due to their disability.
  • A tenant who is disabled is allowed to have a live-in aid if required and necessary.
  • If a tenant has difficulty doing laundry and apartment complex has a rule that prohibits non-tenants from using the laundry rooms. If requested by the tenant, the apartment complex must allow a friend, family member, or personal care attendant to do the tenant’s laundry in the complex’s laundry rooms.

Our Independent Living Housing Specialist and Community Transition Service Coordinators shared what reasonable accommodation means to them and the consumers they work with.
“Reasonable accommodation is when a person is able to live independently within their own apartment, with a live-in aid, service animal or on the ground floor,” said Becky, an IL Housing Specialist.
Nicole, a Community Transition Service Coordinator, described reasonable for her as being able to look at an apartment or home for her consumers, and figure out how they can make the space more accessible.
“Getting to know people when you go to a place and getting a visual of what would it be like to be in a wheelchair preparing food in the kitchen, getting through doorways, getting in the bath, etc. More heightened awareness and sensitivity of what life is like,” Nicole said.
If you have additional questions, the we can help can answer your questions pertaining to reasonable accommodation in apartments. Please call them at 471-8181 if you have questions.