Two different laws protect the rights of teens with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each law operates in different ways to protect your child’s rights.
The IDEA entitles your child to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). The IDEA protects the rights of children with disabilities from age 2 to 21 years of age. During that period, a team of educators and other professionals are planning and thinking about ways to help your child succeed in school. In other words, your teen has an entire team of people thinking about accommodations, strategies, and techniques to help your child succeed in the academic setting.
When your child graduates from high school or turns 21 years of age, the ADA takes over as the predominant law protecting your child’s rights. The ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination. Technically, the ADA provides your child with certain rights the minute your child has been diagnosed with a disability. But after high school, the ADA is the only law protecting your child’s rights.
The ADA has certain requirements to protect people with disabilities in many different settings. In the college setting, the ADA prohibits public and some private colleges and universities from excluding people with disabilities from participating in post-secondary programs, if the person is qualified to participate. In the employment setting, employers must make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities upon request. The ADA shifts the burden to the person with the disability to exercise their rights. Therefore, your teen must learn to advocate for their rights and understand the resources available to assist them in exercising their rights. If your child cannot exercise their rights, you or another adult must step in to assist.
The IDEA and ADA operate in different ways to protect your teen’s rights. Knowing how to navigate these laws will go a long way in helping your child take advantage of life’s opportunities.