There are 3 federal laws that relate to
transcription services. These are the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). ADA and Section 504
apply to individuals of all ages . IDEA relates to pre-college
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA is a federal law passed in 1990. It prohibits
discrimination on the basis of disability. Under 28 C. F. R. §
35.160(a), a public entity, such as a city or state supported school,
must take appropriate steps to ensure that communication with
participants with disabilities is as effective as communication with
others. According to 28 C. F. R. § 35.160 (b), a public entity
must furnish an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to
participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or
activity conducted by a public entity. Under 28 C. F. R. §
35.160 (c), in determining what type of auxiliary aid and service is
necessary, a public entity shall give primary consideration to the
request of the individual with disabilities.
The ADA covers all public entities regardless of whether
they receive federal funding or not; Title II of the ADA applies to
state-operated schools and local colleges, while Title III of the
ADA applies to private colleges and universities.
The Department of Justice's interpretive
guidance accompanying this Title II Regulation
explicitly adds "notetakers" and "computer-aided
transcription services" to the list of auxiliary aids and
services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Failure to provide a deaf or hard-of-hearing individual with transcription
services during classes or meetings has been interpreted by students, families
and schools as discrimination against the student, on the basis of
hearing disability. This lack of adequate communication access
can reduce a deaf or hard-of-hearing student's understanding of spoken English
to approximately 30 - 35% of its substantive content. This
reduction is due to the inherent difficulty speechreading the great
majority of phonemes, and the limitations of hearing aids and FM
systems in making all aurally-produced information available to a
deaf or hard-of-hearing student.
Read more about ADA at the government ADA
Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act
Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability
in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the
benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or
activity that . . . receives Federal financial assistance . .
The Section 504 regulations apply to all employers, schools and educational programs, nursing homes, mental health centers, and human service programs that receive or benefit from Federal financial
assistance. Under Section 504, any qualified individual with a disability has the right to a reasonable accommodation, such as services or aids, to help that individual participate in the programs or jobs offered by the federally-funded employer, school or other organization.
When considering what type of accommodation to provide, schools, organizations and employers should give primary consideration to the request of the individual with the disability.
However, Federal Interpretive Guidance directs that schools do not need to provide the student with the exact accommodation requested.
What is required is that the accommodation provided is effective.
Objective measurement of service effectiveness should be a regular part of any support service program.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
(and its predecessor, Public Law 94-142)
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
(IDEA) mandates that children with disabilities must be educated in the
least restrictive environment. That is, they must have the opportunity to
remain in the same academic, physical, and social settings as their peers to
obtain education. To accomplish this goal, schools must provide
necessary support and needed related services. Examples of related
services include assistive technology, audiology, speech-language pathology,
Here is a Brief History: In 1975, Congress passed the
Education For All Handicapped Children Act, Public Law 94-142. This law
mandated that children with disabilities must be provided with a free
appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.
To ensure that this happened, the Law mandated that an Individualized Education
Program (IEP) be developed annually for each student with a documented disability.
Congress amended the Act in 1990 and renamed it the
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or Public Law
101-476. Among other changes, definitions of assistive technology and
assistive technology services were included. Further, it was stated
that assistive technology, if needed for a child to receive a FAPE, must be
provided by the local school district. Under IDEA Part B, a local school
district must provide a FAPE for all children with disabilities between the ages
of 3 and 21 years residing within its boundaries/jurisdiction. Some of the
disabilities specifically listed in the Law are "mental retardation,
hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or language impairments, visual
impairments . . . , or specific learning disabilities."
In 1997 Congress added amendments to IDEA.
Among other things, these amendments strengthened the assistive technology
component by requiring IEP teams to consider whether the student requires AT
devices and services [Section 615(d)(3)(B)(5)]. An assistive technology device, as defined in section 300.5, means any item, piece of equipment, or product system that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability.
In the IDEA 2004 revision, Congress specifically named TypeWell as a transcription service that meets the definition of interpreting services, and should be considered as an effective tool to meet the communication access needs of students with disabilities [Section 300.34(c)(4)].
Congress also clarified that supplementary aids and services can be considered for assistive technology in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, such as clubs and sports. IDEA provides federal funds under Parts B and H to
assist state and local education agencies in meeting IDEA requirements.
School districts are required to contract for services they are unable to
provide themselves, once again at no cost to the parents or guardians of the
There are many sources of information about IDEA on
the internet. For both general and specific information, visit the Federal Government site.
If you believe that you or someone you know has been discriminated
against because of a disability, you can file a complaint with your
regional Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights
(OCR). You must file the complaint within 180 calendar days
of the date of the act which you claim is discriminatory. To
locate your regional OCR, call 1-800-421-3481.