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It is important to understand the federal regulations that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities, including ASD, across settings. Below is information about national laws pertaining to individuals’ access to education, employment, and other essential aspects of their lives.

What Federal Laws are in Place to Ensure the Rights of Individuals with ASD?

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is legislation passed in 1990 that prohibits the discrimination of individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in relation to employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.  In order to be protected by the ADA, a person must have a disability or have an association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment”. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered. ADA covers all individuals with disabilities, including students. For full text of the law, visit https://www.ada.gov/ada_intro.htm.

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Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act ( IDEA or IDEIA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (commonly referred to as IDEA or IDEIA) is federal legislation overseeing special education for students with disabilities, which requires states to develop and offer multidisciplinary service to eligible children from birth to age 21. IDEIA guarantees free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services to all students with a disability, including ASD.

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Section 504

Commonly referred to simply as “504,” Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law, similar to the ADA, that prohibits discrimination against an individual with disabilities on the basis of disability. The legislation covers individuals who receive services from federally funded programs and institutions, such as schools and government agencies. All public schools, and private schools that receive federal funds, are required to comply with Section 504. Individuals who may not qualify for an IEP may qualify for rights and services under Section 504 and have a 504 Plan. Section 504 covers all students with disabilities, including those with ASD. For the full text of the section, visit https://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/sec504.htm.

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a federal initiative by the United States Department of Labor designed to offer supports for youth and adults with significant barriers to employment, including disabilities, to access and gain high-quality employment. For full text of the law, visit https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/.

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Additional Resources

References

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