Understanding ADA Requirements for Medical Schools: Know Your Student Rights
In the ever-evolving landscape of medical education, it’s important for students and institutions to understand and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As a medical student who may be seeking accommodations (or even as a school looking to ensure accessibility), this article outlines the general ADA requirements for medical institutions and the support that should be available to you as a student.
It’s also important to note that the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 essentially outline the same rights for people with disabilities. However, Section 504 is more often cited when discussing education and educational institutions. Therefore, you’ll see mention of Section 504 in this article too.
ADA and Its Relevance to Medical Education
The ADA is a federal law enacted in 1990. It prohibits discrimination based on disability in various aspects of public life, including education and employment.
ADA’s core purpose is to ensure equal access and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Therefore, schools (and places of employment, etc.) must offer “reasonable accommodations,” or modifications that give you opportunities to succeed despite your disability.
Medical schools, as educational institutions, must adhere to ADA regulations. Ensuring accessibility in medical education benefits both students with disabilities and the healthcare system since it promotes diversity and a broader pool of talented medical professionals.
ADA covers a wide range of disabilities – physical, sensory, cognitive, and mental health impairments. Some specific examples include ADHD, learning disabilities, mobility impairments, blindness (or low vision), dyslexia, and autism.
Reasonable Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Below we’ve listed examples of reasonable accommodations. But, of course, this list is not exhaustive.
Also note, the ADA requires an interactive process between you (the student) and the school to determine appropriate accommodations. This process involves open communication, evaluating your needs as a student with disabilities, and then determining suitable solutions.
Examples of Accommodations:
- Extended testing time
- Accessible classroom seating
- Sign language interpreters
- Accessible digital materials
- Assistive listening devices
- Voice recorders or applications to help with note taking
- Removal of construction barriers to give physical access
- Quiet room for testing
- Bright lights
- Written instructions or verbal instructions
- Shortened assignments or revised assignments
To qualify for reasonable accommodations under the ADA, you must meet two qualifications. First, you must be able to perform the basic requirements of a school, program of study, etc. And second, you must have a documented disability under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Your Responsibility as a Student
There is another crucial step, though, to receiving reasonable accommodations. As a college student, it’s now your responsibility to register with the disability office of the institution and request accommodations before your medical school is required to provide them.
Each college has a process for notifying them of your needs and then for you to receive accommodations. The steps are usually posted on the school’s website. Search the site for phrases like 504, student with disabilities, or learning accommodations to get started.
ADA Compliance for Medical Schools
Physically speaking, medical schools must ensure their facilities are accessible. This includes entrances, restrooms, classrooms, labs, and common areas. Compliance may involve ramps, elevators, widened doorways, and closer parking for those with disabilities.
And with the increasing use of technology in education, digital accessibility is just as important. Institutions should provide accessible online content, websites, and learning management systems. To do this, those technologies must be compatible with screen readers and other assistive tools.
Faculty and staff are the foundation to any educational institution. Their guidance, encouragement, and knowledge greatly affect how students – ones with and without disabilities – perform. Therefore, faculty and staff should receive training on ADA regulations and ways to accommodate students with disabilities. Training fosters awareness and ensures that instructors can implement accommodations.
Positive Impact on Students
The ADA regulations are meant to encourage success, not guarantee it. Also, its goal is to integrate students with disabilities with those without disabilities. Supporters of the ADA believe that everyone benefits when students with disabilities are given the opportunity to participate and succeed with coursework and student life.
As a student with disabilities, you’ll benefit from the ADA because you…
will receive equal access to education: This allows you to pursue your academic and career goals without unnecessary barriers.
may see improved academic performance: When you receive appropriate accommodations, you can focus on learning rather than struggling with accessibility issues.
may feel more confident: Many students with disabilities report feeling more confident and valued because they’re integrated into the campus community.
will be better prepared for the workforce: You gain valuable skills in advocating for your needs and in receiving an education focused on learning, not one focused on navigating constant barriers.
Know Your Rights Under the ADA
In summary, ADA regulations benefit you and the medical school you attend. It promotes inclusion, enhanced educational experiences for all students, and a better prepared student body for the workforce. Creating an accessible learning environment is not only a legal requirement but a valuable one for the institute and for you.
At the Education Litigation Group, we’re here to help medical students like you cut through the red tape of federal regulations and to focus on what you want most – to be the best medical professional possible.
If you have questions about your rights under the ADA, think you’ve been denied reasonable accommodations, or wonder if your learning struggles qualify you for accommodations, use our contact form to start a conversation.