Thomas More College acts in accordance with two relevant laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 states:
A person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Major life activities include caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, and learning.
An individual is considered to be a person with a disability if he/she (1) has a disability, (2) has a history of a disability or (3) is perceived by others as having a disability.
A qualified person with a disability is defined as a person who meets the requisite academic and technical standards required for admission or participation in the post-secondary institution's programs and activities.
Under the provisions of Section 504, Thomas More College may not:
- Limit the admission of otherwise qualified students with disabilities;
- Make pre-admission inquiries as to whether an applicant has a disability;
- Exclude an otherwise qualified student with a disability from any course of study;
- Provide less financial assistance to students with disabilities than is provided to other students;
- Measure student achievement using modes that adversely discriminate against a student with a disability; or
- Establish rules and policies that have the effect of limiting participation of students with disabilities in educational programs or activities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is civil rights legislation that extends the anti-discrimination legislation of Section 504 to all institutions of higher education whether or not they receive federal financial assistance. The purpose of this act is to provide a clear and comprehensive mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. This statute became effective for public entities on January 26, 1992. It provides comprehensive civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, state and local governments, public accommodations and telecommunications.
Student records are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Additionally, Disability Services and all offices at Thomas More respects the confidential nature of disability-related information. Thomas More College and Disability Service have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of such documentation.
Access by College personnel to disability-related information housed in Disability Services is on a need-to-know basis and only for the purpose of assuring appropriate accommodations. Instructors are regularly described of the confidential nature of disability-related information shared with them. Accommodation letters prepared by Disability Services for instructors do not give specific diagnoses. Instead, the letters explain that the student has provided appropriate documentation of a disability and lists the approved academic accommodations for that student.
In terms of a legitimate, educational need-to-know basis, Disability Services may discuss the impact or impairments caused by the disability and the corresponding accommodations approved with appropriate individuals on campus. Circumstances may include housing arrangements, academic accommodations, instructional strategies and resources, or other circumstances specific to the individual.
Thomas More College and Disability Services are prohibited by law from releasing any disability-related records or personally identifying information to any entity outside The College. This includes documentation provided to Disability Services by the student unless the student provides written permission or there is a court order. Entities outside The University include parents of students over the age of 18. A specific release of information must be signed and on file giving the Registrar granting permission to discuss student-specific information with parents.
Records relating to students with disabilities are education records protected by FERPA. Disability records must be maintained separately from other education records because of the sensitive and private information contained in them. The best practice is to maintain student disability records in the institution's disability services office. Access to these records is on a need-to-know basis. Faculty will generally not need to know specific information regarding a student's disability. NOTE: Student medical records provided to an institution during the disability accommodation process are not education records, but have separate protections under state law.