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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA was enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 – 12213. The ADA applies to all programs, services, and activities of state and local governments, including those relating to the operation of educational systems and institutions. 35 C.F.R. § 35.190(b)(2). The ADA defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of [an] individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A). In addition to ADA applying to students in school settings, the ADA also requires juvenile facilities to provide equal access to all services, including education, to people with disabilities. This includes ensuring that all areas of the facility are accessible and arranging for other accommodations as necessary to allow for the full participation of students with disabilities in educational programming.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 provided additional protections for students with disabilities, broadly construing the definition of disability in two significant ways: first, it added to the list of major life activities relevant for determining whether an individual is a person with a disability by adding certain brain functions, such as reading, concentrating, and thinking; second, it stated that mitigating measures, such as medications, coping strategies, or other modifications, should not be used in determining whether an individual has a disability. See ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-325 § 2, 122 Stat. 3554 (2008). See also 42 U.S.C. § 12102.