Anxious about college admission? Colleges cannot ask about a disability before admission or treat an applicant differently during the admissions process because of disability.
Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”) prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities by colleges and universities. The United States Department of Justice, the agency charged with interpreting the ADA, has partially delegated authority to enforce Section 504 and the ADA to the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) with respect to the rights of college students.
The Department of Education regulations say that, except to take corrective remedial action, a college or university may not make pre-admission inquiries into whether an applicant is a person with a disability or needs accommodations. Prior to admission, a college or university may only inquire about disability status if it is taking remedial action to overcome past discrimination, the information requested is purely on a voluntary basis, and refusal to provide the requested information will not subject the applicant to adverse treatment. The college or university must also keep the requested information confidential, and use it only in accordance with its remedial action efforts. (34 C.F.R. § 104.42(b) and (c)).
After an applicant has been admitted, the college or university may inquire, on a confidential basis, whether the prospective student has a disability that may require accommodation. However, the inquiry may only be made to determine what, if any, accommodations are necessary, not to determine admission. (34 C.F.R. § 104.42(b)).
To see how the Office for Civil Rights has applied these regulations, see http://awe.sm/5eEDw