Adults 21 and over with learning disabilities may face discrimination or lack of access to services in college or the workplace. These individuals must understand their legal rights and responsibilities.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act protect adults with learning disabilities who attend college. The laws apply to public institutions and private colleges that receive federal funding and mandate that students with disabilities receive reasonable accommodations. Examples of accommodations include the use of a tape recorder or note taker, or additional time to complete examinations.
In the Workplace:
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities, including learning disabilities, from discrimination in regard to applications, hiring, firing, compensation, advancement and other employment terms. The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more workers. Employers must make reasonable accommodations to the known disability of a qualified employee or applicant, if it would not cause the business an “undue hardship.” Workplace accommodations may include additional training or supervisor feedback, or a quiet workspace.
If individuals with learning disabilities want accommodations, then they have the responsibility of disclosing their disability and providing documentation, in addition to requesting the accommodations that they want. Adults will probably need to provide documentation of their disability from a doctor. This can be done in a confidential meeting with a college disability services coordinator or with an employer. Documentation may consist of a letter from a doctor or other treating professional.
One must also remember that these protections apply to people who are “otherwise qualified” for the college program or employment position in question. One may have to prove that one is qualified. Also, the legal protections against discrimination do not act as an absolute entitlement to a job or a college education.
Most schools and large employers know of the law and are willing to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified people with disabilities, so it may only be necessary to identify oneself as a person with a learning disability and request the necessary accommodations. If a school or employer accommodations are denied, then these rights are enforceable through the legal process, but it is important to evaluate one’s individual circumstances with the help of a qualified attorney.