The protections and services afforded to children with disabilities do not cross over to higher education.However, two federal civil rights laws specifically apply to colleges and universities; these are the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
More than one million of these children were excluded from the public school system and did not go through the educational process with their nondisabled peers.
de la Teja Before the 1970s, more than half of the children with disabilities in the United States did not receive appropriate educational services that would enable them to have full equality of opportunity.
This federal program, now entitled the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensures educational opportunities for children with disabilities in public elementary and secondary schools.
In the early twenty-first century, the numbers of students with disabilities successfully completing elementary and secondary school (among other improvements for this population) is largely due to the implementation of the IDEA, which increased access for many students with disabilities to the regular education classroom with the necessary special education and related services supports these children need to prepare for postsecondary education.
The success of children with disabilities in primary education inevitably led to their desire to attend colleges and universities.
Increasing numbers of children with disabilities are, in fact, entering postsecondary educational institutions.
In 1999 the American Council on Education found that higher proportions of students with disabilities were enrolling in four-year colleges and universities than ever before. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that an estimated 428,280 students with disabilities were enrolled at two-year and four-year postsecondary educational institutions.
One in eleven first-time, full-time freshmen entering college in 1998 reported having a disability. The numbers of students with disabilities transitioning from high school to higher education is expected to increase even more in the decades to come because of increased implementation of federal laws.
The protections and considerable modifications and services available under the IDEA to children with disabilities in primary education do not extend to education beyond the secondary level.