How can postsecondary institutions determine whether a student is "otherwise qualified" for science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics curricula?

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At the postsecondary educational level, a qualified student with a disability is a student with a disability who meets the academic and technical standards required for participation in the class, program, or activity. The standards for a student with a disability are the same as those for all students entering the program. However, a student with a disability may request and receive reasonable accommodations to demonstrate that he or she meets those standards.

For example, if an engineering program requires that all students demonstrate a prerequisite level of math proficiency by passing an entrance exam, a student with a disability must also demonstrate that level of math proficiency to be “otherwise qualified.” However, the student may request and receive appropriate accommodations when taking the entrance exam or request an alternative exam format to demonstrate the prerequisite math skills.

For more information regarding students with disabilities who are otherwise qualified you should consult Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which requires that no “otherwise qualified” person with a disability be excluded from participation in any program that receives federal funds, which includes almost every postsecondary institution in the United States. For more information on Section 504 and education, consult Protecting Students with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions about Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, another civil rights law that covers postsecondary institutions, includes a definition of a qualified individual with a disability.

Last update or review: November 30, 2011