Legal Issues

Several laws protect the rights of students with disabilities and their parents. Educators, parents, and others who work with children with disabilities should be aware of key legislation that addresses the education of students with disabilities in elementary and secondary public schools and access and participation in the general education curriculum.


Students with disabilities in grades K-12 identified as having disabilities under IDEA represent 8.4% of all students enrolled in public education. Disability categories children are often placed in and national percentages for the 2011-12 school year were as follows:

Assistive Technology

For many students with disabilities, accessing and using standard computers and electronic resources can be challenging. For example, a student with a spinal cord injury may be unable to use a standard mouse and keyboard.

Psychiatric Impairments

Psychiatric or mental health impairments, which range from mild depression to chronic disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are “invisible” disabilities that can present challenges in an academic setting. Students with mental health impairments may have difficulty receiving, processing, and recalling information during times of stress; side effects from medication may impact their attention, memory, alertness, and activity level. The episodic and unpredictable onset and recurrence of illness can affect their class attendance or student employment. 

Mobility Impairments

Many types of orthopedic or neuromuscular impairments can impact mobility. These include, but are not limited to, amputation, paralysis, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and spinal cord injury. Lower body impairments may require the use of canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Upper body impairments may include limited use or no use of the arms and hands.

Low Vision

Students with low vision, or partial sight, face a variety of challenges in an academic setting. They may be unable to read standard written materials, unable to see small objects, or able to see objects only within a specific field of vision. They may see images with sections missing, and text or objects may appear blurry.


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