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by Steve Glink
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This Month's Question:
I was wondering what exact guidelines a public school has for handicap seating at school events? I am in a wheelchair and they do not allow me to be able to set with the rest of our student body. I am actively involved and I think that I should be able to sit in the same areas as everyone else? If you could just let me know what my rights are I would appreciate it!
Dustin: Thank you for your inquiry. This sounds like a very unique and intense situation. Here is what I can tell you. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the (federal) Rehabilitation Act, public schools are prohibited from discriminating based upon a disability. Section 504 requires that the discriminatory act be based "solely" upon the individual's disability. There are other various legal requirements to be protected under these laws (i.e., the disability must substantially impair a daily life function) and those issues are often contested factually. Your state law also probably has similar anti-discrimination laws. I will assume for the purpose of this response that you are eligible for protection. The law requires the school district to make "reasonable accommodations" in these situations. There is no precise definition for the term reasonable accommodation. That is determined on a case by case basis. The real issue is why do they prohibit you from sitting with the rest of the students?
Here are some suggestions: 1. you can file a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department in your local area. They may refer you to the Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Education or one of their other departments. You can also file a complaint with your city or state Human Rights Department. You can also retain a lawyer privately.
Please be advised that nothing contained herein should be construed as a definitive statement that you do or do not have a case. I hope that this is helpful and I wish you good luck.If you would like to discuss your case further, please call me at 847/480-7749. Steve Glink