Education is the cornerstone of realizing the ADA’s goals of full participation, independent living, economic self-sufficiency, and equal opportunity. AAPD is committed to promoting access to education from preschool through post-graduate work. We take a comprehensive approach to educational access, including advocacy, partnerships with educational institutions, and programs designed to break down barriers to education.

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 Legislation and Policy

Access to education requires thoughtful, robust engagement in policy. AAPD works with a broad coalition that includes civil rights groups, educators to promote education policy that benefits students with disabilities. Learn more. These existing laws promote equal access to education for people with disabilities:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Under IDEA, a child with a disability and in need of special education services is entitled to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. AAPD supports full funding and robust enforcement of the IDEA.

Section 504

Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that receive federal financial assistance. Section 504 works together with the ADA and IDEA to protect children and adults with disabilities from exclusion, and unequal treatment in schools, jobs and the community.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by employers, public accommodations, state and local governments, public and private transportation, and in telecommunications.

Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA)

The SSIA (S.506, H.R. 1648) is a bill to fight harassment and bullying of students because of their actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion.


Safe Schools

30 Seconds: AAPD’s Campaign to Stop Bullying

Students with disabilities are bullied and harassed at a much higher rate than their peers. A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that, in reality, up to 85 percent of students with disabilities experience bullying. Students cannot be expected to learn in an environment of fear. To promote access to educational opportunity, AAPD works to make schools safer places for students.

Learn more about 30 Seconds: AAPD’s Campaign to Stop Bullying.

Seclusion and Restraint

Students with disabilities are disproportionately subjected to harsh and often dangerous physical restraint and seclusion in their schools.  Schools must do everything possible to ensure that restraint is not used, except in cases when the student poses a threat to his/herself or others.

On May 15, 2012 the U.S. Department of Education released guidance recommending limits on restraint and seclusion. Read it here.

Also see How safe is the schoolhouse? An analysis of state seclusion and restraint laws and policies.


NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship

AAPD seeks to make higher education affordable for all individuals with disabilities. AAPD is working with NBCUniversal to promote access to higher education by helping to eliminate the funding barriers people with disabilities face when seeking higher education.

Learn more about the NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship Program


Higher Education

Access to higher education is crucial to succeeding in most sectors of the 21st-century workforce. College, graduate school, and professional schools not only prepare students for the workforce, they are the setting in which many young people transition to adult life. Although unprecedented numbers of students with disabilities now pursue college and graduate school, students with disabilities still face barriers to education. As the nation’s largest cross-disability membership organization, AAPD is committed to increasing the success of students in higher education.

AAPD Guide to Higher Education – Getting There

Resources and information on Applying, Visiting Colleges, and Choosing A College; Scholarships & Financial Aid; Accommodations; and College Life for Students with Disabilities. View the Guide here.

Leadership and Advocacy Programs

  • The National Youth Leadership Network (NYLN) is a youth-led organization that works to empower people with disabilities ages 16-28. NYLN provides training and support for the next generation of leaders in the disability rights movement.
  • The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which Autistic people enjoy the same access, rights, and opportunities as all other citizens.
  • The National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (NALSWD) is a coalition of law students dedicated to disability advocacy and the achievement of equal access, inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination in legal education and in the legal profession.


National Youth Transitions Collaborative

Youth Transitions Collaborative logoAAPD is a proud member of the Youth Transitions Collaborative,  a powerful community of more than 45 organizations that share a common mission: to empower youth and young people with disabilities as they enter adulthood and the world of work. Learn more.


U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Seclusion and Restraint

U.S. Department of Education Guidance on Restraint and Seclusion

On May 15, 2012 the U.S. Department of Education released guidance recommending limits on restraint and seclusion.

Resource Icon

How Safe is the Schoolhouse?

An analysis of state seclusion and restraint laws and policies.

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