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 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (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 Americans with Disabilities Act (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 Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) (H.R.1957) is a bill that would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to require states to direct their local educational agencies (LEAs) to establish policies that prevent and prohibit conduct, including bullying and harassment, that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to: (1) limit students’ ability to participate in, or benefit from, school programs; or (2) create a hostile or abusive educational environment that adversely affects students’ education.

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.

Principles for School Safety, Privacy, and Equity

AAPD and 39 other education, privacy, disability rights, and civil rights organizations released ten principles to protect all students’ safety, privacy, and right to an equal education. The principles are meant to serve as a starting point for conversations with policymakers and school officials about how to keep students safe while respecting their dignity and encouraging their individual growth. The full press release is available here.


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

Other Scholarships

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
    Resources and information on Applying, Visiting Colleges, and Choosing A College; Scholarships & Financial Aid; Accommodations; and College Life for Students with Disabilities.
    DREAM advocates for student rights, increased accessibility, social and policy change, and aims to provide support and mentorship to local campus disability groups and individual students.
  • National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD)
    NCCSD provides technical assistance and information about disability and higher education; conducts research about disability services at campuses in the United States; and reports findings to the US Department of Education.
  • Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD)
    AHEAD is the leading professional membership association for individuals committed to equity for persons with disabilities in higher education.
  • LendEDU Scholarship Guide for Students with Disabled Parents
    Having a parent or guardian with a disability can make paying for college more challenging. We hope students and their families falling into this category can use this guide to locate additional financing opportunities to afford the cost of college.
  • Recovering From a Natural Disaster in College
    A student’s guide for what to do on campus.
  • Learning Disorders and Law School: Strategies and Resources
    A guide created by Online Master of Legal Studies Programs that features information to help future or current law students with learning challenges advance in their education by sharing strategies to overcome the barriers of learning disabilities.

Disability Internship Programs

Below are internship programs specifically for students with disabilities.

  • The AAPD Summer Internship Program connects college students with disabilities to internship opportunities in Washington, DC with Members of Congress, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit companies.
  • The Autism Campus Inclusion Summer Leadership Academy run by 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 Council on Independent Living (NCIL) hosts interns at their headquarters in Washington, DC. The NCIL Policy Internship Program is open to students and individuals pursuing a career in a field relevant to NCIL interests, particularly Independent Living and disability advocacy.
  • Broad Futures provides interns with individualized and holistic training, mentoring, and access to paid internships.
  • The Leadership Initiative for Students with Disabilities at The Washington Center offers Washington, DC internship opportunities to students with disabilities.
  • Entry Point, run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), identifies and recruits students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities studying in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business for outstanding internship and co-op opportunities.
  • The RespectAbility Fellowship is a full-time professional internship targeted toward individuals with an interest in public policy, communications, journalism, government and politics.
  • The Experiential Education Initiative (EEI) internship program at The Kennedy Center offers meaningful instruction and cultural arts experiences to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) is a recruitment and referral program that connects federal and private sector employers nationwide with highly motivated college students and recent graduates with disabilities who are eager to prove their abilities in the workplace through summer or permanent jobs.

Leadership and Advocacy Programs

Below are leadership and advocacy programs for students with disabilities run by other disability organizations.

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.

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How Safe is the Schoolhouse?

An analysis of state seclusion and restraint laws and policies.

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