The Legal Context for Serving Students with Learning Disabilities in Postsecondary Education


  • Walter R. Keenan
  • Stan F. Shaw


The legal basis for serving students with learning disabilities at the K-12 level is predominantly derived from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law provides for substan tive education support for students with learning disabilities through an Individualized Educational Program (IEP). However, because the IDEA does not apply to postsecondary education, qualified students with learning disabilities in postsecondary education find their rights now derived from two antidiscrimination laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). The purpose of this article is to present an overview of the legal rights of postsecondary students with learning disabilities. This will include a comparison of student rights under the IDEA to the student’s under the ADA and Section 504, a discussion of the recent amendments to the ADA, and information related to the documentation of learning disabilities that must be provided to the postsecondary institution.