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July 16, 2008


Preserving the Right to Deny


Expanding protections for disabled students is fine with higher education
officials, so long as accommodating those students doesn't erode academic
standards, according to testimony given to a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.
But, as the hearing revealed, some are concerned that "standards" could be
defined to exclude the very students federal laws are designed to help.

Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education,
told lawmakers in a Tuesday hearing that colleges and universities welcome a
proposed broadening of the Americans <http://www.ada.gov/>  With
Disabilities Act. In broadening the Americans With Disabilities Act, as some
lawmakers aim to do, students would still be classified as disabled, even if
they controlled symptoms with medication or other treatments.

That said, he urged lawmakers to protect the authority of institutions to
preserve standards, even if that meant denying some students access to
particular routes of study.

"We are here today to ask the Senate to reaffirm, directly in the statute,
the principle that institutions need not provide an accommodation when doing
so would alter essential aspects of programs or fundamentally alter or
diminish the academic standards set by our institutions," Hartle said in
testimony submitted to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and
Pensions.

The Senate hearing comes on the heels of legislation
<http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c110:3:./temp/%7Ec110OJ4bq6::>
passed by the House last month, which was designed to insure protections
<http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hycZmTaMXrtFv-4Nch6MJqTSyL0QD91HCHE00>
for disabled people, even if they've treated their symptoms with medication
or other means. Supreme Court rulings
<http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E00E6DB1F3BF930A15755C0A96F
958260&scp=18&sq=SUTTON+DISABILITIES&st=nyt>  over the past several years
have found that disabled people who can function normally don't qualify as
disabled, sparking criticism that scores of people with diseases like cancer
and epilepsy are no longer protected under federal law.

Continue print version:
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Source article for comments:
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