University denies student's accommodations for Asperger's Syndrome. Can she make a case for them under ADA or Section 504?

Asked over 1 year ago - Holyoke, MA

A university student diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome has applied for alternative testing accommodations. The school's Disability Services Dept. has reviewed her paperwork and acknowledged the need for accommodations, but does not offer individualized accommodations as a matter of policy with few exceptions. Accommodations are rather chosen from a boilerplate list of standard interventions. She has attempted the courses in question with standard interventions and failed. Her diagnosing psychologist has supplied all relevant paperwork and suggests appropriate accommodations, but declines to name specifics. The student is otherwise in superior academic standing and has made considerable effort to work with all parties involved. What legal grounds, exist, if any, to compel her case?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Daniel Dufresne

    Contributor Level 12


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . It is possible that you have a claim under the ADA or Section 504. Asperger's is being eliminated as a stand-alone diagnosis in the new DSM and is being folded into Autistic Spectrum. You may require a revised and updated diagnosis to reflect this.

    Ultimately, this is a fact-specific question. I do not believe that your school can fall back on a policy to not provide individualized accommodations because under ADA/Section 504, private and public universities must reasonably modify policies themselves to provide access. However, the reason why all of this becomes fact-specific is that institutions of higher learning are required only to provide REASONABLE accommodations to students with disabilities. You should call a lawyer experienced in education/disabilities law to discuss the specifics of your case. You'll need to let him/her know what you believe your particular needs are and what your school is and is not willing to do. You may need a more helpful letter from your physician that identifies your individual needs more concretely. Good luck!

    This is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an... more
  2. Valerie J. Semensi

    Contributor Level 9

    Answered . Contact the EdLaw Project helpline at 617.988.8460. They are WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Best of luck!

    Valerie Semensi, Esq.

  3. Wendy Jordan Earle


    Contributor Level 4

    Answered . I concur with the answer already posted concerning the fact specificity of the reasonableness standard. You cannot assume (and I am not implying you are) that your university is offering accommodations that are anything other than the "floor" meaning, the minimum that disability services believes is adequate to comply with governing federal laws. Standard interventions are likely more cost effective to administer than individualized accommodations.

    If you cannot find somebody who will advocate for individualized accommodations in disability services, then try to gather as much supporting data as possible from a professional who is qualified to administer tests which hopefully will provide the evaluative data to establish that your request for course specific accommodations is reasonableness. Obtaining individualized accommodations for university level courses can be frustrating. However, it is hard for disability services to ignore empirical data so I would urge consultation with another psychologist or other qualified specialist who can make the case for individualized accommodations.

    This answer is provided as a mere courtesy and is not intended to provide legal advise but rather a general... more

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