Friday, September 24, 2010

Fast Fact Friday: Temporary Disabilities

Various circumstances could cause a student to have a disabling condition that is temporary in nature, the most common being broken limbs.

Can a student be eligible for special education and related services if he/she has a "temporary disability?"

Students with temporary disabilities may be protected under section 504 if those disabilities substantially limit one or more major life activities for an extended period of time. Thus, students with temporary disabilities may be entitled to a FAPE under section 504. Because section 504 eligibility focuses on a student's ability to access educational opportunities, factors beyond merely academics must be considered as well. A student with a serious illness, for example, may be unable to access the educational environment without physical accommodations if that student has difficulties walking, climb steps, etc.

It is less likely that a temporary disability would give rise to eligibility under IDEA, however, because of the statutory scheme for eligibility. The IDEA requires that a student have a disability specifically under one of the identified 13 disabling conditions, and that the student require special education and related services because of the disability. A student with a broken arm, for instance, may require accommodations to access the educational environment but it would be difficult to demonstrate that the student required specialized instruction or services.

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