Student Disability Services
209 Alumni Hall
Phone: 607.436.2137
Fax: 607.436.3167

Office Hours
Mon - Fri: 8am - 4:30pm

Comparison of IDEA, Section 504 and the ADA

In High School, individuals receiving IEP's and 504 Plans are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Once you attend college, your will rights be protected under The Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Below you will find two tables. First is a bulleted list of the major differences between these laws and how it affects you. Secondly you can find a more indepth table explaining in greater detail the difference between the 3 laws and how they impact your education.

Major differences between High School and College

High School


  • Services provided under IDEA
  • Services provided under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and The Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • School district responsible for identifying and evaluating disability at No cost to student or family.
  • Student must self identify and provide documentation of disability.
  • Student must pay cost of evaluation.
  • College responsible for costs involved in providing accommodations and/or essential auxiliary aids student needs based on documentation of disability.
  • Special education teacher works with student, other teachers, administrators, and parents.
  • The decision to receive accommodations is made by educators and parents. Students have little or no choice.
  • Student responsible for self advocacy.
  • Student can choose not to seek services and accommodations and can choose to function independently.
  • Student must self identify disability and request services from college.
  • Student required to provide recent documentation (less than three years old) of disability.
  • Documentation must clearly support requested accommodations.
  • Help readily available.
  • Student must independently seek help using effective communication skills.
  • Services must be requested in advance (i.e.. you cannot wait until day of test to ask for accommodations).
  • Student "labeled" as special education student.
  • Student possibly served separately from other students.
  • Student not "labeled" or served separately from other students.
  • Other students and faculty will not know about student's disability.
  • Faculty only notified of required accommodations.
  • Personnel talk freely with parent about student progress and planning.
  • Personnel cannot discuss student without student's written permission.

Comparison of laws protecting individuals between High School and College



Section 504



To provide a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment

To provide people with disabilities, to the maximum extent possible, the opportunity to be fully integrated into mainstream American life.

To provide all people with disabilities broader coverage than Section 504 in all aspects of discrimination law


Applies to public schools

Applies to any program or activity that receives federal financial assistance.

Applies to public or private employment, transportation, accommodations, and telecommunications regardless of whether federal funding is received.


Only those students age 3-21 who need special education and related services because of their disability.

All qualified people with disabilities regardless of whether special education services are required in public elementary, secondary or postsecondary settings.

All qualified people with disabilities, and qualified non-disabled related to or associated with a person with a disability.

Disability Defined

A listing of disabilities is provided in the act, including specific learning disabilities.

No listing of disabilities is provided, but criteria including having any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, having a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.

No listing of disabilities provided. Same criteria as Section 504.

Identification Process

Responsibility of school District to identify through "Child Find" and evaluate at no expense to parent or individual.

Responsibility of individual with disability to self-identify and provide documentation. Cost of evaluation must be assumed by the individual, not the institution.

Same as Section 504

Service Delivery

Special education services and auxiliary aids must be stipulated in the Individual Education Plan.

Services, auxiliary aids, and academic adjustments may be provided in the regular education setting, arranged for by special education coordinator or disabled student services provider.

Services, auxiliary aids, and accommodations arranged for by the designated ADA coordinator; Accommodations must not pose an .undue hardship. to employers.


Federal funds are conditional on compliance with IDEA regulations.

No authorization for funding is attached to this civil rights statute.

Same as Section 504

Enforcement Agency

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education.

Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education.

Primarily in the U.S. Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Federal Communications Commission. May overlap with OCR.


Reimbursement by district of school related expenses is available to parents of children with disabilities to ensure FAPE.

A private individual can sue a recipient of federal financial assistance to ensure compliance with Section 504. Attorney fees and costs may be ordered.

Same as Section 504 with monetary damages for some violations. Attorney fees and litigation expenses are also recoverable.