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Joint Guidance Released on Meeting Communication Needs of Students with Disabilities

The U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Education (ED) released joint guidance on effective communication with students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which outlines the responsibility of public schools to ensure that communication with students that have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities is as effective as communication with all other students. Public schools must apply both the IDEA analysis and the Title II (of ADA) effective communication analysis in determining how to meet the communication needs of an IDEA‚Äźeligible student with a hearing, vision, or speech disability. The guidance includes FAQs, a “Dear Colleague” letter, and a fact sheet on “Meeting the Communication Needs of Students with Hearing, Vision, or Speech Disabilities.”



The joint guidance explains public schools' responsibilities under the ADA and IDEA to meet the communication needs of students with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. IDEA requires that schools make available a free appropriate public education (FAPE), consisting of special education and related services, to all eligible children with disabilities (including those with disabilities that result in communication needs). Title II of the ADA requires schools to ensure that students with disabilities receive communication that is as effective as communication with others through the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services. A recent federal court decision highlighted that the Title II effective communication requirement differs from the requirements in IDEA. In some instances, in order to comply with Title II, a school may have to provide the student with auxiliary aids or services that are not required under IDEA. In other instances, the communication services provided under IDEA will meet the requirements of both laws for an individual student.



For more information, contact Catherine D. Clarke, ASHA's director of education and regulatory advocacy, at cclarke@asha.org or by phone at 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.