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Supporting Individuals with Disabilities

NEA supports the protections that all individuals with disabilities—both apparent and non-apparent—are entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Young Child Signing

NEA supports the protections that all individuals with disabilities—both visible and invisible—are entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Individuals with disabilities include persons of all ages who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Although we don’t think of asthma or diabetes as a disability, individuals with such medical conditions and other non-apparent disabilities deserve the same consideration and protection under federal law.

Students with disabilities may or may not be eligible for special education services, as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); however, those who are not eligible for special education services under IDEA are entitled to a free, appropriate education (FAPE) and are protected from discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The NEA supports a free, appropriate public education for all students with disabilities in a least restrictive environment (LRE), which must be determined by maximum teacher and parent/guardian involvement.

By working together, educators, students, families, and communities can help protect all individuals with disabilities from discriminatory practices and ensure that the necessary supports and services are provided so that all students receive a FAPE. As a champion of America’s public schools, the NEA promotes solution-oriented advocacy, professional learning, and information to bring much-needed support and resources to students, educators, and their families.

Meeting the needs of students with disabilities

NEA has long been committed to ensuring equitable opportunities for all students. Disabled persons are the largest minority in the world, affecting one in five persons. Disability intersects all other marginalized groups, those that NEA has long fought for to ensure racial and social justice and equitable opportunities. NEA is committed to Disability Justice and ending the deficit view of persons with disabilities, ableism, stigma, and addressing the many intersecting forms of structural discrimination that impact individuals with disabilities.
three wooden blocks with the letters I, E, P on them

Important Acronyms to Know

These acronyms, terminology, and definitions are important to understanding disabilities within educational spaces.
special education IDEA

Now is the Time to Fully Fund IDEA

The Fulfill the Promise Coalition calls for federal pandemic recovery funds to alleviate the devastating effects of the pandemic on students with disabilities.
IDEA civil rights

Students of Color with Disabilities Face Deep Inequities Made Worse by Pandemic

New study warns of growing crisis that requires commitment to funding and a race-conscious response.
Child in wheelchair working with a teacher at a desk

Know Your Rights: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

This guidance describes the protections that Section 504 provides and outlines the process for raising a complaint of disability discrimination or retaliation in violation of Section 504.
u.s. capitol

Three Important Laws that Support Individuals with Disabilities

Together these laws provide equal access and protections for individuals with disabilities, and it is essential for educators and families to understand the basic tenets of these laws.

Disability Rights and Inclusion: Our Journey Toward Justice

NEA is focused on achieving authentic accessibility, ending ableism, and being inclusive of all students and educators with disabilities to fulfill NEA’s vision of a great public school for every student. Individuals with disabilities should be at the forefront of advocacy and leadership, and their perspectives and experiences should be centered in all efforts to promote it. This means ensuring that individuals with disabilities have the power and agency to shape policies, practices, and decisions that impact their lives. NEA, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, is raising awareness to advance disability rights and inclusive practices, cultivating a pipeline of leaders who are most impacted, and empowering educators to challenge and transform systems of oppression that impact the disability community.
Boy students talking in class while teacher speaks to them from the background

Words Matter: Disability Language Etiquette

An introduction to disability language etiquette for allies.
Stacked wooden block reading, "Equity Diversity Inclusion"

The Ford Foundation's Disability Justice Work

Read about the important work of NEA's partner, the Ford Foundation.

Becoming a Champion for Disability Rights and Inclusion

Becoming a champion is a journey, and it takes time and courage.
A young black girl sits in a classroom with other children and is starting at a paper on her desk, appearing frustrated

Recognizing Your Biases

As educators, it is important that we learn how our biases can impact our actions, language, and practices in classrooms and other learning environments, including how we interact with students and fellow educators with disabilities —both visible and non-apparent.
Demystifying Disability Book Cover

NEA Member Book Club

Join fellow NEA members for a disability justice journey through three books.

Resources for Educators

young female teacher sitting at desk and reading on a desktop computer

Equity in Digital Instruction: Special Education

Remember the rights of students with disabilities when planning instruction.
A teacher speaks to students, including a young girl in a wheelchair

Paraeducator and Other Education Support Professional Rights: In-Person Instruction and Other Student Supports

This guidance provides information about safety practices as well as your rights to accommodation and leave under federal law.
teacher reading to student in wheelchair

Maximizing Student Success with Least Restrictive Environments and Appropriate Models of Inclusion

When educators work to educate students with disabilities alongside their non-disabled peers, while also meeting their unique needs and circumstances, they can effectively move beyond the confines of a one-size-fits-all classroom model.
two teachers talking in an empty classroom

Special Education Referral Process

What every educator needs to know about the referral process for special education.
image of two educators talking in a school hallway

After Special Education Referrals

What happens after referring a student to special education?
parent helping child to write

Context for Teaching Students with Autism

A guide for educators to best understand, support, and teach their students with autism.
family support

Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

What is MTSS, and what does it mean for educators and students?
teacher with classroom raising hands

Accessibility to programs, courses, and services

Students with disabilities have the right to access classes and programs of all kinds—including Honors and Advanced Placement courses.
diverse students talking in a circle in school library

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

PBIS is an evidence-based framework that can help to improve outcomes for all students—including those with disabilities.
body language in the classroom

Universal Design for Learning: An Introduction

UDL is a method for developing curricula to support all students, including students with disabilities.
unruly classroom

Applied Behavioral Analysis in the Classroom

Disruptive behavior in the classroom? Learn how identifying the cause with Applied Behavior Analysis could be the cure.
IDEA Resource Cadre

Meet the NEA Disability Rights Resource Cadre

Did you know that NEA has a group of member experts who are dedicated to creating and delivering resources to support educators?

Resources for Students, Families, and Communities

Student in wheelchair

Making Graduation Count for All Students

The hard work of special education students with exceptional needs must be rewarded.
traci arway

What to Know About Invisible Disabilities

Learn how to support students and educators with disabilities that aren't apparent.
Student wearing headphones

Understanding Your Rights: Special Needs Programs

Since Congress has yet to sufficiently support special education, underfunded programs can hinder your special needs child’s potential. It’s very important that you are aware of the rights your child has to a quality education.
young asian boy in a wheelchair chooses books in library

Disability Awareness Booklist

Help kids explore a wide range of disability experiences through enjoying fabulous stories.
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.