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Title IX

Does Title IX Affect Those More With People who Have Disabilities?

By September 9, 2019September 25th, 2023No Comments

There is a common misconception that Title IX strictly applies to an individual’s sex.  In reality, Title IX is also applicable to those with disabilities. In fact, many intelligent people argue Title IX affects those with disabilities just as much, if not more, than those of a particular sex.  Let’s take a look at what Title IX is really all about.


The Basics of Title IX

Title IX states no individual will be excluded from participating in or denied benefits based on their sex.  In particular, Title IX points out it is illegal to discriminate against an individual by an educational program or any other activity from an institution that receives federal financial assistance.   However, the reach of Title IX extends beyond gender discrimination. Title IX also bars discrimination based on disability. In fact, the scope of this law applies to everything from discrimination to sexual harassment, sexual assault, bullying, cyberbullying, retaliation, stalking and violence.  However, the primary purpose of this civil rights law is to prohibit discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, language, religion and disability in academic institutions.


The Duty to Accommodate Those With Disabilities

Every college, university and other academic institution must provide academic programs, activities and services to all students.  In particular, academic institutions must make the appropriate accommodations to provide these programs and services to those with disabilities.  If an educational institution refuses to make such accommodations or understand the experience of a disabled student in need of assistance or accommodations, it has likely violated Title IX.  However, the student must disclose the fact that he or she is disabled.  

If the disability in question is not communicated to the educational institution, administrators will have no idea the student in question needs special accommodations.  Ideally, every academic institution will have a Disability Services Division that provides support and counseling for students with disabilities. Disabled students should have the opportunity to pursue the academic studies of their choice and fully engage in every facet of campus life.

Documenting a Disability for Title IX Compliance 

The onus of proving the disability and asking for assistance is squarely on the disabled student.  Documentation should be provided to detail the disabled student’s diagnosis. A statement that details the student’s condition and levels of functioning should also be included.  Documentation must also explain how the disability affects the student’s academic abilities. If the disability is physical in nature, there should be specific medical documentation detailing the condition.  Those plagued by learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders (ADD) must provide the academic institution with a psychological report.  

All documentation should be detailed on letterhead that is signed and dated by the treating doctor.  Furthermore, this documentation should detail the accommodations recommended for the disabled individual including an explanation of how these recommendations will facilitate the student’s educational pursuits and on-campus experience.  The failure to properly notify the academic institution in question will make it much more challenging to prove a Title IX violation has occurred.


Examples of Accommodations for Disabled Students

Once the academic institution confirms the student’s disability, a consultation should occur with institution administrators such as the dean of students, health center treatment staff, the learning center advisor and other relevant parties to pinpoint the ideal accommodations.  However, information about the student’s disability should not be made available to all school employees.  This sensitive personal information should only be shared to the extent that confidentiality permits.  In many cases, disabled students are provided with disabilities accommodations ranging from the use of an assistive device in class to additional time for assignments, tangible support in the form of wheelchair ramps, assistive aids such as interpreters and even recording devices or note-takers.  


Our Student Defense Lawyer is Here to Help 

If you feel as though the academic institution you attend has violated your Title IX rights, contact our student defense lawyer right away.  We will review the details of your case, determine if there is solid legal footing to file a lawsuit and fiercely advocate on your behalf every step of the way toward justice. 

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

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