The Catholic University of America

Summary of Federal Laws


Non-Discrimination with Respect to Students

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)

29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., 34 C.F.R. § 104.1 et seq., with regulations for postsecondary education institutions at 34 C.F.R. 104.41-47, 45 C.F.R. § 84.1 et seq..

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability at any federally-funded institution. This covers admissions, recruitment, programs and services. This law requires program accessiblity. If an existing facility is not accessible, redesign of equipment, reassignment of classes or other services to accessible buildings is an alternative to new construction. Newly constructed facilities must be readily accessible to persons with disabilities. Each facility or part of a facility which is altered in a manner that affects or could affect the usability of the facility or part of the facility shall, to the maximum extent feasible, be altered in such manner that the altered portion of the facility is readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.

A grievance procedure must be established for students and at least one employee must be designated to coordinate compliance. See 34 C.F.R. § 104.7. Notices of the institution's policy must be provided to the students, and must also be included in recruitment materials. Note, however, that grievance procedures need not be established with respect to complaints from applicants for admission.

Access Board Final Rule, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines, 82 Fed. Reg. 5790, Jan. 18, 2017. 

This rule, effective March 20, 2017, with a compliance deadine of Jan. 18, 2018 update the standards for electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by Federal agencies covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The rule also updates guidelines for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934. Compliance with the 255 rules in not required until the rules are adopted by the FCC. See About the ICT Refresh on the Access Board Page. 

Although these rules are applicable to the federal government, compliance with these standards will help  ensure accessibility for students if used as the baseline by colleges and universities. See New Baseline for Accessibility, Inside Higher Ed, Feb. 3, 2017.  Note some federal grant programs require compliance with this law. 

See E205.4 Accessibility Standard. Electronic content shall conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0. 

Case Law


Argenyi v. Creighton University, Case No. 8:09CV341, U.S. Dist. Court, District of Nebraska, decided 12/19/13.  In this case, a medical student with a hearing disability brought suit under Title III of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The plaintiff does not know sign language, but does read lips and uses cued speech. He also relies on Communication Access Real Time Transcription, or CART services. His physician recommended CART services along with other accommodations. Argenyi paid for certain CART services and interpreters on his own for the first two years of med school when the school refused to provide the accommodations. He took a leave when the University would not allow interpreters in some of the clinical settings. While the court denied his request for the University to reimburse him for the money he expended on accommodations in years 1 and 2, the court granted his motion for injunctive relief for years 3 and 4 of medical school and ordered as follows: 

Beginning in the fall semester of 2014, and continuing until his graduation or the discontinuation of his enrollment as a medical student, Creighton University will provide Michael Argenyi with auxiliary aids and services for his effective communication, including Communication Access Real-time transcription (CART) in didactic settings and sign-supported oral interpreters in small group and clinical settings.

Velzen et al. v. Grand Valley State University, (U.S. Dist. Ct. Western District Michigan), October 10, 2012. Issue presented was can student bring guinea pig to dorm room as emotional suport animal to accommodate for depression and heart condition. Laws at issue are Fair Housing Act and Rehabilitation Act and in part the regulations under the ADA. Defendants relied upon the exclusion for emotional support animals under ADA regulations  at 28 CFR 35.104. The court cited a memo dated Feb. 17, 2011 sent out by a HUD to Fair Housing and EO Regional Directors for the proposition that the plaintiff might have a claim for violation of the Rehab Act.




PEAT Policy Brief: Summary of the Access Board's Final Rule Revising the ICT Standards in Section 508 of the Rehab Act 

Access This: Why Institutions of Higher Education Must Provide Access to the Internet to Students with Disabilities, by Nina Golden, Volume 10:2:363 Vanderbilt J. of Entertainment and Tech. Law (2008)

OCR Letter 1/25/13 on Extracurricular Athletic Activities for students with disabilities. 

Fact Sheet: Adoption of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design

The U.S. Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights Pamphlet: entitled: The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


NACUANOTES: Volume 12, No. 8--Direct Threat and Caring For Students at Risk for Self-Harm: Where We Stand Now (September 3, 2014)



updated mlo 8-24-18