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U.S. Laws & Legislation

The US has a legal framework for special education that ensures individuals with disabilities have a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). Services offered by occupational therapists in schools are influenced by policies, laws, and federal legislation. School-based occupational therapists provide services under Part B of IDEA (i.e., evaluations, IEP, interventions).

Important Legislation

The Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act was signed into law in 1973 to help individuals with disabilities get the support they need to live independently and participate fully in society. The Act covers a wide range of programs and activities that receive federal funding, including education, employment, transportation, and health care. Section 504 is one of the most important provisions of the Act, as it prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in any program or activity that receives federal funding. Employers, schools and other entities that receive federal funding are required to make reasonable accommodations to enable individuals with disabilities in order to participate in their programs and activities.

of All Handicapped Children Act
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was established to ensure that all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. Congress enacted the EHA in 1975 to support states and localities in protecting the rights and improving the results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. This law changed its name to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, in 1990 and was later reauthorized in 2004.

Part B of IDEA provides funds to states to assist them in providing free appropriate public education to children ages three through 21 with disabilities who are in need of special education and related services.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The ESSA is a federal law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015. Its primary purpose is to ensure that all children have access to a quality education that prepares them for college, careers, and life. The ESSA holds states and schools accountable for ensuring that all students receive a quality education. This means that states must establish standards and assessments that align with college and career readiness, and schools must develop plans to improve student achievement. Low-income students are the primary beneficiaries of the ESSA's Title I funding, which provides financial assistance to schools with high percentages of low-income students. 


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