Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Paper Example

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1451 Words
Date:  2022-07-07


Estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that close to one billion people around the world are living with some form of disability. Of these, it is estimated that about 10% are young people under the age of 18 years. Historically, children with disabilities have been relegated to the periphery of the education system. They are more likely not to go to school compared to other children and if they do, it is likely to be in segregated environments. In most cases, the children are placed in special schools or resident institutions where they receive education in isolation from the community. Children with disabilities are also at increased risk of bullying and violence, which hinders the right to education.

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In most counties, children with disabilities are associated with low rates of enrolment. Even though a large number of these children attend school, they are more likely to drop out without transitioning to secondary and tertiary levels. These facts are indicative of the extent of barriers to education faced by children with disabilities. In order for children with disabilities to enjoy the same rights as other children, appropriate education policies should be implemented. These policies should be able to directly tackle the challenges faced by the children by putting obligations on stakeholders to uphold, respect and protect the educational rights of the children. This paper explores the concept of disability rights and associated policies in the context of the American education system


In the United States, various policies and legislative frameworks have been implemented to support the right to education for children with disabilities. The most important of these policy frameworks is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA is a federal law that requires schools to develop modalities for serving the needs of eligible learners with disabilities (Yell 72). Under this law, schools are obligated to evaluate learners suspected of having any form of disability and to accord them the necessary support. Besides creating a supportive public education for children with disability, IDEA also seeks to empower parents to play a greater role in the education of their children and not to relegate the responsibility to the teachers.

IDEA was enacted by Congress in 1990. Prior to this, the educational rights of children with disabilities were protected under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), which was enacted in 1975. Until then, public schools in the US accommodated only one in five children with disabilities. As well, many states had implemented laws, which explicitly excluded children with certain disabilities from attending public schools (Haworth 78). These included children who were deaf, blind and those labeled mentally retarded or emotionally disturbed. These discriminative laws condemned as many as one million disabled children to state institutions where they only received rehabilitation services and limited education.

EHA was replaced by IDEA in 1990. The latter legislation paces more emphasis on the individual as opposed to the nature of the disability that they may have. IDEA brought many more improvements to EHA such as detailing of children's transition programs post-secondary school, promotion of technology use and research development, and the establishment of programs for the education of children in the neighborhoods (Hulett 34).

In order to better understand the necessity of changing the current policy, a brief history of its development and definition of terminologies are in order. Persons with disabilities are defined in legal terms as those with long-term mental, physical, sensory or intellectual impairments, which in conjunction with environmental and attitudinal factors may impede their meaningful participation in society as other people (Yell 61). As far as the right to education is concerned, disability should be construed as a result of the interaction between the environment and the person, rather than something that is inherently within the person due to the impairment.


Important Aspects/ Intended Results And/or Merits of Existing Policy

One of the intended beneficial aspects of IDEA is the promotion of free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE is defined as any type of special education and associated services, which are provided without charge at the expense of the public. Under the IDEA policy, FAPE should be able to meet the standards of the educational agency as set out in each state and should be provided in accordance with the state's individualized education programs (Colker 86). FAPE is an important aspect of IDEA because it ensures that schools are able to give children with disabilities relevant education that meets their individual needs and empowers them for further education, independent living, and employment.

Another intended beneficial aspect is the emphasis on a least restrictive environment. IDEA defines the least restrictive environment as one that is most like that of other children in which those with disabilities can thrive academically (Ian 61). Such an environment is characterized by the use of supplementary teaching and learning aids as can be appropriate to help the disabled children meet their individual needs. Additionally, a least restrictive environment ensures that children with disabilities are integrated fully into the education system and the school setting.

The final benefit of IDEA is the emphasis on family-professional partnership. The legislation encourages parents and teachers' participation. The participation is crucial for children to receive the level of education that is necessary for them to succeed. Teachers and parents need to work together and communicate effectively to determine the best ways of maximizing the children's education outcomes.

Problems With Existing Policy

The most significant problem with IDEA is that it advocates for appropriate public education to all children regardless of the underlying disability. The downside with this provision is that what the parent thinks is appropriate for the child might be different from what the school district thinks might be appropriate (Haworth 65). Another problem with the policy is that it requires schools to evaluate children with disabilities in a manner that makes sense to their disabilities. The downside here is that the effectiveness of tests depends on the competence of the people who administer them.

Lastly, the policy requires that children with disabilities be placed in an environment that meets their needs as much as possible (Hulett 53). This is not always possible for certain types of disabilities. For example, it is quite difficult to create a good environment for children with autism. As well, the policy does not elucidate on the procedural requirements for creating a least restrictive environment.


The key change that is needed is for special and general education to operate in harmony. Children with a disability do not need to be placed in isolated environments. For optimal outcomes, greater collaboration should be promoted between general and special education. This will enhance the integration of disabled children into the education system and will make it easier for them to receive the desired education (Ian 58). Another important change is the development of leadership at all levels to ensure that a supportive environment is created and that children receive the right education at all levels.

To bring the above changes, the input of all stakeholders is necessary. Legislators, policymakers, educator, parents, and teachers have an important role to play in ensuring that the stated changes are implemented effectively to improve the quality of education for children with disability (Yell 39). The government has a unique role to play in implementing the changes. The primary role of the government is to provide funds and other resources that are necessary to strengthen education policies to support the rights of children with disability.


Children with disabilities have a right to education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The legislation provides that these children should be accorded free and appropriate public education. The notion of appropriateness implies that the education services must be tailored to the unique needs of each child. The policy recognizes the critical role that stakeholders (such as parents and teachers) play in the child's education. Therefore, the policy advocates for continued collaboration between various stakeholders. As well, the policy stipulates that children with disabilities should be educated in supportive environments. Clearly, the legislation provides a robust platform for the development of special needs education in the United States.

Works Cited

Colker, Ruth. Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. New York: NYU Press, 2013.

Haworth, Nila. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A Noble Theory, an Ignoble Practice as Unfolded Through One Teacher's Heuristic Inquiry. New York: Universal-Publishers, 2004.

Hulett, Kurt. Legal Aspects of Special Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc., 2009.

Ian, Javier. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Boston: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 2013.

Yell, Mitchell. The Law and Special Education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.- Merrill/Prentice Hall, 2009.

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Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Paper Example. (2022, Jul 07). Retrieved from

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