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The Importance of ADA Compliance in Higher Education

Colleges and universities are committed to creating an environment that is welcoming and fair for all students. Part of that means enhancing the student experience for all students and making sure that regardless of ability students have the same access to resources and services on campus. For IT leaders, ADA compliance is becoming increasingly important.

What Is the ADA?

Formally known as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the ADA protects people with disabilities from discrimination in private and public sector services and employment, including in higher educational settings such as colleges and universities. The Act is split into sections or “titles” that apply to different parts of life. Title II specifically prohibits public colleges and universities from discriminating against people with disabilities, while Title III applies to private educational institutions. Another law often referenced with ADA compliance is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits “any program receiving federal financial assistance” from discriminating against an individual because of his or her disability.

Both titles, as well as Section 504, also define individuals with disabilities as: people who have a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits” major life activities; have a record or history of such an impairment; or are regarded as having such an impairment. If a person meets one or more of those definitions, they are protected under both the ADA and Section 504, and college and universities are required to provide “reasonable modifications” for those individuals.

Defining “Reasonable Modifications”

Also known as “reasonable accommodations,” colleges and universities must make all of their programs, including extracurricular activities, accessible to students with disabilities under the ADA.

Many of these accommodations are already common practice, such as providing access to buildings, ensuring effective communications through the use of sign-language interpreters, Braille and assistive listening devices and changing policies and procedures to accommodate testing needs. Some accommodations are less obvious, such as clearance for automatic door buttons, keeping handicapped parking spaces free of snow or recent policy discussions about the use of service animals.

One unexpected challenge colleges and universities face in ADA compliance is some students with disabilities never declare them. While 11 percent of undergraduate students report their disabilities, it is believed many more never identify themselves as disabled for fear of facing stigma or being labeled as “different.”

That fact has led recently to the push for “universal design,” where institutions go beyond the letter of the law to its true spirit, and put measures in place that serve all students regardless of individual needs.

Accessible Smart Station Solutions

Ink is proud to say we take a universal design approach to building all Smart Stations so we can support our institutional partners in accommodating all students for success.

Designed with accessibility in mind, Ink’s entire fleet of Smart Stations are ADA compliant from the moment they are built. This philosophy makes it easy for colleges to go beyond what is required, while also eliminating the need for “special” accommodations that make students feel different from their peers.

The Smart Station exceeds ADA requirements for floor space footprint, and meets all the requirements for wheelchair reach functionality, font and screen size for visual impairments and placement ranges for items such as credit card readers, USB drives and output trays. Accommodations for audio impairments as well as blind individuals are currently being investigated and planned for future designs.

Ink’s Smart Station also utilizes the universal design philosophy, providing the same access for all users. For students who select the “handicap” option, slight modifications are made to lower selection buttons on the screen, accommodating wheelchair reach. This offers students with disabilities more than just printing services, creating an inclusive experience for all students.

To see how the Ink Smart Station can provide printing solutions for all students, regardless of their needs, please contact us to schedule a demo.

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