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Legal Module

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Students with disabilities in the K-12 setting may receive individualized special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Initially passed as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142) of 1975, the law has been amended and reauthorized several times, most recently in 2004. IDEA mandates a number of key provisions for students with disabilities, including a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE), the use of a multidisciplinary evaluation to determine strengths and needs, and the development of an individualized education program (IEP). An IEP must state the annual goals and objectives for the student, the modifications and accommodations needed, as well as any related services necessary for the student to achieve his or her goals. It is important to understand that the mandates of the IDEA do NOT apply to postsecondary institutions, only to the K-12 system. Once a student graduates from high school, the protections of the IDEA and the individualized services of the IEP end. This is a source of confusion for many students with disabilities and their parents, especially during the transition to college (Madaus, 2005).


Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. PL 94-142. 20 U.S.C. §§ 1401 et seq.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, PL108-446, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq. (2004).

Madaus, J. W. (2005). Helping students with learning disabilities navigate the college transition maze. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 37, 32-37.

Permission is granted to copy this document for educational purposes; however, please acknowledge your source using the following citation:

UDI Online Project. (2010). Legal Module. Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability, University of Connecticut, Storrs. http://www.udi.uconn.edu/index.php?q=content/legal-module