How do special education services differ from university accommodations?

Public schools are mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide a free and appropriate education to public school students through the provision of special education, which includes individualized instructional modifications and related services. The laws governing special education do not apply to universities or colleges, and are replaced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended in 2008), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Universities and colleges must ensure that an otherwise qualified student does not encounter discrimination due to a disability, and must provide reasonable accommodations that allow the student to fully participate in university programs/classes. In order to receive accommodations in higher education, students have to self-disclose their disabilities. Reasonable accommodations must not alter the fundamental requirements of a course or program. Curriculum modifications and individualized instruction in general are not implemented in higher education.