U.S. Law Provides for Public Education of Disabled Children Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The U.S. Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act to ensure that all school-age children in the United States would receive a free, appropriate education, regardless of any disabilities they might have.


The consequences of the EAHCA were widespread. Whereas children with disabilities had once been relegated to basement classrooms for limited instruction or received no instruction at all, the EAHCA spawned a vast array of programs for these children. Funding for special education rose dramatically on the federal, state, and local levels. Children with disabilities came to be accepted integral parts of neighborhood schools and frequently participated in the full panoply of school events with their nondisabled peers. Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975)

Programs to train teachers in special education intensified in colleges across the United States, and additional research formulated often-dramatic new techniques for educating children with disabilities. Technological devices such as computers came to be the norm in many special education programs, and many disabled students attained goals and self-sufficiency previously thought to be unattainable. The IEP process became second nature to school districts and parents alike, and many disabled children also participated in this planning process.

As both parents and school districts employed due process procedures with increasing frequency, the goal of educating children with disabilities slowly became, in the eyes of many observers, more litigious and attorney-oriented than initially envisioned by Congress. Congress acknowledged this fact in 1986, when it amended the EAHCA to allow for the reimbursement of attorneys’ fees to parents who prevailed in due process hearings. In 1990, Congress further amended the act and provided a new title, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the 1990 amendments, Congress expanded the scope of disabilities and services under the act by including autism and traumatic brain injury as separate categories for eligibility and by adding rehabilitation counseling and social work services to the definition of related services. The act was further amended in 1997 and again in 2004 by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975) Education;disabled children Disabled persons’ rights[Disabled persons rights]

Further Reading
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    Handicapped Students and Special Education. 7th ed. Rosemount, Minn.: Data Research, 1990. Comprehensive, readable overview of the rights of children with disabilities under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, including valuable discussion of all aspects of the rights and duties of students, parents, and school districts.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Murdick, Nikki L., Barbara C. Gartin, and Terry Crabtree. Special Education Law. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002. Presents an overview of special education law and how litigation and legislation have influenced special education services for children.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Reynolds, Cecil, and Elaine Fletcher-Janzen. Concise Encyclopedia of Special Education. 2d ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2002. Serves as a wide-ranging source on a variety of issues and concepts in special education. The text is arranged in alphabetical order, provides references regarding each entry, and is thoroughly indexed.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tucker, Bonnie, and Bruce Goldstein. Legal Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Horsham, Pa.: LRP, 1991. Provides accurate and authoritative information through an analysis of federal law concerning the rights of individuals with disabilities. Discusses the Education for All Handicapped Children Act from a variety of perspectives, including state educational plans, eligibility for federal funds, description of terminology and concepts, procedural safeguards, access to records, substantive rights, and relationship to the Rehabilitation Act.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Weiner, Roberta, and Maggie Hume. And Education for All: Public Policy and Handicapped Children. 2d ed. Alexandria, Va.: Education Research Group, 1987. This text can be approached as a summary of legislative, legal, and regulatory histories that surrounded the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, together with an evaluation of likely future trends in special education.

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Categories: History