Multicultural Considerations for the Identification of Individuals with Disabilities
Federal legislation has provided protections and guidance for the proper identification of individuals with disabilities. These assurances are to guarantee that only the correct individuals become identified as having disabilities. It is especially important that individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are not overrepresented in special education programs. The following protections are written into the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):
- Disproportionality requirement: States must devise plans to prevent over-identification and provide data to document whether disproportionality by race is happening with respect to identification and placement of individuals with disabilities.
- Development, review, and revisions of IEPs: Consider the language needs as related to the IEP for individuals with limited English proficiency.
- Evaluation procedures:
- Test materials are not to be discriminatory for race or cultures.
- Tests administered in individual’s native language.
- Test materials for individuals with limited English proficiency used to measure a disability and not the individual’s English skills.
- Tests are valid and reliable and administered by trained professionals.
- No single procedure used as a sole criterion for determining whether a disability exists.
- Eligibility determination: An individual may not be eligible if the only difficulty appears to be limited English proficiency.
The U.S. Office of Civil Rights also provides guidance and protections and is the compliance monitor for prereferral practices that may also influence overrepresentation of individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. These laws include the following:
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Provide protection against discrimination for individuals with disabilities and those perceived as having disabilities or those who have been misclassified.
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act: Provides discrimination protection based on national origin, color, or race.
When districts are out of compliance with these federal laws and have an overrepresentation of individuals from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds they may become involved in legal actions and asked to provide a plan to correct the problems.
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