As keen readers may have noticed, the Department of Education included many references to disability throughout its 2022 proposed Title IX regulations and in the 500+ page preamble that explains why certain changes or additions are being proposed. While some of the suggested language – like adding a definition of disability – is relatively technical, other provisions have practical implications that institutions of higher education should be prepared to implement.

One such proposal requires a Title IX Coordinator in the K-12 context to consult with the IEP team, and says Title IX Coordinators in the post-secondary context may consult with the disability services office, “as appropriate.” On page 227 of the preamble, the Department is clear that the Title IX Coordinator should “honor the student’s request regarding whether to involve disability services office staff.” Of course, this raises complex questions such as: how do you find out if a student has an existing relationship with the disability services office; when is it appropriate for a Title IX Coordinator to consult with disability services; what is the Title IX Coordinator permitted/prohibited from asking during their consultation; what is the scope of disability services’ role in the consultation and thereafter?

Title IX and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are both enforced by the Office for Civil Rights and have some natural overlap, but surprisingly this type of language was never included in previous iterations of the regulations or in (now-rescinded) guidance. Where previous guidance noted that students with disabilities may require additional support, the proposed guidance says the Title IX Coordinator should provide the party with information about available resources.

Yet even without an existing requirement to consult, such interactions have long been necessary and appropriate when disability issues arise in Title IX or student conduct matters. For example, a participant in an investigation or hearing process who has a disability may need a sign language interpreter, or request investigation questions in writing, a quiet room for their interview, or extra time to review interview notes or evidence.

It’s critical that Title IX personnel recognize requests for accommodations for what they are and involve the appropriate personnel to conduct the close, individualized assessment required under Section 504.

With experts in Title IX, ADA, and Section 504 compliance, Grand River Solutions is uniquely situated to provide consulting services and assist clients in the development of policies and protocols needed to successfully navigate the intersection of these critical equity laws. Contact us to learn more about our disability and accessibility compliance solutions.