Education for All Handicapped Children Act: Summary & Impact

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  • 0:01 Education for All
  • 0:54 Mandates
  • 5:14 Impact
  • 7:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

With all the different types of people out there, how do we make sure that every child gets a good education? In this lesson, we'll examine one of the laws that tries to answer that question: the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975.

Education for All

Imagine that you are in school. You're excited and really want to learn. But there's a problem: your teacher seems to be talking in a completely different language. Not only that, all the other students around you understand what she's saying, and you're left out.

You feel frustrated and alone, and when you ask your school to provide you with a translator so that you can understand, they say they don't provide that service to students. You're on your own.

This was the situation for many students in the 1970s, when special education students often struggled in classrooms and were not provided with services that could help them learn. But all that changed in 1975, when President Gerald Ford signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which outlined what needed to be done to provide an education for special needs students.

Let's look closer at the act and its impact on education.


Remember when you were struggling to understand your teacher and fellow students, and you asked your school for a translator? They said that they didn't provide that service to you, and you were just out of luck.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was a follow-up to earlier legislation that provided federal funding to school districts to help them educate special needs students. But the earlier legislation didn't mandate what the school districts had to do; so many special needs students weren't provided with an acceptable education because districts said that they didn't provide services that the students needed. Just like when you asked for a translator, many students were turned away.

The act outlined six mandates that states must follow in order to receive federal funding. They are:

1. Zero reject

The law states that every student is entitled to FAPE, or free and appropriate public education. This means that schools cannot send a student away just because they have special needs. For example, if a student is in a wheelchair and the school district does not have a school with a wheelchair ramp, they will have to build one or find another way to make the school accessible for that student.

2. Nondiscriminatory identification and evaluation

Before the act, many students with special needs had not been evaluated or identified. For example, a student with a learning disability might just struggle through school, failing classes and never getting help. The law mandates that school districts put into place a program that allows them to identify and evaluate students who might need extra help and that they identify and evaluate students without discrimination.

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