Deaf Students Get Degrees After All

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Two students who are deaf were pursuing degrees in special education. The college intended not to recommend them for licensure because they were deaf.


Two college students from Metropolitan State College of Denver were pursuing degrees in special education, hoping to become teachers. These two students sought the assistance of Disability Law Colorado when they learned that the college intended not to recommend them for teacher licensure – even if they met all the academic requirements – because they were deaf.

The college argued that being deaf meant that they could not pass the standards set for teachers by the Colorado Department of Education. Failure of the students to get this recommendation meant that they would be unable to become teachers in Colorado.

Disability Law Colorado gladly stepped in to help.

Complaint Filed

Disability Law Colorado attempted unsuccessfully to remedy the situation through informal negotiations, and was eventually forced to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. We also contacted the Attorney General’s Office, which represents the Colorado Department of Education.

Disability Law Colorado argued that teacher licensing standards, like all the college’s rules and policies, are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that agencies make reasonable accommodations as needed for people with disabilities, as long as the accommodations do not cause a fundamental alteration of the program or an undue financial burden.

The Decision

The Attorney General’s Office agreed with Disability Law Colorado’s view and wrote to the college informing them of their need to follow the ADA.

As a result of these interventions, Disability Law Colorado was able to ensure that the students would get the accommodations they needed to complete school, including all of the academic requirements needed to become a teacher in Colorado.


We are proud to announce that Rachella Ortiz, one of the students in the case, graduated from Metropolitan State College of Denver in May 2010 and earned her teaching certificate. She will begin working as a Deaf Plus teacher (teaching students who are deaf and have additional disabilities) at the Rocky Mountain Deaf School in the fall and is also looking forward to pursing her Master’s Degree in Deaf Education. She is unstoppable!

Disability Law Colorado wishes Ms. Ortiz the best of luck in fulfilling her dreams. We hope that her story of overcoming obstacles will inspire other men and women with disabilities who are reaching for that shining star.

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