Introduction to the ADA Comprehensive Transition Plan

The first major civil rights law granting protections for people with disabilities, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), was passed nearly 50 years ago. Then in 1990, the Americans Disabilities Act (ADA) built upon the protections of Section 504 to require public entities like PCC to complete transition plans to ensure facilities and programs are fully accessible. Despite these requirements being in place for over three decades, many public and private entities, including PCC, did not meet all requirements for transition plans or remove all barriers to equal access and full participation for people with disabilities.

It is important to note that PCC is not alone. Many institutions have cited cost, lack of awareness, and resistance to change as reasons they have not fully complied. For initial transition plans, many institutions made broad recommendations and completed basic improvements to improve building access, for example recognizing a need to add elevators and ramps to buildings. However, as decades have passed, the expectation is that institutions have had sufficient time to implement these bigger, more obvious pieces. This means that transition and accessibility improvement plans should now be much more nuanced and granular.

Our world and the way we live, work, and conduct business look different now than it did when Section 504 and the ADA were passed. In the 1990s many programs, services, and activities were provided in-person, inside of brick and mortar buildings. Those advocating for disability civil rights during the 20th century, including the legislators who drafted the ADA, likely could not anticipate how technology would become an everyday part of our modern lives. Therefore, there was less emphasis in the original law and regulations on digital accessibility and the importance of assistive technologies. Although not yet extensively covered in the ADA or its accompanying regulations, through the enforcement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and ADA litigation, it is clear that providing digital accessibility is critical. It is important to note that providing accessible digital environments and services to people with disabilities is covered under the non-discrimination and other provisions of the ADA for both private and public entities. For these reasons, PCC’s Comprehensive Transition plan will not only include the built environment and program access, but the digital environment as well.

PCC’s Comprehensive Transition Plan will:

  • be a long-term and living plan to address accessibility barriers with the ultimate goal of providing equitable experiences for all members of the PCC community.
  • fulfill the compliance requirements set forth in Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
  • outline priorities to assess and enhance college spaces over time, including physical, digital, and programmatic.

Priorities for the Plan will be guided by the desire to ensure that college spaces are inclusive, flexible, and accessible to the widest audience possible.

Develop a Comprehensive Transition Plan PCC

A black and white photo of the “Wheels of Justice” March in Washington, D.C. on March 12, 1990. There are people with disabilities who use wheelchairs holding signs that say, "We Shall Overcome" and "Access is a Civil Right." There is a blind man walking with his guide dog and a child with a disability being pushed in a wheelchair.

“Wheels of Justice” March in Washington, D.C. on March 12, 1990. Image courtesy of Tom Olin.

A person who is blind accessing information on a computer with a braille display and screen reader.

Braille displays provide access to information on a computer screen by electronically raising and lowering different combinations of pins in braille cells. As the information on the computer screen changes, the screen reader informs the braille display to change. Many Blind and low vision people utilize keyboard commands, rather than a mouse to navigate their computers.

Portland Community College (PCC), as a public entity that receives federal funding, is required to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA). PCC is also required to comply with the Oregon Equality Act (ORS Chapter 659A), which is a state civil rights law that, in addition to the ADA and Section 504, prohibits discrimination based on disability. The sections below provide more information about each of the laws, links to specific provisions, and additional related resources.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (Section 504) 29 U.S.C. § 794

The disability rights movement has its roots in the early 1900s, when people with disabilities began to organize and demand equal rights, fighting against centuries of exclusion, discrimination, segregation, and violence. The movement gained further momentum in the 1960s, after the United States passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, the law did not explicitly include protections for people with disabilities. In response to the exclusion of protections for people with disabilities, the disability rights movement continued to advocate for protections for people with disabilities, similar to other protected classes. As a result of those efforts, Section 504 was passed in 1973 and was the first major civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The legislation was a crucial and historic outcome of the disability rights movement which had been fighting for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities for decades.

Section 504 requires that no qualified individual with disabilities shall, solely by reason of their disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Section 504 has had a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities. The law has helped to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to public education, employment, housing, transportation, and healthcare.

The regulations for Section 504 require that public entities complete a self-evaluation, designate a responsible employee, and adopt grievance procedures. Section 504 also requires public entities to provide notices outlining the non-discrimination protections offered by Section 504, grievance procedures, and contact information of the responsible employee. Recipients of federal funding were supposed to complete a self-evaluation within one year of the Section 504 effective date.

Learn more about Section 504 and the disability rights movement
  • Crip Camp is an important film that tells the story of the disability rights movement and the fight for equality for people with disabilities. The film highlights some key activists who fought for the implementation of Section 504 through protests in 1977.
  • The Disability History Exhibit is a 23-panel collage that traces 3000 years of seldom-told history. From antiquity to the present, the exhibit brings viewers through an illustrated timeline that shows society’s attitudes and how they affect the lives of people with disabilities. Viewers experience powerful feelings as they notice similarities between ancient practices and modern stereotypes. In addition to the physical display, you can view the exhibit via an accessible online version or video playlist.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA) 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.

The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, public services, public accommodations, and communications. The ADA built upon the protections offered by Section 504 to become the most comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities in the United States and was signed into law on July 26, 1990. While Section 504 provided non-discrimination protections and increased accessibility for people with disabilities in public services and programs that receive federal funding, the ADA expanded protection to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in all areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, communication, and government services. Congress clearly articulated the intent of the ADA, stating the purpose of the ADA is “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”

The ADA was the first legislation that required businesses and organizations to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are changes or modifications that allow people with disabilities to participate equally in programs and have equal access to receive goods and/or services. The ADA has had a profound impact on improving access for people with disabilities to all areas of life. More specifically, the ADA has helped to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, improved access to education and transportation, and increased the participation of people with disabilities in government programs. The ADA is a living piece of legislation that continues to be interpreted by the courts and enforcement actions.

In 2008, congress passed the ADA Amendments Act in response to a number of Supreme Court decisions that utilized a narrow definition of disability under the original ADA. The Amendments Act redefined the definition of disability, expanded protections, and reduced burdensome requirements to establish eligibility for non-discrimination protections and reasonable accommodations.

The ADA contains five titles outlining various provisions and requirements applicable to employment, public goods/services:

  • Title I prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment
  • Title II prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government
  • Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in private businesses (public accommodations)
  • Title IV prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in telecommunications
  • Title V contains miscellaneous provisions

Like Section 504, the ADA outlines requirements that public institutions must meet in order to be in compliance. The ADA requires any public agency with more than 50 employees to complete a self-evaluation and transition plan setting forth the steps necessary to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities [28 CFR §35.150(d)]. The ADA deadline for completing the improvements listed in the transition plans was January 26, 1995.

An ADA Transition Plan outlines how a public entity will make its facilities and programs accessible to people with disabilities. The plan is developed after a public entity performs a self-evaluation, which identifies barriers to access and where the entity is not in compliance.

Title II of the ADA  further outlines the specific requirements of a self-evaluation and transition plan. These requirements include:

  • Identification of the barriers that limit the accessibility of programs, activities, or services.
  • Development of a plan to remove the barriers and make the facilities and programs, services, and activities accessible.
  • A schedule outlining a timeline for barrier removal.
  • The name of the official(s) responsible for the plan’s implementation.
  • The transition plan should be updated periodically, in order to reflect changes in the entity’s programs, activities, or facilities.
  • Grievance procedure requirements under the ADA: The ADA also requires Title II entities with 50 or more employees to develop a complaint procedure [§ 35.107(b)]. PCC is required to publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by the ADA.
Learn more about the ADA
  • From answers to common questions to official legal documents, has everything you need to understand your rights and responsibilities under the ADA.
  • How the ADA Changed the Built World is a video short produced by the creators of Crip Camp and highlights the stories of activists and the importance of the ADA in providing for greater accessibility.
Oregon Equality Act (ORS Chapter 659A)

The Oregon Equality Act is a state civil rights law that, in addition to the ADA and Section 504, prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation.

The Oregon Equality Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are changes or adjustments that allow employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs. The Oregon Equality Act also prohibits discrimination in housing. Landlords cannot refuse to rent to or evict tenants because of their disabilities. They also cannot charge different rent or fees to tenants with disabilities.

The Oregon Equality Act prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation. Public accommodations are businesses that are open to the public, such as restaurants, hotels, and stores. Public accommodations cannot refuse to serve or accommodate customers because of their disabilities. They also cannot charge different prices or fees to customers with disabilities.

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History of accessibility efforts at PCC

Although the Comprehensive Transition Plan will be the first self-evaluation and transition plan that meets the requirements under the ADA & Section 504, there has been significant progress toward achieving equal access for people with disabilities at PCC. It is important to recognize the efforts that have been made in order to understand what gaps still exist and leverage our strengths, which include recognition of accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities as a critical component of our mission.

Timeline from 1993 to present
1993 self study

Shortly after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the College established the first ADA Committee. To meet the requirements set forth in Title II of the ADA, public entities were required to perform self-evaluations and develop transition plans to bring the entity into compliance. In 1993, the College initiated an ADA Title I/II(A) Needs Assessment through an outside consultant. The report evaluated existing policies and procedures as well as facilities existing at the time.
There were five key recommendations from this assessment:

  1. PCC’s commitment to meet the spirit and letter of ADA requirements must have the unwavering support of top management. This must be communicated to all levels of the college.
  2. An action plan for responding to the issues identified by the Needs Assessment must be developed.
  3. The issues identified by the Needs Assessment must be prioritized and addressed by order of the degree of liability for the college.
  4. Authority and responsibility must be clearly and appropriately delegated to ensure thorough follow-through of implementation.
  5. The process for policy/procedure development and implementation must be supported and accomplished with an emphasis on expedient timelines.
2006 establishment of the Assistive Technology Committee

In 2006, the College established the Assistive Technology (AT) Committee which uses Student Technology Fee funding to prioritize provision of hardware, software, and training across and throughout the College. This group is an excellent example of a collaboration between IT, the Library, Media Services, AEDR, DL, faculty, and students. By coming together, the committee was able to establish early in its inception that assistive technologies are enterprise software, and should be included as base images for computers across the College. Students should be able to go to any lab and expect to find the accessibility-related software they need for access.

2008 self-study

In 2008 the College initiated a second large scale self-study. Like the 1993 report, this process included a review of both policy/procedure and facilities to determine the degree to which we were ensuring access to programs as a whole. This report included many recommendations that echoed those of the 1993 Needs Assessment.

2011 “To Care and Comply”

In 2011 Distance Education worked with college leaders to create and disseminate a video called “To Care and Comply” that confirmed the commitment of PCC to ensuring digital accessibility. At the same time, a new position was created to specifically address accessibility of online courses. A guiding team of stakeholders from across the College worked to draft an implementation plan that would move from reactive accommodation-based responses to proactive accessible course design.

2012 GOALS study and Web Accessibility Task Force

In 2012 the College participated in a federally funded national effort called GOALS (Gaining Online Accessible Learning through Self-Study) and established an initial report benchmarked against other participating institutions that included recommendations to improve capacity. One result of this effort was the formation of a Web Accessibility Task Force. That group met for over a year to develop a proposed policy and plan. Without a reporting structure, the task force was unable to move forward, so a recommendation was made to establish the task force as a working body within a broader council.

Between 2012 and 2015 both Disability Services and Distance Education worked to increase access to training and technical support, adding roles and refining approaches to improve engagement of the College community with accessibility resources. Distance Education implemented accessibility testing of third-party tools and platforms, establishing a repository of results and contact information. In addition, the course review process was enhanced and expanded. In 2015, with the creation of the Accessibility Council, the former task force became the Accessible Digital Environment Committee with expanded membership to ensure roles from key areas were represented.

2014 accessible building feature maps developed

In 2014, the accessible building features maps were created through a partnership between Disability Services, FMS, Web Team, and the Architectural Design and Drafting program. The maps represent an important element in the College’s good faith effort to ensure ease of navigation through our built environment, especially when there is construction or other impacts to the path of travel.

2015-2016 Accessibility Committee restructuring

In Fall 2015, the former ADA Committee was restructured to form the Portland Community College Accessibility Council, with a steering committee that met quarterly as well as committees for the built and digital environments. A third committee, the Committee for Accessible College Culture was established in 2016. The restructuring aimed to increase the level of organization, stakeholder involvement, and shared responsibility.

2017 PCC owner standards for accessibility

Another important element in the overall approach to ensuring accessibility was established in 2010 with the development of PCC’s owner standards. The ADA Committee, in collaboration with FMS, established the first PCC owner standards regarding accessibility in 2010. ABEC updated the standards in 2017, which state, “Portland Community College strongly supports the vision that educational and employment opportunities must be accessible to all persons regardless of ability. The College expects that all new and remodeled projects will meet the most current codes regarding accessibility as defined in the latest edition of the State of Oregon Building Codes, and by the Department of Justice accessibility standards as outlined in the ADA Standards. In addition to meeting minimum code standards, the College expects that other upgrades will be included with the goal of reaching Universal Design.”

2018 – Accessible Technology Policy was adopted

In July of 2018, the Accessible Technology Policy was formally adopted by the college, after several years of effort by the Accessible Digital Environment Committee (ADEC) to draft and gather stakeholder input. The policy requires PCC Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be accessible to and usable by the college community, including people with disabilities.

2019 – current strategic planning and funding of the Comprehensive Transition Plan

In August of 2019, PCC embarked on a new strategic planning process to prepare Portland Community College for the future of higher education. The goals of the strategic plan centered around the need to address both the long-term impacts of the pandemic on academic life and the need to adapt to future enrollment and demographic shifts. The strategic plan was driven by a commitment to equitable student success, to fulfill the mission of delivering access to quality education in a collaborative culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The plan resulted in the identification of 38 projects, 10 of which were funded using strategic investment funds.

The Comprehensive Transition Plan project, because of its alignment with the vision of PCC’s strategic plan, was one of the 10 projects funded as part of the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.

2022 – the Disability Cultural Alliance was established

The Disability Cultural Alliance was established to promote a welcoming environment for students of disabled experience to build community, find resources, and discuss their access needs.

Points of pride

Accessible technology
  • Our policy was developed proactively (not externally mandated) and our technology reviews authentically operationalize the policy
  • PCC provided training for another institution after they received an OCR violation
  • We provide equipment loans and training (national presentation)
  • PCC has created Braille and tactile graphics for other colleges and universities including Reed, PSU, SOU, and RCC, and has produced tactile maps for the Portland Zoo. Learn more about our tactile maps and wayfinding initiatives.
Accessible built environment
  • Our accessible building features maps demonstrate how collaboration and innovation can improve access
  • Our facilities standards for furniture won a national data exemplar first-place award
  • Our podium upgrade project addresses a tricky area of long-standing non-compliance
  • Created an accessibility-focused project manager position within P&CC to increase collaboration and engagement with accessible design in our built environment
user graduate
Student experience
  • PCC provides comprehensive services to students through our Accessible Education & Disability Resources department, which received a program review national exemplar designation
  • Our Learning Evaluation Access Project (LEAP) helps address gaps for students who need assistance in obtaining disability documentation
  • PCC has created student advocate positions to inform practice with student voices and promote disability culture.

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Current PCC policies, procedures, and guidelines related to disability and accessibility

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Background and methodology

Guiding principles of the Comprehensive Transition Plan
“Nothing About Us Without Us”

The development of the Comprehensive Transition Plan and its priorities embody the values of the slogan, “Nothing About Us Without Us,” first used by the disability rights movement in the 1990s. The slogan is a call for people with disabilities to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives. It is a reminder that people with disabilities have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and that they should have a voice in all matters that affect them.

Proactive accessibility

By proactively removing known barriers and designing environments and services with accessibility in mind, we can provide a more equitable experience for our students and employees.

From a legal perspective, higher education institutions cannot rely upon accommodation as the primary mechanism for ensuring equal access. This is clear from guidance via compliance reviews, civil rights violation investigations, as well as guidance from professional associations and the Council for the Advancement of Standards. The best way to meet our compliance responsibilities and to provide equity is by making a good-faith effort to mitigate barriers proactively and ensure our policies, procedures, trainings, and evaluations are designed with accessibility in mind from the start.

Universal Design

PCC recognizes disability as a valued aspect of diversity and embraces access as a matter of social justice, and works to promote Universal Design and inclusive environments. Universal Design is the design of spaces, services, and programs that are accessible to people of all backgrounds, ages, abilities, and body sizes. It is based on the idea that everyone should be able to participate in society and enjoy the same opportunities, regardless of their abilities.

The concept of Universal Design was first developed by architect Ronald Mace in the 1980s. Mace was a pioneer in the field of accessible design. He believed that Universal Design was the key to creating a more inclusive and accessible world. Mace’s work has had a profound impact on the way we design products and environments. His principles of Universal Design are now applied in multiple domains, including the built environment, digital environment, curriculum and instruction, and in programs and policies.

It is important to note that Universal Design is not just about accommodating people with disabilities. It is more than meeting our compliance requirements, it is creating environments and services that are accessible to the widest possible audience. When we design our spaces, curriculum, programs, services, and activities for the widest possible range of users, we are more inclusive, more efficient, and more equitable.

Intersectionality, Critical Race Theory (CRT), and racial equity analysis

It is critical to consider the intersectionality of multiple identities with disability, so we can prioritize barrier removal and accessibility improvements that make PCC more inclusive and accessible for all members of our community. We believe it is important to acknowledge that accessibility barriers related to disability often interact and compound with other diverse identities, creating unique challenges.

The PCC Board of Directors has established a commitment to racial equity in the review and development of our policies, programs, and procedures. The Comprehensive Transition Plan will embrace the Board’s commitment by utilizing intersectionality frameworks, including Critical Race Theory, in our data collection, community engagement, and in the development of plan priorities.

Disability at PCC: statistics


PCC does not currently include disability as an aspect of identity when tracking outcomes for marginalized populations at the institutional level, however, disability does represent a large and diverse minority at our college. In the 2020-2021 academic year, Accessible Ed & Disability Resources (AEDR) served 1 in 18 PCC students [AEDR (n=2,375), overall PCC population (n=45,087)].

When students are connected formally with the AEDR team, because they initiate the accommodation request process, outcomes and experiences can be measured. It is important to keep in mind that the number of students formally connected is only a subset of the total number of students with disabilities at PCC. The following report provides more specific details and comparisons for benchmark courses, GPA, retention, and racial demographics.

  • The total number of employee accommodation requests and inquiries increased by 186.84% between 2020 and 2022.
  • Pre-pandemic, furniture was the most commonly requested accommodation.
  • Requests to work remotely were the largest category of accommodation requested in 2021 and 2022.
Institutional data (including students, faculty, and staff)

Institutional data generated by AEDR as well as campus climate surveys have told us that those with disabilities at PCC:

  • report higher rates of discrimination and lower rates of satisfaction for both than the general population.
  • (students) achieve higher rates of course completion and retention when working with AEDR.
  • formally document their status as a person with a disability by requesting accommodations at relatively low rates.

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Built environment

The Plan will identify and prioritize the removal of accessibility barriers within the built environment. The built environment consists of physical elements such as parking spaces, transportation stops, paths of travel (sidewalks), building entrances, restrooms, classrooms, department offices, and physical locations that provide services.

Digital environment

The Plan will identify and prioritize the removal of accessibility barriers within the digital environment. The digital environment consists of:

  • PCC websites
  • Digital and electronic applications and services used to conduct business.
  • Instructional content, including digital and electronic instructional materials, tools, and resources from any source for fully online, hybrid, and classroom-based courses.
Program access

The Plan will identify and prioritize the removal of accessibility barriers that limit full and equal participation in all programs, goods, services, and accommodations at PCC. This includes:

  • a review of patterns of discrimination or bias
  • a review of college-wide policies/procedures
  • an evaluation of all aspects of the student and employee journey at PCC to determine priority areas for improvement
  • a review of communication access at PCC to ensure we are meeting our effective communication requirements under the ADA

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