Naturally, intentional discrimination and pointless segregation of people with disabilities is prohibited. However, unwarranted exclusion can result from policies or practices that, while not blatantly discriminatory, ultimately have the same effect.
A public entity has the right to establish legitimate safety standards or eligibility criteria that are reasonable or necessary for the operation of its programs. For example, it makes sense that a county recreation department requires everyone who wants to go on a white-water rafting trip to pass a basic swimming test; individuals with disabilities can be required to pass the swimming test, too. However, the county can not simply deny an individual with an obvious disability the opportunity to even take the swimming test because of an assumption that the individual will not be able to pass it. Neither can the county require the individual to pass a more rigorous test than other participants, or place conditions or limitations on the individual’s participation that it does not place on others.
Additionally, public entities must make reasonable modifications to neutral policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to ensure equal opportunities for an individual with a disability. Making modifications is not the same as eliminating a rule for everyone; modifications are made on an individualized basis.
For example, if a state offers a health screening program and typically requires that individuals personally fill out and sign an information and consent form, the program staff may need to provide assistance to an individual with an intellectual disability, or allow a caregiver or companion to assist the individual, to complete the form. The program employees do not need to eliminate or alter their typical practice in general, only in specific instances where it may be appropriate and reasonable.