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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Southeastern Community College
Frances Davis
(argued the cause for the petitioners)
(argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Frances Davis sought admission to the nursing program at Southeastern Community College, which received federal funds. Davis also suffered from a hearing disability, and was unable to understand speech without lip-reading. Davis' application was denied. She asked for reconsideration, and her application was again denied. Davis filed suit in United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which ruled against her. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned that decision.


Did Southeastern Community College violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in denying Davis admission to its nursing program?

Decision: 9 votes for Southeastern Community College, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Rehabilitation

No. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote for a unanimous court that an "otherwise qualified handicapped individual" specified by the Act meant one who meets all the program's requirements "in spite of his handicap" as opposed to "in every respect except as to limitations imposed by their handicap." Even with an improved hearing aid, Davis still required lip-reading to understand speech, and therefore was not "otherwise qualified." Since Davis could not be admitted to Southeastern's program without substantial changes to admission requirements, Davis' rejection did not constitute unlawful discrimination.

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SOUTHEASTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE v. DAVIS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
SOUTHEASTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE v. DAVIS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"SOUTHEASTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE v. DAVIS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,