Q. As a student with a disability leaving high school and entering postsecondary education, will I see differences in my rights and how they are addressed?
A. Yes. Section 504 and Title II protect elementary, secondary, and postsecondary students from discrimination. Nevertheless, several of the requirements that apply through high school are different from the requirements that apply beyond high school. For instance, Section 504 requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability in the district’s jurisdiction. Whatever the disability, a school district must identify an individual’s educational needs and provide any regular or special education and related aids and services necessary to meet those needs as well as it is meeting the needs of students without disabilities.
Unlike your high school, however, your postsecondary school is not required to provide FAPE. Rather, your postsecondary school is required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability. In addition, if your postsecondary school provides housing to nondisabled students, it must provide comparable, convenient, and accessible housing to students with disabilities at the same cost.
Q. May a postsecondary school deny my admission because I have a disability?
A. No. If you meet the essential requirements for admission, a postsecondary school may not deny your admission simply because you have a disability.
Q. What academic adjustments must a postsecondary school provide?
A. The appropriate academic adjustment must be determined based on your disability and individual needs. Academic adjustments may include auxiliary aids and services, as well as modifications to academic requirements as necessary to ensure equal educational opportunity. Examples of adjustments are: arranging for priority registration; reducing a course load; providing note takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, and, if telephones are provided in dorm rooms, a TTY in your dorm room; and equipping school computers with screen-reading, voice recognition, or other adaptive software or hardware.
In providing an academic adjustment, your postsecondary school is not required to lower or substantially modify essential requirements. For example, although your school may be required to provide extended testing time, it is not required to change the substantive content of the test. In addition, your postsecondary school does not have to make adjustments that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program, or activity, or that would result in an undue financial or administrative burden. Finally, your postsecondary school does not have to provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing.
Q. If I want an academic adjustment, what must I do?
A. You must inform the school that you have a disability and need an academic adjustment. Unlike your school district, your postsecondary school is not required to identify you as having a disability or to assess your needs. Your postsecondary school may require you to follow reasonable procedures to request an academic adjustment. You are responsible for knowing and following those procedures. In their publications providing general information, postsecondary schools usually include information on the procedures and contacts for requesting an academic adjustment. Such publications include recruitment materials, catalogs, and student handbooks, and are often available on school websites. Many schools also have staff whose purpose is to assist students with disabilities. If you are unable to locate the procedures, ask a school official, such as an admissions officer or counselor.
Q. When should I request an academic adjustment?
A. Although you may request an academic adjustment from your postsecondary school at any time, you should request it as early as possible. Some academic adjustments may take more time to provide than others. You should follow your school’s procedures to ensure that the school has enough time to review your request and provide an appropriate academic adjustment.
Q. Do I have to prove that I have a disability to obtain an academic adjustment?
A. Generally, yes. Your school will probably require you to provide documentation showing that you have a current disability and need an academic adjustment.
The following Q and A are taking Association on Higher Education and Disability Student-Parent FAQ’s,
Q. Should I tell about my disability on my application to college?
A. You are not required to disclose your disability at any time and the college is prohibited by Federal law from asking you about a disability on the application form. If you believe your disability has had a negative impact on your grades and test scores, and thus, those scores do not truly reflect your ability to do college level work, then it might benefit you to explain that to the admission officer or committee. However, this is a personal decision that you should also discuss with knowledgeable folks such as your parents, school counselors, vocational rehabilitation counselors, or even someone at the college. Often, once a student has been accepted, the college will give incoming students information regarding the office, or offices that provide services for students with disabilities as well as time frames for requesting accommodations. It is, then, up to you to contact the appropriated officials if you feel you will need services.
Q. Are there any scholarships for disabled students?
A. Generally, no, there are no Federally-funded scholarships or loan programs specifically targeted to students with disabilities. However, there may be local or regional scholarships or loan program established by eleemosynary or charitable organizations for which you might be eligible. You should contact the Student Financial Aid Office at the colleges you are considering; they are knowledgeable about the various scholarships and loan programs available and often can give you a list which describes the qualifications and application deadlines required for the various loans and scholarships. If you are not a client of Vocational Rehabilitation, you may wish to apply for services from VR to see if you are eligible and could receive support.
Q. How do I find out what my rights are in college?
A. The college may very well provide you this information in the admission packet. Prior to that, you can go online to Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education’s page: : http://www.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/ocr/disability.html which provides access to the Federal law and regulations as well as some FAQ’s. You may also contact the college’s office for disabled student services which can provide you information on Federal, state, local, and campus regulation that you should know.
Q. Where do I go to get tested for a learning disability or ADD?
A. If you regularly see a family doctor, ask him or her if they can make a referral to someone that can provide you with the appropriate testing. You may also contact the college’s office for disabled student services for a recommendation. You can go online and research possibilities through the Learning Disabilities Association of America, http://www.ldanatl.org/.
Q. My doctor says I should get unlimited time for taking tests. The disability office says I’m allowed time and a half – why?
A. The college has the responsibility under Federal law for ensuring access to their programs and activities by students with disabilities. Often, the office for disabled student services is delegated the authority to make decisions on what is regarded as reasonable adjustments to ensure equal access because they have the knowledge, credentials, and experience to do this. The office often uses medical or other professional documentation provided by the student as a basis for making such decisions but they are not required to follow exactly the recommendations made in the documentation provided. If you feel the decision is not fair or appropriate, you may utilize the college’s appeal process or file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights.
Q. My child has an IEP/504 Plan. Why isn’t that good enough for college?
A. An IEP or 504 Plan addresses your child’s needs in the K-12 educational program. Postsecondary education is a totally different arena. Almost everything about the postsecondary system is different from what you’ve experienced before. This includes how a college may address your child’s needs for accessing its educational program and the information it needs to accomplish this. While the IEP or 504 Plan may provide the disabled student services office with some of what it will need, additional information may be required. This chart gives a general overview of the differences in the various laws between high school and college