Today, more high school students with disabilities are planning to continue their education in postsecondary schools. Getting to college involves considerable preparation and planning. As a student with a disability, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities as well as the responsibilities postsecondary schools have toward you. The following questions and answers will improve your opportunity to succeed as you enter postsecondary education.
1. Are there differences in my rights as a student with a disability between high school and college?
Yes. The legal mandates prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities affect the secondary and postsecondary educational systems differently. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) directs secondary schools to identify, evaluate, and serve students at no cost to the family.
In contrast, postsecondary schools are under no obligation to seek out students with disabilities and offer support. Students must self identify, provide appropriate documentation of a disability, and request specific accommodations each semester. The following table outlines the legal differences between high school and college.
2. Can I receive accommodations on college entrance examinations?
Yes. Pre-college examination (PSAT, SAT, ACT, etc.) scores are important for acceptance into college. Talk with your school counselor about disability-related test accommodations. Appropriate accommodations can assist you in demonstrating your full knowledge and abilities.
3. May a postsecondary school deny my admission because I have a disability?
No. Postsecondary institutions may not ask about disability on the admissions application. Call or visit the web site of the institutions you hope to attend and learn about the entrance requirements. Should you be denied admission and believe your disability impacted your GPA, test scores, or other entrance requirements, ask the institution about admission appeal procedures. You may be able to provide the admissions office with specifics on how your disability impacted your performance.
4. Do I have to inform a postsecondary school that I have a disability?
No. Disclosure of a disability is always voluntary. However, if you want to use academic accommodations, you must provide documentation of your disability to the appropriate school office.
5. What academic adjustments must a postsecondary school provide?
To be successful in college, many students with disabilities find it necessary to utilize assistance from the campus disability services office. Reasonable academic accommodations are determined based on your disability documentation and individual needs. Accommodations may include a reduced course load, note takers, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, and alternative text. Assistive technology such as screen readers, voice recognition or other adaptive software or hardware may also be available to assist students in completing school work.
It is important to note that postsecondary schools are not required to provide accommodations that fundamentally alter the essential nature of a program or would result in undue financial burdens. Additionally, postsecondary schools do not have to provide services of a personal nature like personal attendants, readers for personal use or study, or services such as tutoring and typing.
6. How do I request academic accommodations?
You first must inform the school’s disability services office that you have a disability and need an academic adjustment. Your postsecondary school will require you to provide documentation of your disability and follow procedures to request an academic adjustment. Postsecondary schools generally include information on the procedures and contacts for requesting an academic adjustment in brochures, handbooks, or on the web site.
7. What documentation should I provide?
Each postsecondary school sets its own standards for documentation. Most require current documentation (within 3 years) prepared by an appropriate professional, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or another qualified diagnostician. The documentation should include a diagnosis of your current disability; the date of the diagnosis; how the diagnosis was reached; the credentials of the professional; and how the disability affects your academic performance. The documentation should provide enough information for you and your school to determine appropriate academic adjustments. The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia has established specific documentation standards for USG institutions.
The Individualized Education Program (IEP), Section 504 plan, or Summary of Performance (SOP) developed by your high school is not sufficient documentation for postsecondary schools. If your documentation does not meet the postsecondary school’s requirements, ask a school official to tell you what additional documentation you need. Note, you may need a new evaluation in order to qualify for academic adjustments.
8. Who has to pay for a new evaluation?
Postsecondary schools are not required to conduct or pay for a new disability evaluation. This may mean that you have to pay an appropriate professional for an evaluation. Regents’ Centers for Learning Disorders offer a comprehensive evaluation that meets the Board of Regents standards for $500. Students must be either a high school senior transitioning to college or a college student. You may also qualify for an evaluation at no cost to you through your state vocational rehabilitation agency. You may locate your state vocational rehabilitation agency through the Department of Education Web page
9. What if the academic accommodation is not working?
Let the disability office know that the accommodation is not working as you expected. Do not wait for the course to finish. It may be too late to correct the problem. You and your contact in the disability services office should work together to resolve any problems.
10. May a postsecondary school charge me for providing an academic adjustment?
No. Furthermore, it may not charge students with disabilities more for participating in its programs or activities than it charges students who do not have disabilities.
11. What can I do to be better prepared for the college experience?
- Understand your learning style and how you best process information and apply this to your studying. Develop effective strategies for note taking, reading texts, and test-taking. If your study skills are weak, ask your counselor for the resources available to you.
- Computer and network resources are essential in college. Colleges expect students to be able to use word processing, email, Internet, and other programs on a regular basis. By using computer technology for such tasks as reading and writing, communication, and searching the Internet, students with disabilities are capable of handling a wider range of activities independently. Take advantage of opportunities in high school to learn and use not only computer technologies but assistive technology. Students with disabilities often face barriers to using computing resources. Special programs and hardware such as speech to text, word prediction, keyboards, pointers, and screen magnifiers can assist students in using computing technology.
- In college, you are responsible for requesting accommodations, speaking to faculty, and seeking out resources. You must be able to understand your needs and be able to advocate for yourself in order to be successful in your academic pursuits. Students with disabilities who understand their rights and responsibilities are much better equipped to succeed in postsecondary school. Rely on the support of family, friends and fellow students, including those with disabilities. Know your abilities and make the most of them, and believe in yourself.