10 Things Students With Disabilities Should Know About When Going To College

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10 Things Students With Disabilities Should Know About When Going To College

These days, there are a growing number of high school graduates attending traditional two-year and four-year colleges, including students with disabilities. As industries grow and evolve, academic and vocational & technical career institutions must keep up with the evolving needs of a dynamic professional landscape. Likewise, their classrooms must stay current in their expansions to accommodate all, including students with disabilities, to ensure that everyone’s access to the college environment has as few obstacles as possible.

Because the rules are different at the postsecondary level, here is a list of ten basic items to help you be successful in your upcoming semester:

1. Different Legal Worlds: High School Versus College

While a high school district must provide a free appropriate public education, your postsecondary school does not have to provide a FAPE, nor follow an individual educational plan (IEP). They must provide appropriate academic adjustments so that they do not discriminate based on disability. Housing that is convenient, comparable to nondisabled student housing, and accessible must be provided at no extra cost.

2. It’s Too Early To Self-Identify

Admissions at postsecondary institutions cannot discriminate based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability, if you meet the initial admission requirements.

3. When Do I Disclose My Disability To The Postsecondary Institution?

Unlike high school, it’s your personal choice. You do not have to volunteer that information if you do not need accommodations from the post-secondary institution. If you need accommodations, you may disclose your disability at any point to the appropriate office.

4. Documentation For Accommodations

Most postsecondary institutions require a diagnosis of your current disability no older than three years. Check with disability services at your prospective institution in advance as to the documents they need and will accept for their intake process.

5. Who Pays For Diagnostic Testing?

Neither your high school nor your post-secondary school is required to conduct or pay for a new evaluation to document your disability and need for an academic adjustment.  You may, therefore, have to pay or find funding to pay an appropriate professional for an evaluation.  If you are eligible for services through your state Vocational Rehabilitation Agency, you may qualify for an evaluation at no cost to you.  Locate your nearest Vocational Rehabilitation Agency office.

6. Requesting Accommodations

Requesting appropriate accommodations is based on your disability and the effects your disability has on you in the classroom and in the dorm room where you will be living. The academic accommodations can vary from interpreters, note takers, extended time on tests, and/ or videophones in the dorms, but what they cannot do is provide an unfair advantage, for example lowering the expectations of the student with a disability compared to the overall class.

7. Accommodations Process

Once you have requested your accommodations, most schools send a letter identifying what your accommodations are to your professors, or to you to provide to your professors. Please note, you are not to be charged for any classroom accommodations, nor are students with disabilities to pay more for a program or a student activity over other students.

8. Who Has The Upper Hand Now?

At the postsecondary level, the law protects the students. No information will be released to the parents, unless permission is given from the students.

9. Help! My Accommodation Is Not Working!

As soon as you realize that some or all of your accommodations are not meeting your needs, let the appropriate office know at your school. It will be too late for them to do the necessary adjustments once the semester is over, but if you let them know after the first test, they may adjust as your semester continues.

10. How Do I File A Complaint?

Report to your schools ADA coordinator, or disability services coordinator, who assisted you to arrange your accommodations for your courses. If that does not work and you still have a case open with your vocational rehab counselor you may contact them, if you have one. Finally, contact the Disability Law Center of Virginia.  Advocates are on-duty Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm. Call 1-800-552-3962 (toll-free) or 804-225-2042 to request assistance OR complete the Online Request for dLCV Services.  If you don’t speak English, we have access to a “language line” that helps us communicate with you in your own language.