Applying to and beginning college is a challenging experience for anyone. And it can be that much more challenging if a person has a disability. As is often the case, though, knowledge can be a very powerful tool. Here is some information that you can share with your students who are hoping to continue their education in college:
- It is important to be aware of the responsibilities of the college in which you choose to enroll. A college cannot ask a prospective student about their disability before they enroll and cannot take into account that disability during the admission process. As an applicant, you can request changes in admission requirements related to the standardized entrance examinations (SAT, GRE, etc.) if you can provide documentation from a qualified professional who evaluates and verifies the existence of a disability.
- There are a variety of college level programs that welcome individuals with more significant needs that have the desire to attend a college type program. Even those these programs do not provide college degrees, these programs seek to educate individuals who are looking to increase their work skills to enter the world of work.
- Once you are admitted, the college does not have a legal obligation to identify students with disabilities. Students with disabilities must take it upon themselves to get the accommodations they need to succeed.
- Every college has a different system in place to accommodate students with disabilities. And students are well advised to learn about these different systems before enrolling in a college. Some colleges offer only minimum services known as “generic” services that are available to all students with disabilities, while others offer much more comprehensive approaches that include full-time disability program coordinators. The kind and amount of services a college offers can potentially be a deciding factor when a student chooses which college to attend. Whatever the system, though, be aware that colleges cannot charge additional fees to students for providing accommodations.
- Colleges can and must provide students with accommodations. Unlike high school, though, where students are ENTITLED to whatever accommodations are found necessary in their IEP, college students who are ELIGIBLE to receive accommodations can find their requests refused. Colleges can say “No,” to any request if they can show that the accommodations would be an undue financial burden; would fundamentally alter their academic program; or if the accommodation is of a personal, physical nature.
- Individuals might want to think about an integration plan of the strategies and assistive technology tools that gave greater access to the curriculum during the high school years. This preparation will help the student learn and stay on pace with his fellow students.