College Information for Students with Disabilities

Posted on 09/10/12 10:45 AM by Amelia

Heading to college is both an exciting and frightening time for all students. This is a time when students cross the threshold from teen to independent adult. One’s success and failures during this time can directly affect his or her future. When a student has a disability, there are additional concerns that must be confronted and addressed. Where parents may have played a large part in a person’s education through high school, the student must take on that responsibility for his or herself while in college. A person with disabilities will have different needs than students without disabilities. Meeting these needs is necessary in order to receive an equal educational experience. To do this, the student must take the right steps before and during his or her time in college.

Know Your Rights

Students with disabilities are protected by certain laws. These laws are meant to ensure that a student is not discriminated against because of his or her disability. It is important that students understand these laws so that they may ensure they are receiving the education that they deserve. One of these laws is section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law states that colleges and universities that receive federal funds must make modifications within reason to their regular procedures in order to accommodate qualified persons with disabilities. Another law that students with disabilities must be aware of is The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s disability, regardless of whether the school receives federal funds or not. This applies to public institutions, however, private institutions with the exception of fully owned religious organizations, must also comply with The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. If a student feels he or she is a victim of discrimination, the disability services office should be contacted. If the school fails to resolve the issue, a complaint may also be filed by the student with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Preparing for College

Prior to college, preparation is fundamental to future success in college. A student must be prepared for the basic differences in study habits, teaching style and atmosphere. In addition, a student must also be ready for the changes that he or she will face as a person with disabilities. The student should take a closer look at his or her disability and how it has affected school performance. Understanding both one’s weaknesses and strengths will help prepare the student to confront them while attending college. Because the student will experience more independence while in college, he or she should be comfortable discussing their disability and any concerns. While in high school, learning how to self-advocate and express one’s needs is crucial.

When choosing a college, families should thoroughly research their options. Most schools have some form of disability services office. This office can help explain how the specific school meets the student’s disability needs. They will also help arrange for special accommodations and services if needed. Touring college campuses and meeting with a member of the disability services office will help determine if the school fits the student’s needs. Students must also provide paperwork that verifies their disability. When taking college placement tests, check to see what disability services are available, such as extended time or special accommodations, and if there are any eligibility requirements that must be met. Prior to starting college, the student must apply for financial assistance if needed. In addition to federal financial aid, students should research options from private sources. Different colleges or universities may also have scholarships available for students with disabilities.

Keys to Success in College

Once in college a student will want to make the right moves to ensure academic success. Working with the college’s disability services office is critical. Another way to do this is to meet with the instructors. This allows the instructor to get to know the student, and helps him or her better understand the student’s disability and what is needed to aid the learning process. It will also give the student insight on each of the instructors, their teaching style, what can be expected of the class, and the opportunity to request special accommodations if necessary. Making use of assistive technology, if needed, is also an important factor in ensuring one’s success while in college. Even after all of the disability needs have been met, the student will still need to adjust to the college lifestyle. Learning and practicing good time management, study, and listening skills are also mandatory for success.

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