This is Part 1 of a three-part blog series on the process for students with disabilities to access reasonable accommodations in college.
Now that your high school senior has graduated or is about the graduate, in a few weeks they will need to prepare to enroll at their chosen college. This is an exciting time, and there is so much to consider. But in addition to thinking about dorm life, deciding on class schedules, and anticipating clubs and sports, students with disabilities should also consider reaching out to their college and begin to arrange for any accommodations that they may need before the school year begins.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that schools develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students, but only applies through high school. Post-secondary schools adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. College students do not get IEPs; they must advocate for their needs and request accommodations through their college's disabilities services program.
Reaching out for accommodations early is important for your student's success. A report issued in April 2022 by the National Association of Education Statistics showed that upwards of 65% of college undergrads who had a disability in high school did not report having a disability when they reached college. Only about 13% of college students report having a disability to their college. But among those students who report at 4-year colleges, 85% receive accommodations; at 2-year colleges it is 57%. Reporting a disability to your college and arranging for accommodations is important. According to the study, students who reported their disability were more likely to seek help and utilize academic support compared to those who did not report. Use of Supports Among Students With Disabilities and Special Needs in College.
If your student was a qualified student with a disability in high school, you should encourage them to inquire early with their new college's disability services office to report their disability and request any necessary accommodations. They may not get the identical accommodations that they had in high school, but they should qualify for an accommodation to address their disability.
Many students do not report their disability. Those students have expressed concern that:
· They do not want to be different from their peers
· Having accommodations in college puts them at an "unfair advantage"
· They do not want to be labeled as someone with a disability
· They feel overwhelmed at the thought of setting up the accommodations
If this is what your student is thinking, remind them that accommodations were created to level the playing field for students with disabilities, and put them on equal footing with their peers. See College and University Accommodations for ADHD Students (verywellmind.com). To help ensure your student's success in college, encourage them to engage with the student disabilities office and begin the process of requesting reasonable accommodations early so that they start the school year well-situated.
In our next blog we offer insights on the process for requesting reasonable accommodations at college and common academic accommodations provided to college students.