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Blog #27: What To Expect When Requesting Accommodations in College

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

The reasonable accommodations process and common academic accommodations in college


This is Part 2 of a three-part blog series on the process for students with disabilities to access reasonable accommodations in college.


Transitioning from high school to college can be exciting and challenging for students and parents. For students with disabilities, it is important to arrange for the accommodations they need to ensure that they have equal access and opportunity while attending college. Unlike in high school, colleges do not prepare Individualized Educational Plans. Instead, students must initiate the accommodations process with their college’s disability services office. This office will determine whether your student is eligible for services and, if so, will coordinate appropriate reasonable accommodations and services, including academic accommodations, based on the student’s documentation and in consultation with your student, professors, and other professionals at the college.


If your student has a disability, they should begin early to arrange any necessary accommodations. Since your student is new to the college, and the college may not have prior knowledge of your student’s disability, your student will need to follow a process for requesting accommodations. Here is what to expect in the process.


· Paperwork: The college will have a form that your student must fill out describing their disability and the proposed accommodation. Be sure to fill this out fully and completely and clarify any questions that you may have about the form.

· Qualified Student With A Disability: Your student will need to demonstrate to the college that they are a “qualified individual with a disability,” which is a person with a disability that limits one or more major life activities. A major life activity relates to body functioning, such as sight, sleep, hearing, talking, physical movement, organ function, and includes conditions that impact a student’s ability to learn, think and work.

· Students With "Invisible Disabilities" Can Qualify For Accommodations: Not all disabilities are visible to an observer. “Invisible disabilities” are physical, mental, or neurological conditions that limit or challenge a student’s movements, senses, or activities, or that can impact their ability to learn. Conditions that affect the ability to learn include, for example, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, and executive functioning disorder. These disabilities can qualify a student for accommodations.

· "Interactive Process": After your student submits their application, the “interactive process” is triggered requiring the college to engage with your student to determine their qualification as a student with a disability and to assess the accommodation request.

· Documentation: The college will likely request documentation of the disability. This is especially the case where the disability is not observable. That documentation will involve:


· Diagnosis of their disability and the date of the diagnosis

· How they received that diagnosis

· The credentials of the diagnosing professional

· Information on how the disability affects the major life activity (including the ability to learn, think and/or work)


Usually, the documentation must be no more than three years old.


After submitting the application, documentation of the disability, and a specific accommodation request, the college may ask to meet with your student to get more information about your student’s needs. After all information is submitted, the college will determine whether your student is a qualified student with a disability and what accommodations the college can provide. A college may respond with an alternative accommodation to that which is requested by your student. If that happens and your student believes that the alternative accommodation will not sufficiently meet their needs, they should follow up with the college to further explore options. But remember, colleges can reject accommodation requests that fundamentally alter their program or creates an undue administrative or financial burden.


Taking into consideration a student’s disability, colleges can offer a range of accommodations. Some common academic accommodations for college students include:


· Exam accommodations: Students may need adjustments to exam procedures to fully demonstrate understanding of the academic material. This can include extended time to complete the exam or breaks that stop the clock for completing the exam. Students who struggle with writing can request a person to write answers or use a computer or other assistive device.

· Extended time: In addition to extended time for exams, students with disabilities mayh also require extended time for essays, research, or other projects.

· Lecture Assistance: Students may struggle with absorbing material delivered in a lecture format. Accommodations may include recording lectures or getting transcripts of lectures.

· Reduced course load: Authorization for a reduced course load permits a student to register for a course load that is less than full-time while still being considered a full- time student. Students authorized for a reduced course load are entitled to the rights, privileges and services of full-time students. They are considered full-time for purposes of financial aid and student accounts.

· Note-taking support: For students unable to effectively take notes in a lecture format, accommodations can include getting notes from another designated student, interpreters for deaf students, or other auxiliary aids.

· Alternative Class Materials/Auxiliary Aids: Students with impaired sensory, manual or speaking skills can seek accommodations for class materials with taped texts/lecture, talking calculators, and other assistive technology.

· Architectural support: Many colleges and universities have handicap-accessible facilities. However, where removing a barrier is "not readily achievable" or the building was constructed before the Americans with Disabilities Act, the college is not required to make the facility accessible. Students with physical limitations may want to visit their prospective college to ensure the college facilities are accessible for them.


Colleges will make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities, but college students must advocate for themselves in order to ensure that their needs stemming from the disability are met. Work on this on the front-end helps ensure that your college student will be positioned to perform effective in class and take advantage of the full range of activities, programs and experiences provided in college.


Check out our next blog for more examples of accommodations that may be provided at college.

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