One of the first things I figured out after I graduated from high school and went to college was that college has a lot more responsibilities and work than high school. In high school, you may have had a whole posse (group of people to support you) behind you, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, etc. In college, you are on your own to find the help you need, even if you do not know what that need is yet. The following is a tip sheet to assist you in your quest for higher education.
You should always be able to have the accommodations you need in school for your disability or health care needs. Sometimes it just takes some extra effort to get what you need. Just because you have a disability it doesn’t mean you can’t do as well as the other kids in school, you have the same rights to succeed. By law every school has a process [a set way] for you to talk to teachers and others about what you need. Sometimes this plan or process is called an Individual Education Plan [IEP], a 504 plan, or sometimes something else.
Step 1: Evaluate what you need
Sit down with your parents and decide what accommodations you need based on your disability. For example, extra time on tests, a note taker, or two sets of books. Only pick accommodations that are necessary for your disability. For example, I knew I didn’t need a program on my computer that read my book to me, so I didn’t ask for it. People with different disabilities need different things.
Traditionally students with disabilities could enroll in any educational institution (community college, junior college, four year college/university), trade school or technical institute that would accept them. Recently, Texas passed legislation (Texas Success Initiative – TSI) designed to help postsecondary institutions determine, if a student is ready for college level coursework.
Unfortunately, Community Resource Coordination Groups (CRCG) are an asset that many parents, state agency staff and the general public are not aware of. A CRCG can provide help and support to many individuals with disabilities and their families while also supporting the efforts of professionals.
Accommodations at the postsecondary level (after you exit high school) are provided only when a student discloses his or her disability and requests reasonable accommodations.
It is not essential to divulge specific personal information about your disability. What is most important and helpful is to provide information about:
- how your disability affects your capacity to learn and study effectively
- the environment, supports, and services you’ll need in order to access, participate in, and excel in your area of study
YOU decide what and how much information is necessary to reveal in order to obtain the needed accommodations. Keep the disclosure conversation focused on your abilities, not on your disability.
Who do I talk to?
Most universities, community colleges and vocational schools have a disability office or coordinator who provides support services to students with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act both provide protections for students with disabilities at the postsecondary level.
When do I disclose?
If you expect to have accommodations in place at the beginning of the semester, then you will need to talk to the Disability Office either prior to enrollment, or at the time of enrollment. If you decide to wait until classes begin, you may not immediately receive the needed accommodations. YOU decide when and if you want to disclose.
Adapted from National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth. (2005). The 411 on Disability Disclosure Workbook. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership.