Parents want to ensure their kids get the needed help when transitioning to career or vocational programs, community college, or a four-year college. Some parents are not aware that and Individual Development and Education Assessment, in place high school, is not automatically in place for post-secondary programs. Parents and students need to know that the responsibility of advocating for a student's needs shifts to the student.
Entitlement to IDEA rights ends when a student receives a regular high school diploma or reaches age 22. Parents rights under IDEA and Section 504 also end after high school. Workplaces and colleges have no obligation to guarantee rights that were available to high school students. There is no protection under the Individuals with Disabilities Act for colleges to create documents such as Individual Education Programs.
The abilities needed are understanding and communicating needs to others. Successful transition to post-high school life requires knowing how to present information about a disability and seeking needed accommodations. Self-advocates educate the people around them.
A disability influences the approach to learning and determination to succeed. For those reasons, disclosing a disability is important. The number of students in post-secondary educations institutions with disabilities is increasing. More students receive help transitioning to college and other educational programs. To ensure getting needed help, a student needs to request adjustments as early as they can, preferably when admitted. Being proactive ensures a quality education and return on investment without using an IEP.
Title II of the Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act do provide student protections. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents discriminating against someone with a disability in a school setting. Nearly any college a student is interested in has to comply with ADA provisions. There are requirements a student has to meet to qualify.
Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act is civil rights legislation that prevents federally funded organizations from discriminating against individuals with a disability. Nearly all schools, elementary, secondary, and post-secondary receive some federal funding. The funding requires the institutions to be compliant with Section 504. A school that is out of compliance is in danger of losing federal funding. It is an important aspect of the educational law that often is not something an eligible individual knows. It protects students, with disabilities, that have no IDEA coverage.
Understanding how Section 504 protects the rights from a high school to a college setting helps prepare a student for advocacy. Under Section 504 schools have to provide students with disabilities, the opportunity to achieve the same outcome as students without disabilities. Section 504 relates to support and academic accommodations for college. A student has to be a qualified individual to receive the support.
Title IV of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act includes amendments to the 1973 Rehabilitation Act that requires linkages between programs under the Rehabilitation Act and WIA. Title IV ensures the linkage of adult disability services complies with Section 504 requirements. The same anti-discrimination provided under Section 504 is available to WIA protected vocational service recipients with disabilities. An employee has to meet the 504 disability definition and be capable of completing essential job functions with reasonable accommodations.
Every legislative piece has specific eligibility requirements to qualify as a disabled individual. Section 504 requirements are defined as a person having a mental or physical impairment that limits one or multiple major life activities significantly. Activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, working, communication, concentrating, thinking, learning, walking, breathing, speaking, hearing, and seeing. Students, meeting this definition, have protection under Section 504 from discrimination if the school receives federal funding.
High School vs. College Provided Services
High schools identify students with learning disabilities because mandates require the identification and accommodation. Students in high school receive special services and experience success in an atmosphere that is supportive. Students' rights change as they enter college. Guided academic planning benefits are no longer available. The level of personnel support is not the same. It is now the student's responsibility to advocate for support services and accommodations.
While the student is responsible for his or her college academic success, the school has staff responsible for assistance needed by students with disabilities. Having either a disability support services office, an ADA Coordinator, or a 504 Coordinator is a mandated requirement. The coordinators are responsible for coordinating ADA Title II or Section 504 school compliance. Coordinators help in communicating with school faculty and contributing to ensure the student receives any reasonable accommodations necessary. A 504 coordinator has the responsibility of teaching the faculty about legal obligations and reasonable accommodations to ensure the college complies with Section 504. The 504 coordinator also has the responsibility of assisting in the resolution of complaints or issues of perceived discrimination related to a disability.
At the college level, protection is not the same because college is a choice and the education, unlike public education for grades kindergarten to 12th grade, is not free The only mandate for colleges is to have services available. The student makes the institution aware of a disability and asks for accommodations. At the post-secondary level, 'qualified individual' means a student meets the same requirements for admission as a student without a disability. There is no legislative entitlement to the level of academic support received in high school at the post-secondary level.
Individual Education Plans are not automatically transferable to a college setting. Many students mistakenly believe an IEP in high school entitles them to go to college with learning disability services. The legally binding IEP document has no power in a post-secondary setting.
Determining disabled status differs at the post-secondary level than that of high school. Colleges typically require a current assessment before providing accommodations or waiving course requirements. High schools and post-secondary schools have no obligation to pay for an evaluation to document the need for academic adjustment. The student pays or finds funding to pay for an appropriate evaluation. The student is possibly eligible for state vocational agency services. Colleges have their own criteria used in the determination of a student having a disability they are capable of accommodating in their classrooms.
In high school, students have support from parents, administrators, transition specialists, counselors, and teachers. At the post-secondary level, students are responsible for the recognition of academic difficulties related to their disability. The school then has the charge of providing necessary tools for success. Family communication was an integral part of the secondary process. In college, the student is responsible for oneself. Professors have no responsibility to identify a disability. There is no communication with the family, administrators, or school counselors on behalf of a student.
In high school, academic modification and accommodation implementation helps a student overcome difficulties, caused by a disability. There is a distinction between modifications and accommodations. With an accommodation, the meaning of a score is the same for all students. There is no alteration of a learning standard. Changes in a test or assignment that alters the learning rule is a modification. Instruction is not modified at the college level. There is no alteration in the standards of learning. Students with disabilities have the same standards as their peers.
Accommodations provided under Section 504
Accommodations provided under Section 504 that ensure students with disabilities receive equal access to education includes:
- Reduction in course load
- Substitution of courses
- Sign language interpreters, recording devices, and note taker provision
- Extended test taking time
- Priority course registration
- Adaptive hardware and software for computers such as voice reception and screen-reading
- Provision of TTY in dorm rooms, when other rooms have telephones
Accommodations, personal in nature, such as individually prescribed devices, tutors, or personal attendants are not post-secondary requirements.
The federal government has documentation on college transition for students with disabilities. It is a valuable resource. A free ebook is offered by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.