• Students with Disabilities Transitioning into Postsecondary Education: A guide for parents and faculty.


    Students with disabilities have been enrolling in postsecondary institutions with increasing frequency. There are many changes that take place in the transition from high school to college for students with disabilities. Thus, it is important that students, parents, and faculty are made aware of these changes. The information below is provided for parents and faculty to help better prepare students with disabilities for higher education.


    The Law

    u  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) no longer applies in postsecondary education.

    u  Postsecondary institutions are subject to The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

    u  ADA and Section 504 mandate that postsecondary institutions provide support services for students with disabilities- but only for those who request them, and as long as they provide the appropriate documentation.



    u  In order to be eligible to receive support services at the college level, students must provide a record or document of impairment.


    u  Some schools require more documentation than others, but institutions typically require the following:

          Clear and recent documentation that identifies an existing disability. This may be documentation prepared by an appropriate professional such as a psychologist, medical doctor, or other qualified diagnostician. Most institutions define “recent” as being documentation completed within the last three years.

          Should be based on psychological and academic data that explain how the diagnosis was reached, and how the disability impacts the student's educational performance.

          Should also include information regarding a student’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.

          Additional information to include when providing documentation may be an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Accommodation Plan if the student has one, as this will help identify appropriate services at the college level that might have been effective for the student in high school.

    u  If the documentation provided by a student does not meet an institution’s requirements, he or she may be requested to obtain updated and relevant documentation. Colleges and universities are not responsible for evaluation costs.


    *Providing sufficient documentation verifies the need for services at the college level while providing information to help decide what academic adjustments are appropriate based upon the student's needs.


    Self-Advocacy and Communication

    u  Research shows that students with disabilities often rely on their parents or teachers to communicate their education needs.

    u  Students must develop the skills necessary to advocate for their unique needs upon entering college.

    u  Students must first develop an awareness of their disability and needs, and then be able to effectively communicate those needs to others on campus that are in the position to help support these needs (ie: faculty, disability office, counseling center, etc.)

    u  In high school, the school and parents directed a student's disability needs, but the student is responsible for directing their own disability needs in college. Specifically, if students wish to have the college provide academic adjustments/accommodations, they must take it upon themselves to initiate a request for accommodations and provide documentation that supports these requests.


    *More responsibility is placed upon the student in order to make sure their needs are being met. It is important that this is discussed with our students.


    Disability Support Services Available in College

    Postsecondary institutions are required by law to provide services for students who identify themselves as having a disability.

    u  Locate the school’s office for disability support services. Information is often available right on the school’s website.

    u  Contact the director/coordinator of services to see what services they have to offer, as well as what documentation is required in order to receive support services.

    u  Typical services might include:

          Test Accommodations (i.e. extended time, alternate location, and alternate formats)

          The use of adaptive equipment and auxiliary aids (i.e. test readers, scribers, books on tape, tape


          Preferential seating

          Academic consultation

          Counseling services

          Tutoring Services (Typically available to all students)


    *The range of support services offered at a school will vary, so it is important to do some research on the school’s website and then make an initial appointment with the director/coordinator of support services to obtain additional information.



    McGuire, J., Madaus, J., Litt, A., & Ramirez, M. (1996). An investigation of documentation submitted by university students to verify their learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(3), 297-304.


    Milsom, A. & Hartley, M. (2005). Assisting students with learning disabilities transitioning to college: What school counselors should know. Professional School Counseling, 8(5), 436-441.


    Students with disabilities preparing for postsecondary education: Know your rights and responsibilities. (2011). Retrieved April 14, 2013, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html


    How the Americans with Disabilities Act might affect your college student. Retrieved April 14, 2013, from http://www.collegeparents.org/members/resources/articles/how-americans-disabilities-act-might-affect-your-college-student