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Should Your Teen Give Up Disability Accommodations in College?

Updated on June 19, 2013

The transition from high school to college is difficult for every student, and perhaps more so for students with disabilities. If your child had accommodations in high school, the transition to post secondary education is the perfect time to evaluate those accommodations, and decide what, if any, accommodations he or she will pursue in his or her new school.

There are several laws that forbid colleges and universities that receive direct or indirect federal funding to discriminate against students with disabilities;

  • the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (amended in 2008),
  • and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

If your son or daughter is "qualified," or meets all of the regular requirements for admission, he or she must be accepted regardless of his or her disability. When given the proper documentation of his her or her disability, the school is also obligated to provide "reasonable modifications."

If your son or daughter feels that he or she would benefit from accommodations similar, or different, from accommodations he or she received in high school, than he or she should take advantage of these accommodations in college. However, it becomes the STUDENT's responsibility, not his or her parent's, to self-advocate.

Administrators in higher education are generally put off and annoyed by phone calls from parents. Please understand that it is your place to encourage your child to

  • initiate contact with an disability services administrator,
  • find the necessary documentation of his or her disability,
  • and provide support.

The most important thing that a college student learns during his or her four years is to make his or her own decisions, and speak for his or herself. It would be a shame to deprive your child of this vital skill.


Reasonable Accommodation

The following information is taken from "The Rights of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education."

Every federally funded college or university is required to make reasonable modifications to

  • practices,
  • policies,
  • procedures,

and provide auxiliary aids and services UNLESS it would

  • fundamentally alter the content of goods or services
  • or result in undue financial or administrative burden on the institution.

Accommodations are unique to every student, and each accommodation is decided on a case by case basis.

Examples of Reasonable Accommodations

  • testing modifications,
  • a reduced course load,
  • housing modifications,
  • a note taker,
  • course material in modified formats (i.e. braille, or audio textbooks),
  • and early registration for classes.

Test Accommodations

Many students with learning disabilities require special testing accommodations, as well as students who find it difficult to write, to concentrate, or who have anxiety.

Here are some examples of testing accommodations for students with disabilities:

  • extended time on test,
  • special test location (often a quiet room with no distractions),
  • altered format (the same information may be read out loud to the students, or written out in braille, or in large print),
  • a scribe to write the student's response.

Notice that the content of the test is never altered in any of these accommodations.

Pursuing Accommodations in Higher Education

Essentially every college has a department of Disability Services or something similar, but they are often small and underfunded. If it is unclear who to talk to, your child should consult the Dean, or an academic advisor. Your child will most likely need current documentation regarding his or her disability, often in the form of a letter from a medical professional before accommodations can be approved.

Even once accommodations are established it is important that your child continues to self advocate from semester to semester, and class to class.


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