Accessibility Resources For Parents
Working together, we can put students first and ensure they all have the best opportunity for success. Our office provides accommodations to UC students.
We watch our kids go through enormous changes and look forward to new changes. Those first steps, their first words, reading, learning to drive, and dating, everything seems to change almost overnight.
Soon a major life change is about to take place. Your young adult is starting college. Everything may seem completely unfamiliar, both terrifying and wonderful all at once.
Once your child turns 18 years old, he is legally an adult, responsible for his own actions and decisions--and free to make them. As he leaves secondary school to enter a career in higher education, fundamental changes occur with respect to his education as a person with a disability. Any child who attends public schools has, for the most part, a legal entitlement to an education, regardless of a disability. But they are children, and as such warrant care and guidance and sometimes are separated from their peers for special attention if needed.
In higher education, your student has a civil right to have access to his education. The fundamental principle at work is the assumption of integration and that the individual student is responsible for herself and is not the responsibility of the institution. It's a distinction that can make all the difference.
We hope this handbook will help you to better understand some of these distinctions and provide tips on how best to support your new college student on this exciting new road.
Interpreting Federal Law
How has my role as a parent changed?
At the post-secondary level, your student continues to transition into adulthood. You give your support in a slightly different fashion. Your role shifts to the subtle hand of guidance when it comes to the process involved in your student's education.
Encourage her to take responsibility for academic concerns and limitations. Both of you should acknowledge the disability and the challenges that stem from it. This will allow her to identify areas in which she should consider accommodations to level the playing field. It will also make it easier to convey her requests for accommodations to instructors, other students, and anyone from whom they may seek assistance.
Encourage your student to register with Accessibility Resources (AR) where she will be coached on how to obtain reasonable accommodations.
College can be the first testing ground where your new student will and must be her own advocate. Expect her to develop her independence further through making the suitable arrangements to ensure success in her classes.
What is the difference between entitled to education and right to equal access to education?
Unlike elementary and secondary schools, post-secondary education offers access rather than entitlement to academic programs. Most parents of a child with a disability at some time learn something about the laws that govern their child's education in the public schools. In 1975, Congress passed the
Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This act, commonly known as Public Law 94- 142, provided that any child with a disability was "entitled to a free and appropriate education" in public school systems.
That law, along with its numerous re- authorizations, reflects the nation's commitment to educating all its children, whether they have disabilities or not.
Fundamentally, 94-142 and its successors (including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990 and IDEA Improvement Act of 1997) said that public schools, with your input and appropriate assessments, would determine what was most appropriate for your child's education. Then they were required to provide that education.
As a parent, you may wish it had been that easy all along, and perhaps it was. Now, however, your child has reached his majority under the law, and the rules of the game have changed. The principles of 94-142 and IDEA, including the required IEP (Individualized Education Program), no longer apply. Note: 504 Plans, under which many students are now served in high schools, are no longer valid either.
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Modeled on section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, ADA is a civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability as long as the person is otherwise qualified. In the case of publicly funded colleges and universities, ADA affirms the right of a student with a disability to a level playing field.
That means that a college or a university must ensure access to all students who are otherwise qualified. Access means much
more than ramps and elevators and wide parking spaces. It also means access to information and to technology. Therefore, colleges and universities must make reasonable accommodations for your student's disability, in order that he may be able to demonstrate his ability.
However, civil rights laws and the reasonable accommodations they call for are in no way intended nor are they able to guarantee success. At most, a student can expect an equal chance to do the same work as his peers.
In higher education the individual with a disability bears the burden of proof. Unlike public schools, there are no requirements for providing evaluation of individuals with disabilities. The person with a disability must provide the evidence himself. In public schools, whether under IDEA or Section 504, the school is responsible for adequate and regular assessments. This is no longer the case once a student leaves high school and attends a college or university.
A 504 Plan from a high school -- or for that matter, an IEP -- is in no way binding upon any institution or entity outside of the school in which it was developed. There are no requirements for any plan under Section 504 or the ADA with respect to higher education, employment, or other areas of public life.
Thus there are no more meetings each year with counselors, teachers, etc. There is nothing to sign.
"Free and Appropriate Education" (FAPE), first put forth in law under special education legislation in 1975, no longer applies. Though it is still referenced as a requirement for high school under regulations governing Section
504, there are no such references with respect to higher education in any federal regulations for either Section 504 or the ADA. Rather, higher education carries with it necessary costs, and students with disabilities must pay the same as their non-disabled peers. In higher education then, FAPE is not regarded as a part of 504's nondiscrimination prohibitions. In all areas outside of public schools, nondiscrimination is accomplished by means of barrier removal, including "reasonable accommodations.”
(Note: Accommodations may not carry with them an additional charge of any kind, however.)
The term "otherwise qualified individual with a disability" carries a different connotation and subsequently greater weight and responsibility on the part of the individual than may have been the case in high school and certainly elementary school. It means that students must meet academic standards. In public schools, this refers only to the age of the individual as being appropriate for elementary or high school. In higher education, it ultimately refers to a student's academic proficiency and ability to demonstrate learning.
Integration is the order of the day. Terms such as "placement" and "least restrictive environment" are no longer valid. Placement in an environment which is restrictive or protective in any way would be a violation of an individual's civil rights and counter to the spirit of Section 504 and the ADA.
Some services provided to high school students under Section 504 may not be provided in higher education because they in fact reduce the academic standards.
Shortening assignments, for example, is viewed as compromising academic standards and therefore is not "reasonable" to request in college.
In higher education, therefore, students with disabilities must possess higher-level skills in all aspects of learning -- skills and strategies commensurate with the academic expectations in higher education and, later, professional careers. These necessitate more sophisticated strategies in many cases. Reasonable accommodations can create a level playing field, but once achieved, the student must then demonstrate her skills and knowledge adequately.
We are providing the following instructional steps on creating accessible content. Accessible content is more usable and beneficial to all students.
Below are quick tips from the National Center on Disability and Access to Education. These will give you quick steps in creating accessible documents.
Pamela Goines - Director
John Kraimer - Program Director
Muntz Hall • Room 112L
(Far right corner of computer concourse)
Hours: Mon-Fri 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Phone: (513) 792-8625