As you prepare to transition from high school life to college life as a student with a disability, it is important to familiarize yourself with the rights of students living with disabilities.
This will help you cope and fit well into the institution you join. Note that you do not have to disclose your condition if you don’t feel that you have to, but notifying the right parties such as the office of students with disabilities, can play a big part in making your college life enjoyable.
This way, the office will make arrangements where necessary to ensure that you have everything you need and that adjustments are made to accommodate you.
WHAT CONSTITUTES DISABILITY?
Under the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act, a person with a disability is:
- One with a mental or physical impairment that to a great extent limits one or more major life activities or;
- Has a record of such an impairment, or;
- Is regarded as having such impairment.
Examples of mental and physical impairments include emotional illness, learning disabilities, and hearing, visual and speech impairments. Some major life activities as described in the Act are walking, learning, working, seeing and breathing.
A. Laws Relating to Students with Disability
There are several laws that take into consideration the welfare of students with disabilities. These laws are there to ensure that schools do not discriminate against this category of students and that schools accord students with disabilities the same privileges that other students enjoy.
Rehabilitation Act 1973 (Section 504)
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forbids discrimination against people living with disabilities, in programs that receive federal financial assistance. It protects individuals with disabilities from unequal treatment and exclusion in schools, jobs, and the community.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
Students attending public colleges are protected by Title II of the ADA act, which prohibits local and state government entities, in this case, public colleges, from discriminating against students with disabilities. Private colleges are covered by Title III, which disallows discrimination by “Private entities that offer certain examinations and courses related to educational and occupational certification”.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act governs the special education process, ensuring that all students living with a disability have access to quality education and transition services. These transition services are activities that prepare the student for academic achievement and to move on to post-secondary education.
Assistive Technology Act
The Assistive Technology Act allows for funding of state Assistive Technology Act Programs. These programs are to be implemented in places such as colleges and schools, and the funds help with the purchase of assistive technologies like computer hardware and voice amplifiers.
B. Transitioning into College Life
Moving on to college life means beginning a new phase, different from high school life. As a student with a disability, this is a life-changing moment. You gain more independence; more systems in college differ from those in high school. You will be required to make most decisions on your own.
When preparing to join post-secondary institutions -2-year & 4-year colleges and universities-, a student is required to do thorough research, to find out whether the needs as a student with a disability will be fully met. Of course, the law protects you from discrimination of any kind. The college or university you join is expected to make provisions to accommodate you.
Disclosing your disability is totally voluntary, but if you feel the need to seek assistance, then you have to share this information with the relevant office, in this case, the disability support services. You are required to share this early enough so that the school can make adjustments as fast as possible. In a study by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 44% of students who took part in the survey stated that even though they were independent, they would be much better with some assistance.
You will have to present to your school documentation that supports your claim, prepared by a medical doctor or psychologist. The documentation should contain information such as diagnosis, date of diagnosis, how it affects one or more major life activities and how it affects your performance in school. If the academic adjustment is not working as you expected, you should immediately let the school know so that you can find a solution that works for you.
C. Common Types of Disabilities
Below are the most commons types of disabilities:
- Blindness and Low Vision: Blindness limits students from reading classroom materials and viewing videos or other visual presentations. Low vision reduces the students’ ability to see objects at a distance.
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH): Deaf students are not able to process sounds and speech which makes it hard for them to read or write
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Both ADD and ADHD cause the student not to stay on task, have poor time management skills and to be inattentive.
- Acquired Brain Injury: It reduces the ability of the student to communicate, process thoughts, remember events and solve challenges. It also reduces their motor functions.
- Learning Disabilities: This may affect writing, learning, listening, speaking, writing and mathematical skills of students.
- Medical Disabilities: These include, but are not limited to, conditions such as Lupus Erythematosus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Cancer, Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis.
- Physical Disabilities: These may be caused by illnesses such as stroke, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury. They affect students’ mobility.
- Mental Health: This includes schizophrenia, severe depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder. They may cause relapses which would affect the student’s attendance of classes.
- Speech and Language Disabilities: These may be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy, physical conditions or hearing loss. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics on a survey that they conducted shows that 11.1% of students who enrolled in post-secondary institutions were those with disabilities.
D. Things to Consider when Choosing a College for Students with Disabilities
Finding a good college where you will be supported as a student with disabilities is the first step you take when looking for schools to join. Below are some pointers to help you with your search:
- What services are offered at the school? You can talk to officials at the school’s disability office to find out whether they have accommodations or can make adjustments that will help in your stay at the campus.
- Make a plan to visit prospective colleges: Schedule a tour of colleges you would like to attend, to see what kinds of services are available for students with disabilities. Schools are different; this means that all colleges don’t necessarily offer the services at the same level.
- What is the school’s retention rate for students with disabilities? This will help you find out more about the school’s commitment to the learning needs of students, its support system and accommodations.
- Attend orientation programs: To discover more about classes, faculty, and resources.
- Talk to students: Talk to students from the school you plan to attend to find out what their experiences are like. You get to learn more about classes, courses, and instructors.
- Observe classes: You can attend a class for some short period to find out whether it’s the right choice for you.
Accommodations are changes done to a school program or facility to enable easy access by students with disabilities who would otherwise be at a disadvantage was it not for the changes. The changes should not alter the quality of the programs or facilities. Some accommodations made may include providing a note taker, reducing course loads, sign language interpreters, assistive devices for the hard-of-hearing, extended time for examinations, braille transcriptions, recording devices, extra access to professors and adaptive software and hardware for the school computers.
F. Filing Grievances
Students with disabilities who feel the need to file for grievances may do so through:
The Informal Manner: The informal method is entered into voluntarily by the complainant and the respondent. An impartial third party member may conduct the mediation process until all parties arrive at an agreement. The complainant may also schedule an appointment with the director of disability services at the college and present their case. The director then takes the necessary steps before making a ruling.
The Formal Grievance Procedure: Anyone with a grievance is expected to file a complaint, complete with their full names and signature, and then submit it to the disability services office in their school. The director or head of the office will then initiate investigations after which they’ll determine the right course of action. If the student is still not satisfied with the decision, they may request a review by the ADA coordinator. The decision arrived at by the coordinator is final.
Important things that students with disabilities need to know to succeed in college.
Learn About the Law that protects the rights of people with disabilities.
Know Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Know how to find the right College
Understand College Accommodations
Develop College Survival Skills
Online Resources for Students with Disabilities
Government Agencies and Resource Centers
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Because OSERS understands the difficulties people with disabilities and their families face, it is committed to their betterment. It’s composed of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), Office of Special Education Programs (OESP) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary (OAS). It provides leadership towards inclusion, opportunity, and equity for people with disabilities.
Disability.Gov. Disability.Gov is the official government source for information on programs, laws, regulations, and services relating to disabilities. By visiting the site, you gain access to plenty of resources from nonprofits and agencies from all parts of the country.
National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET). The National Center on Secondary Education and Transition makes arrangements for national resources and technical assistance as well as creates awareness on secondary education and transition for youth with disabilities, to give them a chance at hopeful and bright futures.
Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) coordinates grant programs to help persons with mental or physical disabilities gain employment. Some of these programs give funds to state vocational rehabilitation agencies to enable them to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) The Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) was established by the Office of Special Education for the purpose of giving technical assistance to schools to adapt and sustain disciplinary practices that are functional and effective.
Office of Special Education Programs. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) provides leadership while at the same time giving financial support to local districts and states in order to improve on the academic and living standards for children, babies and youth.
Parent Training and Information Centers (ALLIANCE National Parent Technical Assistance Center (NPTAC) The Parent Training and Information Centers are present in every state and give training to parents of children, youth, babies and infants living with disabilities and professionals such as educators who work with them.
Office for Civil Rights (OCR) The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has the responsibility to ensure that all school going children have equal access to education. It advocates and enforces civil rights in schools to ensure excellence in education.
No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) The Department of Education website has information that parents and educators could read on the NCLB Act (No Child Left Behind Act).
Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) The Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) is part of the U.S. Department of Education and is tasked with making education literature and other resources accessible to all individuals.
Internships Resources for Students with Disabilities
American Association of People with Disabilities The American Association of people with disabilities offers 10-week summer internships to students with any disability. The internships are mainly at nonprofits, federal agencies, and businesses, and interested students are required to apple before New Year’s.
AAAS and Entry Point! Entry Point! Partners with federal agencies and leading Fortune 500 companies such as IBM, provide disabled students with paid summer internships. The internships are available for students of a major in Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Business.
Emerging Leaders The Emerging Leaders Internship Program for College Students with Disabilities sends top undergraduate students to top corporations for seasonal internships. Applicants must have completed at least 60 credits and maintained a 2.8 GPA.
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) connects college students and graduates with employers across the country for paid internships. The experience you gain through the WRP makes you more marketable.
Disability Mentoring Day On Disability Mentoring Day, students with disabilities are paired with mentors to experience what a typical day in the job is like. This boosts the confidence of the students. The day helps promote inclusiveness and enhance chances of internships for students with disabilities.
Job Sites for Students with Disabilities
Bender Consulting Services Inc. Bender Consulting Services Inc. works with employers in federal agencies and the private sector to hire well-trained, competent and qualified individuals with disabilities. They recruit individuals with knowledge in any discipline whether Finance, Biology or IT.
Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities. Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities plans educational events for professionals, students, educators, and employers, to create awareness, help professionals meet their goals and help employers create a workforce that is inclusive of persons with disabilities.
Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion. The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) was created to engage and encourage employers to hire qualified persons with disabilities. It empowers employers to retain and help in the career growth of their employees.
National Business & Disability Council. The National Business & Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center is a top resource for employers and government agencies seeking to recruit and hire people with disabilities.
Getting Hired. GettingHired is a board for people with disabilities. It helps them find employment in safe and secure workplaces. It partners with employers or companies seeking to increase the number of disabled persons in their workforce.
Software Resources for Students with Learning Disabilities
Learning disabilities here include listening, understanding, writing and reading.
Fast for Word Reading Assistant Fast for Word reading Assistant by Scientific Learning increases the ability to process and comprehend what is being read. This helps the student learn and develop critical reading skills.
Reading Horizons Reading Horizons Elevate is a program that uses a multi-sensory approach to address reading problems in students. It meets the Common Core Standards and creates blended learning as well as monitor’s progress in a student.
Inspiration The Inspiration program lets students visually draft ideas after which they can begin to construct or structure sentences. It helps grow the student’s ability to study flow-charts and in the end boosts their writing and communication skills. The tool supports individualized lessons to enable the students to learn in ways that meet their specific needs.
WordQ. WordQ is a software that helps students to go over and read their own work. It has a word-prediction feature which helps the user to type faster and accurately. It also has a read-aloud feature which helps students read materials and listen to their written work for errors in grammar.
Understanding Questions Out Loud: Understanding Questions Out Loud is a program that’s built to help students with auditory and reading comprehension. They can use it to practice different words which they might find confusing. The program shows and reads out loud a question and provides the user with up to four answers. It gives a hint if the user answers incorrectly.
LiPs: Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) helps develop phonemic awareness in students with listening disabilities. It helps them understand sounds within words, which helps them read and spell words correctly.
ModuMath Basic Math and Algebra: ModuMath basic Math and Algebra is designed specifically for learners find it hard to understand Math. It contains numerous interactive video lessons with tutorials which are presented in an audio-visual format. The program is designed to adjust its pace to that of the learner.
Ignite! Learning: Ignite! Math uses a multi-media approach to trigger comprehension and interaction from students in a classroom. It uses print and engaging media such as animations, charts, and songs to keep students engaged. It helps develop skills like problem-solution and cause-and-effect.
Memory Challenge: Memory Challenge! is designed to help the user with memorization and organizational skills. It can be used to practice, as a test, or as a game. It improves short-term visual memory, delayed recognition and visual reproduction skills.
Executive Functions Skill-Building Program: Executive Functions by Premier helps improve the performance of students in the classroom. It promotes the executive functions which are problem-solving skills, organizational skills, decision-making skills, being attentive and managing time. The program includes a teacher’s guide.
Books for Students with Disabilities
Learning Outside the Lines. Learning Outside the Lines is authored by two individuals who struggled with ADHD and learning disabilities. The book motivates you to persevere and take charge of your education and life.
How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior (K-8): Practical, Ready-to-Use Interventions That Work. How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior gives educators a new perspective that will help them manage behavioral problems with students at school. The book features ways in which an educator may influence self-regulation and management of emotions in a student, and ways to create engaging lessons or activities that encourage positive behavior.
Transition Education and Services for Students with Disabilities (5th Edition). The book Transition Education and Services for Students with Disabilities is for undergraduate and graduate level students with disabilities as well as instructors in secondary special education programs.
Assistive Technology in the Classroom: Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities (2nd Edition). Assistive Technology in the Classroom is a book that explains how assistive technology can be incorporated into the curriculum and how much of an impact it has on learning. The technology empowers and motivates students to participate in classroom activities. The book does not categorize disabilities and therefore it doesn’t suggest a particular tool for any particular condition seeing as every student is unique.
Teaching Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities. The text in “Teaching Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities” emphasizes research-based practices that educators can use to evaluate the needs of students and create a personalized education plan for them. The book covers areas such as healthcare, daily living, social and communication skills, reading, and job skills.
5 Must-Read Books for Teachers of Students With Learning Disabilities. Students with interests in special education as a career can visit this website to read about these books. The books advocate for personalized teaching plans for students with disabilities. They also recommend ways in which teachers can make learning and interaction fun for kids with learning disabilities.
Important Twitter Accounts to follow
@disabilitygov. Disability.gov is the official twitter account where one can find information on programs, services, and policies that can help advance persons with disabilities. It creates awareness and ensures that people have the right information and tools to address disability.
@disabilityscoop. Disability Scoop is a top source of developmental disability news. It addresses a wide range of topics and challenges that people with disability face in their daily lives.
@TheCoffeeKlatch. The Coffee Klatch, a special needs radio, is now a network of moderators, parents and special needs experts. Every once in, they host experts who share their perspective on special needs and address issues that the community is facing.
@drmichaelhart. Dr. Michael Hart is an expert in attention and learning disabilities, and this has helped him establish approaches through which individuals with such conditions can be helped.
@letmelearn. Let Me Learn is dedicated to children with dyslexia and dyscalculia, to help them find ways in which they can improve their learning and overcome their condition. They have things likes games which will help kids learn, practice and have fun.
@HandicapThis. Handicap This! is an amazing show that provides entertainment while at the same time educating the masses on cerebral palsy. It advocates for inclusion and tolerance of people with special needs.
@Learning_Ally. Learning Ally is a nonprofit that was formed for students with learning and visual disabilities. It offers plenty of resources for parents and teachers of children with special needs. it also has human-narrated textbooks for K-12 students.
@ginabad. Gina Baladaty runs the “Mom blog” and has a huge presence on Twitter. She has two daughters with special needs and empowers other parents to understand and take care of the needs of children with special needs.
@Brain_Balance. Brain Balance is a group of after-school learning centers which helps children with learning and behavioral disorders. The centers are equipped with the necessary tools to improve the well-being and advancement of the children.
@BBRFoundation. The Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation funds mental health research grants across the world. It pushes for research on conditions such as autism, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.
Important Apps for Students with Disabilities
Ideament. Ideament is an App that you can use to draw a sketch, like an idea map or flowchart, and use it as a draft for a piece of writing. You can also use it to design organizational charts and to plan presentations.
Accessible Curriculum Tools (ACT) Spell. The ACT Spell can help with motor, neurological and visual skills of individuals with special needs. The app is designed for caregivers or facilitators of kids with special needs, to create a program that meets the needs of the children.
Speak It. Speak It! is one of the most effective text-to-speech applications available. You only need to copy a certain text into the app, press the Speak It! button and it will read out loud the text, word by word. The app highlights every word as it’s spoken so that the user will follow along.
Read2Go. Read2Go partners with Bookshare to allow its users access to thousands of books which are featured in Bookshare’s digital library. This is an excellent app for students with a visual disability and dyslexia. It requires a Bookshare membership to access the library.
Audiobooks. Audiobooks By Cross Forward Consulting, LLC offers you the opportunity to read from thousands of books. With the support of the Apple watch, one can select which books to read from the library and control playback. The app also features podcasts.
Storyrobe. Storyrobe enables students and teachers alike to create their own stories and share them with other users through emails and YouTube. It can be used for school work purposes too. This app boosts self- expression in an individual.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Reference. With this App, it’s actually easy to refer to the act on Americans with Disabilities. It contains the original version of the bill and all information about returning to service, persons living with AIDS, how to contact and visit ADA.GOV and 2008 revisions.
ABC Braille Translator. ABC Braille Translator is designed for individuals trying to learn, understand and communicate in Braille. It’s designed for easy use with interactive selection buttons that let you translate alphabetical letters into braille.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities
Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities Youth Achievement Award: The Smark Kids with Learning Disabilities Achievement Award awards $1,000 to students of ages 19 and below who have shown talent and determination in academics, art, athletics, community service or music. All applications must be submitted before the 28th of February.
The Washington Center Scholarships: The Washington Center is at the front-line in giving students with disabilities an equal opportunity to advance their post-secondary studies like other students. It has grants and scholarships from corporations such as Coca-Cola, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, AT&T and Kessler Foundation. To be eligible, one must have participated in TWC’s internships program and be a U.S. citizen.
Insight: Incight offers students up to 100 scholarships a year, to join college, vocational schools or university. The students have to be residents of Oregon, California or Washington but don’t necessarily have to be studying in those states.
HFA- Hemophilia Federation of America: HFA offers 4 yearly scholarships to students with bleeding disorders in three categories: Educational scholarship, parent/sibling/child educational scholarship and medical / healthcare services educational scholarships. The scholarships are between $2,000 and $4,000.
Assistive Technology Fund: The Association of Blind Citizens is in charge of the Assistive Technology Fund which facilitates up to 50% of funds required to purchase software or devices that will increase the productivity of the blind. Eligible applicants are those with an income of $50,000 and below.
Baer Integration Scholarship: The Baer Integration Scholarship is offered to students with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Applicants must be receiving treatment and actively involved in rehabilitative efforts. The program covers GED education, undergraduate and graduate education and vocational training.
Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship Program: The Hydrocephalus Association’s Scholarship Program supports young adults living with hydrocephalus. It offers 14 scholarships of $1,000 each year to capable individuals. Applications are expected at the beginning of January every year.
Michale Yasick ADHD Scholarship: The Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship assists students living with ADHD and are enrolled in or accepted into 2-year colleges or 4-year degree programs. Successful applicants receive up to $4,400, an amount which facilitates tuition fee plus a year of coaching by Edge Foundation. In 2016, at least 50 students benefitted from the program.
Injury Lawyer News Disability Scholarship Award: The Injury Lawyer News Disability Scholarship Award is awarded to students with a documented disability. It’s given to law school students or students who’ve already been accepted into an accredited law school in the US. All applications should be sent via email and not later than 31st of December.
Microsoft Disability Scholarship: The Microsoft disAbility Scholarship is awarded to high school graduates who plan on joining college/university for a major in Engineering, Law, Computer Information Systems, Computer Science or Business. It’s a one-time award of $5,000. Applicants must have a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
Institute of Education Sciences. The Institute of Education Services conducts education research and supports evidence-based education. It helps educators make informed choices based on the evidence available. Teachers can access plenty of resources including practice guides, single study reviews, and intervention reports.
TeachingLD. TeachingLD offers information that is useful to teachers of students with disabilities. It has a number of resources such as Expert Connection which answers questions about handling students with disabilities and Teaching Tutorials which offer teachers different ways that could improve the learning of special needs children.
WWC – What Works Clearinghouse. What Works Clearinghouse is the number one resource for education research. They review studies on different programs, policies, and practices to establish what would work best in the education industry and what wouldn’t.
All Kinds of Minds. All Kinds of Minds is an organization that pushes for recognition of all students, given that all students have their weaknesses and strong points in learning. It helps teachers understand how students learn. The teachers then use this knowledge to give students the chance to improve in their academics day by day.
National Center on Educational Outcomes. The National Center on Educational Outcomes pushes for the inclusion of English Learners (ELs), English Learners with disabilities and students with disabilities in assessment systems such as classroom-based tests and benchmark assessments. Some of its resources include policy documents, reports, briefs and self-study guides.
There are plenty of applications that students with disabilities can use to their benefit. These include:
Zoom Text – this app enlarges texts so that they are readable enough.
Purple Products – all apps by Purple Communications are designed to offer Video Relay Services (VRS) for the deaf and hard of hearing, to communicate using ASL interpreters.
MindNode – this app is perfect for noting down your thoughts and ideas. It stores them in a visual format, different from the usual lists that you are used to.
Audible – this app gives users access to thousands of audiobooks, magazines and reading materials that they can listen to.
ClassMate Reader – this is a portal reader that reads out loud text for you. You can use it to read your textbooks and highlight topics.
Livescribe Pen – this pen sends everything that you write to your tablet or smartphone using Bluetooth technology.
Focus Gps – it helps students with organization, concentration, and memory, ultimately boosting their performance in class.
OnlineOCR – this app helps students make notes while reading. It converts files in PDF form into easy-to-edit formats.
Touchscreen Monitor.– It’s perfect for use when navigating websites. You can just use your finger instead of a mouse.
Sign 4 Me – it’s an app that’s available for iPhone and iPads. It uses 3D images and videos to teach sign language.