Do college/universities have special admission standards for people with disabilities?
No. Postsecondary admissions offices must treat all applicants equally and are prohibited from asking applicants if they have a disability prior to admission. Applicants with disabilities must be qualified, and, with or without reasonable accommodation, meet the same standards (including academic, professional, technical, behavioral, etc.) as students without disabilities[i].
Students are encouraged to attempt to meet the standards of any program they choose. Academic accommodations are provided to students with disabilities to ensure that they will have equal access to the information and the classroom setting. Everyone, however, must meet the same requirements in the end.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require institutions of higher education to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with documented disabilities, provided that accommodation does not create an undue hardship. An undue hardship refers to any accommodation that would be unduly costly, expensive, substantial, disruptive, or that would fundamentally alter the nature of the business or program.
Reasonable accommodation is provision of an auxiliary aid or modification to the course or program that will allow access to the educational program, material, activity or degree.
What are some examples of reasonable accommodation?
Some examples of reasonable accommodation include:
- making existing facilities readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities;
- acquisition or modification of equipment or devices;
- ·appropriate adjustment or modification of examinations or policies;
- Adaptive computer software/equipment
- flexible time lines for program completion;
- provision of qualified readers, note takers, and/or sign language interpreters;
- provision of alternative print formats.
NOTE: It is the responsibility of the student to self-identify and inform the institution of his/her need for accommodation. It is also the student’s responsibility to provide appropriate documentation for any stated disability. The above list of examples is intended for informational purposes only and does not indicate what accommodation a particular student may or may not receive. All accommodations are provided on a case-by-case basis.
(Personal Care attendants are not considered reasonable accommodation.)
How is eligibility for reasonable accommodation determined?
Accommodation eligibility is based upon documented need. First, you should contact the college/university that you plan on attending and request a copy of their disability documentation guidelines. Be aware that eligibility guidelines may differ from institution to institution, even though the same general principles of eligibility apply. A student requesting reasonable accommodation must provide documentation of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits his or her ability to perform one or more major life activities in comparison to most people. Accommodation eligibility is not based upon the name or diagnosis of a disability, but rather upon the current impact of that disability on the life of the individual in the academic environment. The federal definition of a disability, under the Rehabilitation Act Section 504, includes a person who (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such impairment.
What kind of disability documentation will I need?
The Maricopa Community College District guidelines for disability documentation can be found on the web at: My.maricopa.edu. You may also contact the SMCC DRS office for a copy of these guidelines or visit the DRS website. Typically, you must sign a written release of information stating that you have given the institution your permission to review your disability documentation prior to the institution reviewing such documentation. Contact the disability services office or designated person that handles accommodation requests at the institution you plan on attending for more information.
What kind of accommodations will I receive?
The type of accommodation(s) you receive will vary depending on your request, your documentation, the kind of disability you have and course standards. Some institutions will be well prepared to help you decide what accommodations might work for you...others may not. It is best if you know for yourself what kind of accommodations you need. The institution's primary responsibility is to evaluate requests for reasonable accommodations, determine eligibility based on supporting documentation of disability, and correspondingly provide reasonable accommodations to qualified students with disabilities.
How often must I request accommodations?
Since different classes may require different accommodations, students may need to request accommodations on a semester-by-semester, course-by-course basis. Some accommodations require more time for coordination or production and must be requested in a timely manner. Work closely with the Disability Services office at the college or university you select to make sure you understand the policies and deadlines. This will help ensure the availability of accommodations from the first day of class.
Why is a diagnosis not enough? Why do students with the same diagnosis sometimes get different accommodations?
Reasonable accommodations at postsecondary institutions are only based in part on a diagnosis of a disability. There also must be a significant impact (Functional Impact) on a major life activity. This is why documentation for a postsecondary institution has to provide more information than just a diagnosis and must address the severity of impact. Another student with the same disability may be impacted differently by his/her disability; therefore, all accommodations are viewed on a case-by-case basis.
Are colleges or universities required to provide transportation or attendant care?
No. Colleges and universities are not legally required to provide these services. Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from campus and between classes and buildings once on campus. They are similarly responsible for self-care or for arranging attendant care for activities such as eating, medical treatment, toileting, and showering.
Are the laws for meeting the needs of students with disabilities in college the same as they are in high school?
No. In fact, some of the laws that are applicable to K-12 institutions are very different from those that are applicable to the postsecondary institutions (colleges, universities, etc.).
Primary and secondary schools (K-12) are legally mandated to identify students with disabilities and provide a free and appropriate education for these students. Because of this, many students with disabilities and their families think high school disability records automatically transfer to college along with academic records, and that the college then continues services and accommodations provided in high school. However, this is not the case. In postsecondary education the responsibility to identify a disability lies with the student, if in fact he or she desires to request services and accommodations on the basis of disability. Also, records regarding disability do not automatically transfer from high school to college. Such records can only be released or transferred to a postsecondary institution with written permission of the adult student (in cases where the student is under the age of 18, parent or guardian permission is also required).
Is "special education" available for students with disabilities in college?
No. Keep in mind, a postsecondary institution's responsibility is to provide equal access, not special education. To insure equal access, usually a designated person or office (such as "Disabled Student Services" or "Disability Resource Center", etc.) handles requests for reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is the provision of an auxiliary aid, or modification to the course or program that will allow access to the educational process, program and degree, or activity. Requests for reasonable accommodations must be supported by disability documentation and should be made with adequate advance notice to the institution. Institutions of higher education are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities provided such accommodations do not create an undue hardship.
Do colleges and universities provide Individualized Education Programs (IEP's)?
No. In postsecondary education, students are responsible for self-identifying themselves as individuals with disabilities, providing disability documentation, and requesting accommodations. The institution is responsible for providing reasonable accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. Colleges and universities do not provide special education versions of courses, IEP plans, specialized progress reports, etc.
NOTE: Under federal law, family members are not provided with access to student information regarding disabilities, accommodations or academic progress. See important information at the end of this section of Student’s Right to Privacy and Confidentiality for more information.
Are postsecondary institutions required to provide tutoring services?
Yes and No. If a college does provide tutoring services then they have to make sure such services are reasonably accessible to all students. If the college or university does not provide tutoring services, then they are not required to provide such services to any students, including students with disabilities. Investigate in advance what tutoring options may be available at the institution you plan on attending.
Does SMCC provide testing or evaluations for the presence of a learning disability?
No. It is the student’s responsibility to provide documentation of disability to the institution. However, the institution may have information available regarding community resources that may be of assistance in obtaining documentation. Check with the disability services office at the institution you plan on attending for more information.
Important Information about Student's Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
Disability related information and documentation is treated the same as medical information and handled under strict rules of confidentiality. Such information is shared only on a limited basis within the institutional community and then only when there is a compelling reason for the individual seeking the information to have knowledge of a specific aspect of this confidential information.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, provides faculty with free access to educational information in institutional files regarding students with whom they are working. Disability related records are excluded from free access under FERPA.
Also excluded from free access under FERPA are inquiries external to the institution related to a student's disability or academic progress. This can be a significant adjustment for students who are accustomed to strong parental advocacy and intervention on their behalf. It is important for the student to begin the development of strong self-advocacy skills and to seek the support of the Office of Services to Students with Disabilities when needed. Under FERPA, family members are not automatically provided with access to student information regarding disabilities, accommodations or academic progress.
Special thanks to Mesa Community College (Phoenix, AZ) and Oklahoma Community College (OKC, OK) for sharing information to help develop the above FAQs.
For example, if a student is unable to regularly attend a class in which attendance is a critical component of the essential nature of the curriculum, the student may be unqualified to take that class. The inability to run might make a student unqualified to join the track team.
The law is clear that technical standards can be applied to individuals with disabilities, even if those standards involve requirements that may be impossible for people with certain disabilities to meet. It is also clear, however, that those criteria/standards must reflect the essential skills for a program graduate.