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Transitioning to College with a Disability

The beginning of the first semester in college can be unsettling for students new to the college environment.  The differences between high school and college are largely a result of the intent of the laws that govern accommodations in the high school and the college settings.  Students typically find that the largest difference is that they are used to having procedures for receiving accommodations handled by someone else, including their parents and teachers. In college, students are required to self-advocate and take personal responsibility. 

For a student with a disability to self-advocate he/she must be aware of his/her needs for accommodations and request services.  Therefore, it is important to:

  • Understand the disability – The student should be able to identify the disability, be able to describe the way the disability has functionally limited him/her in the educational setting and be prepared to discuss what accommodations have been the most effective in the past and which ones have not been effective.
  • Be proactive – Make an appointment to meet with the ODS Coordinator as soon as possible, once the decision is made to attend a specific institution of higher education (even if transferring from LSCPA to another institution).  Bring the documentation of the disability to that initial meeting and be prepared to complete paperwork and discuss the disability and potential accommodations.

The Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) places responsibility on the grade school (K-12) system to identify children with special needs, evaluate them to determine whether or not there is a disability and plan educational services (including modifications) to allow for academic success.  All those services are completed at the school district’s expense. 

In the higher education setting, the intent of the laws (Section 504 and ADA as amended in 2008) are to provide equal access to students with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to meet the essential demands of the course/program.  Institutions of higher education such as LSCPA are not responsible for identifying students with disabilities, evaluating students, or paying for the evaluations.  The goal of the ODS is to provide access rather than academic success.