The differences between the accommodation process in high school and college can be surprising to parents and students who are accustomed to the high school environment. These differences stem from the various laws governing the accommodation process. The common factor shared by these laws, however, is a stronger emphasis on personal responsibility and self-advocacy on the part of the student. Although some may believe that this is an important step for college students, to self-advocate and become more responsible, it can also lead to difficulties for students who are used to having accommodations procedures handled for them.
The laws that govern the college accommodation process are: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and the Civil Rights Restoration Act. These three laws, together with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), govern the high school accommodation process. Following is a comparison of some high school and college accommodations and services and the ways in which they differ.
|Either an IEP or a Section 504 plan drives all accommodations and services, involves the teachers and counselors, and always requires a parent's signature for students under age 18.||No educational plan, and instructors are not contacted except by the student. Parents often may not receive a student's grades without written permission from the student.|
|Students qualify for public education simply because they are the appropriate age and because they have a disability||Otherwise qualified means that a student must meet all entrance and academic requirements, whether or not they receive accommodations.|
|Under IDEA, children with disabilities are entitled to a "Free and Appropriate Public Education."||Students have civil rights for which they must advocate to ensure equal acess to higher education. No one is entitled to anything.|
|Public schools are responsible for appropriate assessment of students' disabilities.||Colleges are not required to assess students, but can expect students to provide proof of disabilities within accepted guidlines.|
|Student placement is determined by the child's team and outlined in the IEP or 504 Plan. Placement must, by law, be in the least restrictive environment.||Students are integrated in the college community, and the environment may be adjusted through accommodations. Colleges do not deliberate to select an environment in advance.|
|Common Knowledge: everyone knows about a student's placement, often times before the student even enters the classroom. Everyone involved in a student's placement usually signs the educational plan.||Need to Know: students must give express permission for college professors to be notified of any disabilities. Students must initiate all actions toward receiving accommodations with each individual professor, for each course, for each semester. Students have the civil right to refuse accommodations they do not want or need.|
|Assessment, physical therapy, speech and language services, personal care and/or any other therapy is provided by the school while the student is in school.||College students are responsible for any and all personal services, such as personal or medical care, just as if they were living independently and not attending college.|
|Students often receive untimed tests if they have a disability.||Untimed test are not considered reasonable. Time extensions may be reasonable (typically time and one-half, but no more than double time).|