Skip to main content

Disability Accommodations in High School vs College

The differences between receiving accommodations in high school versus college.
High School College
IDEA Under IDEA, children with disabilities are absolutely entitled to a "Free and Appropriate Public Education". Equal Access is the goal - no one is entitled to anything but rather students must advocate for themselves in order to enjoy these rights.
Section 504 Section 504 in the public schools includes "Free and Appropriate Public Education" language and accommodations may include a shortening of assignments, use of notes on test, etc., when other students cannot have the same accommodation. Section 504 is the first civil rights legislation that applies to colleges. It upholds the institution's right to maintain academic standards. No accommodations may be permitted to reduce that standard for any students. There is no "free" education, and shortening of assignments, use of notes, etc. are not considered "reasonable" accommodations in college.
Plans Plans, either the IEP or a 504 plan, drove all services and accommodations and involved the teachers, counselors, and required a parent's signature. There is no plan and instructors are not contacted except by the student. In fact, parents may not receive even the student's grades, without the student giving written permission.
Placement "Placement" is determined by the child's "team" and outlined in the plan, and must, by law, be in the least restrictive environment. Placement integration is assumed and implemented. We adjust the environment through accommodations but we don't deliberate and select the environment for the student in advance.
Qualification Students were qualified for public education simply by being the appropriate age, because they had a disability. "Otherwise qualified," in college, means that the student must meet all entrance and academic requirements, whether they receive accommodations or not.
Everybody knew about a student's placement, and practically everybody signed the plan. A teacher would know about a student even before he/she would enter the classroom, and have a good idea of what the needs were of that student. The student must initiate all actions regarding accommodations with each professor, for each course, every semester. In addition, students have the civil right to refuse accommodations they don't want or need; and if they do not register with the Disability Services Office and request accommodations, it is assumed they do not want it.
Assessment Public schools, for the most part, are responsible for appropriate assessment of a student's disability. Higher education does not have to assess the student but can expect that the student will provide proof of their disability within accepted guidelines.
Graduation Requirements Some subjects may have been waived for a student before graduation, if they were specifically related to the student's disability. Substitutions for specific graduation requirements may be requested by following a rigorous petition process, but "waivers" for requirements are rarely, if ever, granted. Substitutions may be granted after the student has both provided adequate verification to the Disability Services Office of their disability and unsuccessfully attempted the courses in question with the appropriate accommodations recommended by our office.
Personal Care Assessment, physical or therapy, or personal care may have been provided by the school during regular school hours. Student is responsible for personal services-personal care, medical and related requirements, just as if they would if they were living independently and not attending school.
Timed Tests Students often receive "Un-timed tests" if they have a disability. "Un-timed tests" are not reasonable. Time extensions may be considered reasonable, typically time and a half, on rare occasions double time may be granted.
Understanding Disabilities
Teachers may be expected to learn all they can about the disability of a student in one of their classes. Professors need only know that which applies to the accommodations the student requests.