Persons with Disabilities

Colleges have accomodation for students with disabilities, though they may look different than accomodation you may have recieved in high school or in the workplace. The federal Department of Education lays out the basics of how colleges need to accomodate students' needs and answers some frequently asked questions. The sections below expand on that information.

Both the ACT and the SAT can accomodate students with disabilities. It's recommended that you begin the process as early as you can, in case there are any delays in verifying disability status. Visit their websites for the latest information on how to secure accomodations (ACT) (SAT).

Career and College Calendar and Checklists

Differences from High School to College

The regulations for accommodating students with disabilities in high school are very different than those in college. The chart below addresses some of these differences.

TopicHigh SchoolCollege/University
Who is responsible for identifying the student and their disability? The school The student
Who/what determines the eligibility of a student for services? A multidisciplinary team Documentation from a licensed professional or medical doctor, prior records, and IEP
Who is responsible for services? Most services are provided. Some services, like tutoring, may be at student's expense.
What plan for service is needed? Individualized Education Program (IEP) Usually a letter describing accommodations from the college's office of disability Services is given to faculty with the student's approval
What type of a learning environment is offered? Students are served with non-disabled peers to the degree possible. No 'special education' in college. Course requirements are the same for all students, however, students with disabilities may use appropriate academic accommodations.
What laws are applicable to the student? Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Evaluating Schools' Services

Finding the best school to meet one's needs can be difficult. For many students with disabilities, this can require more in-depth searching. When researching a school, you may want to contact a member of their Disablity Services office and ask some of these questions:

  • What is the procedure for identifying yourself and your disability to receive accommodations? What documentation is required?
  • What experience does the college have in serving individuals with your disability?
  • Are there special admissions policies for students with a disability?
  • What specific accommodations and services can be made for various types of disabilities? Is there a separate fee for any of these services?
  • Is there adaptive equipment (e.g. voice-synthesized computers and calculators, reading devices, tape recorders, hearing amplification systems) available for your use?
  • Does the school work closely with other support agencies, like Vocational Rehabilitation agencies?
  • Is the entire campus fully-accessible? Are there services like shuttle buses to navigate steep hills or farther ends of campus?
  • Are there any student disability support groups on campus to join?
  • Are there any types of financial aid/scholarships specifically available for disabled students? If yes, how do you apply for them?

Pre-College To Do List

Once you decide which school is for you, there are several tasks that students should follow to ease their transition.

  1. Establish contact with the school's coordinator(s) of disability services and/or their counseling center. They can help make sure you're set up for your first day of classes and have your support structures in place. 
  2. Provide the required documentation of your disability. This information will vary by disability, situation, and campus. A letter or report from a physician that specifies a diagnosis and functional limitations is typically required.
  3. Inform the financial aid office of any disability-related expenses you have, such as:
    • special devices and their maintenance
    • personal or academic services (readers, interpreters, note takers, etc.)
    • personal care attendants
    • transportation (if traditional means are not accessible)
    • medical expenses not covered by insurance that relate directly to the individual's disability
  4. Set reminders to request services through the office of disability services each academic term. Know your specific needs as they relate to your disability and how your documentation supports these needs.
  5. Once you've establish contact with the disability services office, work out specific accommodations for your needs and have a clear idea of how to access them when needed.

External Resources

Below are a few sources of information regarding the success of students with disabilities in furthering their education.

Oregon's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
  • Assists Oregonians with disabilities to achieve and maintain employment and independence
  • Provides rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities and makes eligibilitydecisions for disability benefits

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education
  • An outline of your legal rights to accomodations and the responsibilities of you and your school
  • Frequently asked questions about the transition from high school to college

DO-IT Program
  • A University of Washington program focusing on education designed for everyone
  • Provides resources for students and educators and promotes postsecondary success

Set to Go: A JED Program
  • Support targeted to recent and soon-to-be high school graduates
  • Particular focus on support for mental health related disabilities