The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly called P.L. 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II protect elementary, secondary and postsecondary students form discrimination. However, some of the requirements that apply through high school are different from the requirements that apply in college.
Americans with Disabilities Act: Title II requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities (e.g. public education, employment, transportation, recreation, health care, social services, courts, voting, and town meetings).
Foreign Language Requirements
If you were exempt from a foreign language in high school and your college major requires a language at the college level, you may not be exempt from taking a language in college. Many students with a disability who were exempt from a foreign language in high school haven't any history to know if they will encounter difficulty or not in these courses. Not all majors require foreign language, but there are many that do. While some degrees may require only one level of a language, others may require more. Be sure to look into requirements for your program and discuss these requirements with an advisor. If you are apprehensive about taking a language such as Spanish or French, consider taking American Sign Language. Since this is a physical language and doesn't require the verbal skills that other languages require, it may be a better option.
Every college is different in terms of their requirements for foreign language. If you graduate from MVCC with an associate's degree and did not need to take a language for your major, that does not necessarily mean that you will not need to take a foreign language for your Bachelor's degree when you go on to another college. At Utica College, for example, foreign language is a requirement. However, if you complete and earn your associate's degree at MVCC and then transfer to Utica College, you will not have to take a language there. On the other hand, if you take courses at MVCC and then transfer to Utica College without first earning the associate's degree, you will be required to take a foreign language for your program there. It's always a good idea to look into the requirements for other colleges and their programs before making the decision to transfer.
Be sure to talk to your Disability Services Coordinator and your advisor to figure out how to deal with the difficulties you may encounter while taking a language. Find out what accommodations you are eligible for that will assist you in the course. Find out if tutors are available for that particular class through the Learning Center. If it doesn't appear that a tutor is available for your course, talk to the Coordinator of the Learning Center and ask if they can look into finding someone. They may know of or be able to find someone who tutors in that course. Also, visit the instructor on their office hours or set up an appointment to meet with them to discuss any questions you have or things that you don't understand. Before registering for a language course, talk to your Disability Services Coordinator, advisor or classmates about which instructor might be best for you. They may have some insight on how a particular instructor teaches, how their course is set up, how many exams they administer and how much support would be available.
Legal Rights and Responsibilities
• IDEA/Section 504 (D) of the Rehabilitation Act
• Provide free and appropriate education
• Schools must identify, evaluate, and classify students
• Schools create Individualized Education Programs
• Special Education services are part of student's schedule
• Parents and school staff advocate for student
Post-Secondary: Civil Rights
• Americans with Disabilities Act/Section 504 (E)
• Ensures access to programs for persons otherwise qualified
• Students self-identify and provide documentation
• IEP does not continue into college
• No Special Education; accommodations are available
• Students self-advocate; parents not actively involved
Postsecondary Institutions are NOT Required To:
- Reduce or waive any of the essential requirements of a course or program
- Conduct testing and assessment of learning, psychological, or medical disabilities
- Provide personal attendants
- Provide personal or private tutors (but tutoring services normally available to persons without disabilities must be accessible to persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified for those services)
- Prepare "Individual Education Plans" (IEPs) and are not required to adhere to all of the accommodations that were provided in high school
- Students self-advocate; parents not actively involved
In contrast to the responsibilities of high schools, at the postsecondary level, students with disabilities have a responsibility to:
- Self identify or disclose their disability to the designated office for disability services
- Provide verifying documentation to that designated office
- Obtain assessment and test results and provide them to that office
- Act as independent adults
- Arrange their own weekly schedules
- Contact their instructors to activate and adopt accommodations for each class
- Arrange for and obtain their own personal attendants, tutoring, and individually fitted or designed assuasive technologies
- Maintain the same responsibility for their education as students who do not have a disability
New Role of Parents
• Legal guidance provided by IDEA
• Teachers reach out to parents and include them in educational planning
• Parents should expect periodic progress reports and can request a conference at any time
• Parents are expected to be an advocate for their child
• Legal guidance provided by Section 504 and ADA
• Professors do not include parents in educational process and cannot legally do so without written consent from the student
• Parents should not expect the college to provide reports on students' progress or attendance. Student may sign a release to allow staff to discuss personal information with whom ever he/she chooses.
• Student is expected to be his/her own advocate
Steps to take before Transitioning to College
• Take high school courses that will get you into college and/or prepare you to succeed in college level classes
• Attend Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings
• Discuss IEP assessment with school psychologist, counselor, special education teacher, and parents. Know individual academic strengths and weaknesses.
• Be able to describe your diagnosis and how it affects you in detail
• Know the kinds of accommodations that will provide an equal opportunity to succeed at college
• Take on one or more difficult tasks without the help of teachers or parents
• Have a copy of your high school IEP and psychological evaluation or other documentation of a disability
• Meet with a high school counselor and discuss what needs to be done to prepare for college
• Contact the department responsible for disability accommodations at the colleges you are interested in to find out what their requirements are for accommodation services
• Visit the colleges you would like to attend and meet with the disability office.
Some of the information contained here was taken from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities, Washington, D.C., 2005.
Web Sites for Students Transitioning to College
formally known as (VESID)
Frequently Asked Questions
In most cases, a college will not share specific information regarding a student's disability with a third party, including parents, without the student's written permission to do so. Once a student has signed the forms required by his or her college, the disability services provider may distribute information to the appropriate faculty and/or staff members regarding a student's need for accommodations. It is the student's right not to disclose specific information regarding his or her disability to faculty and/or staff; however, the disability services provider can help the student determine when it is appropriate and helpful to do so.
No. However, if you want the school to provide accommodations, you must identify yourself as having a disability. Likewise, you should let the school know about your disability if you want to ensure that you are assigned to accessible facilities. Usually this is done by bringing the appropriate documentation to the Office for Services to Students with Disabilities. In any event, your disclosure of a disability is always voluntary.
The appropriate academic adjustment must be determined based on your disability and individual needs. Academic adjustments may include auxiliary aids and modification to academic requirements as are necessary to ensure equal educational opportunity. In providing academic adjustment, your postsecondary school is not required to lower or make substantial modifications to essential requirements. For example, although your school may be required to provide extended time, it is not required to change the essential content of a test.
Although you may request an academic adjustment from your postsecondary school at any time, you should request it as early as possible. Some academic adjustments may take more time to provide than others. You should follow you school's procedures to ensure that your school has enough time to review your request and provide an appropriate academic adjustment.
Yes. You will be required to provide documentation that shows you have a current disability and need academic adjustment. You may be required to provide documentation prepared by an appropriate professional, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or other qualified diagnostician. Although an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 plan may help identify services that have been effective for you in the past, it generally is not sufficient documentation and must be accompanied by your most recent psychological evaluation. If the documentation that you have presented is not sufficient, a school official must tell you in a timely manner what additional documentation you need to provide.
Once you have provided your documentation, you should call the disabilities office to schedule an appointment with a service provider. The school will review your request in light of the essential requirements for the relevant program to help determine an appropriate academic adjustment. It is important to remember that the school is not required to lower or waive essential requirements. The school will work with you to determine appropriate academic adjustments. These may or may not be the same as those you have had in the past.