Whether you are a returning student or you are going to college for the first time, it is essential to know that, under the law, you are guaranteed to be graded on your merit in school and cannot be discriminated against because of your disability. Each institution, whether private or public, is obligated under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide equal education to all students regardless of their disability status.
You are also guaranteed basic access as a student with a disability, but this is not as reliable on private campuses, especially in smaller institutions that do not have the funds to make the campus accessible. At the very least, ramps or other accessible entryways need to be provided for each building on campus. Common accommodations offered on college campuses across the country also include accessible transportation, accessible housing, and accessible workout facilities.
The classrooms themselves are also required to be accessible. This means that reasonable accommodations need to be provided for students with disabilities, such as extended test times for people with limited mobility or cognitive disabilities. Additionally, an accessible desk space and in-class accessibility features such as closed-captioning for videos should be available upon request.
What Services On-Campus Disability Offices Offer
Most universities and colleges have a disability services office or center that can provide you with all the information you need to go to school with a disability, including classroom accommodations and on-campus accessible housing. Here are the services you can expect to receive from a disability services center at your university or college:
– Making sure that classrooms on campus are accessible, including labs, libraries, the dining hall, and vehicles for student transportation, as well as providing accessible student housing.
– Advice on how to request any disability-related accommodations you may need for class, such as a note taker, a reader, a quiet space for testing, additional time for testing, or an alternative format for the test.
– Help with referrals to the community, such as finding personal care attendants or finding a wheelchair service company.
– Help with acquiring assistive technology, including necessary adaptive equipment or software.
– Sharing opportunities for participating in adaptive sports or other recreation in the community.
– Advice on finding counseling services or tutoring services.
Remember that not all disability offices are equal, as they can vary greatly from college to college. Do your research to find a college or university that offers a well-developed disability services office so you can have the best on-campus experience possible.
Expected Roles On Campus
You, the faculty, and the disability services center all have various roles to play to ensure that your educational experience is successful. The Association of Higher Education and Disability offers advice on what is required from each person in their respective role on campus. The advice is as follows:
The Student’s Role
– You must provide documentation of your disability to the disability services center in order to show your eligibility for accommodations. This document can be in the form of a letter written by your doctor.
– You must participate in the process of determining and implementing reasonable accommodations.
– You must inform the disability services center at your school when your accommodations do not work for you or need altering. The disability services office can only help you modify your accommodations if you let them know exactly what you need.
The Faculty Role
– Your professor should refer you to the disability services center if needed.
– Your professor will participate in the process of determining and implementing your necessary reasonable accommodations.
– Your professor will help identify essential course components for accommodations.
– Your professor will also request assistance from the disability services center if any in-class accommodations are needed or if any consultations are needed during the year.
The Disability Services Center Role
– The disability services office will keep your medical documentation confidential.
– The disability services office will help identify and implement your necessary reasonable accommodations at the university.
– The disability services center can request updated documentation regarding your disability.
– The disability services office may request updated documentation if your disability symptoms change.
– The disability services center will help provide you with referrals to on-campus and community resources that will help you manage your disability.