The following information was compiled to help students with disabilities make the transition from high school to college as smoothly as possible.
1. Understanding the Law
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) govern both employers and institutions of higher education. In short the laws state that students with disabilities can not be discriminated against because of their disability. Students may be eligible for modifications or academic adjustments so that they have equal opportunity and equal access.
Section 504 and the ADA are not the same as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under IDEA primary and secondary schools are responsible to identify and to provide a free, appropriate education for all students. In post-secondary institutions it is the student's responsibility to self-identify and to provide documentation of the disability. Students should obtain copies of their diagnostic assessment and make sure that the assessment is current before they graduate from high school. If prior assessment information is not available or is more than three years old, students can usually have this type of an assessment done by the local school district, at no cost, if they are currently enrolled in a K-12 school.
2. Disclosing Disabilities
Students are not required and may not be asked to reveal a disability in the application, but revealing a disability may be beneficial especially if there is a discrepancy in the application information (e.g. GPA and ACT scores). Special admission considerations may be made on a case by case basis if the student does not meet minimum requirements for admission due to a disability.
Students with disabilities can initiate services by contacting the Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities (CSSD) Marliss.VanDerZwaag@dordt.edu as soon as they are accepted. This contact should be made as early as possible to ensure the accessibility of the resident hall and classrooms and the availability of auxiliary aids. The CSSD can also assist in pre-registration if the contact is made before the course selection deadline (usually the beginning of July).
Students are also encouraged to make an appointment with the CSSD during campus visit days. Once the initial contact is made the student will be asked to provide appropriate documentation of the disability. On the basis of the documentation, reasonable accommodations needed to offer equal access are implemented on a case by case basis. Reasonable accommodations may not lower course standards or alter degree requirements, but they give students with disabilities an equal opportunity to learn and demonstrate their abilities.
3. Becoming One's Own Advocate
Independence is a goal of the support services for students with disabilities, and students are encouraged and taught to become their own advocate. The more students know about their own strengths and weaknesses, strategies and accommodations during high school, the better prepared they will be for a post secondary education.
4. Other Information
- The SAT and ACT do allow special exam arrangements for students with disabilities.
- Contacting the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation may be beneficial. Vocational Rehabilitation is a nationwide federal/state program that offers a variety of services to help eligible people with disabilities become employed. Since education may be part of the plan to reach the goal of employment, both counseling and financial assistance may be available. To find your local vocational rehabilitation agency look under the state listing in the telephone book.
- HEATH is a national clearinghouse on post-secondary education for individuals with disabilities and offers information and materials to assist people with disabilities in developing their full potential through post-secondary education and training. Single copies of printed materials are available at a cost/recovery price and duplication of HEATH materials is encouraged. HEATH can be reached at HEATH Resource Center; One Dupont Circle, Suite 800; Washington, DC 20036-1193 or www.heath.gwu.edu.