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Students with Disabilities


This chapter is an important addition to CollegePrep-101. Not only does it provide useful information to help students with disabilities prepare for college, but it will serve as a reference for anyone who works with those with disabilities, or for those who are simply interested in the subject. Because of the nature of the information provided in this chapter, the format is a little different than many of our chapters. The author has divided the information into three distinct sections, "High School v. Post Secondary," which discusses the differences in laws, expectations and responsibilities, "Strategies," which outlines strategies to make students successful, and "Advising," which gives suggestions as to how to get the most out of the relationship with an academic adviser.
The author of this chapter is Michael Shuttic.

Michael Shuttic has worked in the field of disabilities for 14 years. He is currently Coordinator of the Student Disability Services office at OSU. Just prior to that he spent 7 ½ years at the University of Kansas in the office of Services for Students with Disabilities providing services/ accommodations for students, and chair of campus Architectural Barriers Committee. He has been a member of AHEAD (Assoc of Higher Education and Disabilities) since 1990, chair of AHEAD's Disability Policy Committee 1996-1999; current President of Oklahoma AHEAD; member and past president of local Transition Council; and current NASPA (National Assoc of Student Personnel Administrators) national chair of disAbility Concerns Knowledge Community.


Transition from high school to postsecondary can be confusing, unfamiliar, and awkward. With respect to "disability" and "accommodations", it is essential to understand the differences. Appropriate expectations and an understanding of how things work will provide for a smoother and more successful transition. What is the difference between "free and appropriate public education" (mandatory education) under IDEA and "equal access, equal opportunity" (access to programs & services) per 504/ADA?


High School


*IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Educantion Act
*504 (Section 504, Rehab Act, 1973)
*ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990)

*504(Section 504, Rehab Act, 1973)
*ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990)

School districts are responsible for identifying, evaluating and planning educational interventions.

Students are responsible for self-identification, and for obtaining disability services

*Legal mandate
*Foster success

IDEA is to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment to eligible students with disabilities, including special education and related services.
504/ADA are to ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability is denied access to, benefits of, or is subjected to discrimination in any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity.
All infants, children and youth requiring special education services until age 21 or graduation from high school are covered. A list of disabilities is provided in IDEA, and includes specific learning disabilities.

*Civil rights, non-discrimination
*Equal access

504/ADA ensure that no otherwise qualified person iwth a disability will be denied access to, the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity.
All qualified persons with disabilities who meet the entry age level criteria or particultar program entry criteria of the college and who can document the existence of a disability as defined by the ADA are covered
Disability is defined as "any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; having a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having an impairment."
Important Note:
Students may be "otherwise qualified," which requires meeting established criteria (e.g. admissions, course expectations, graduation).




YOU are a critical variable in your success. Knowing personal strengths, areas of interest/aptitude, and specific needs will help in decision-making. Informed choice presumes that there is information available to use to make sound decisions. What information is necessary to decide what to take in high school? choice of college/ university? academic preparation & skills?

Develop knowledge about yourself

    Learn about the nature of your disability and its impact on learning, academics, etc.
    Understand your personal and academic strengths and weaknesses (self-esteem, self-perception, self-confidence)
Assess your interests, aptitudes and achievements
    Remember that high school preparation and courses set your foundation

    To succeed in college you first should understand the admission requirements as well as graduation requirements of your chosen college
    Here are some tips to help you develop and asses your academic, social and personal interest potentials:

      Take courses in many disciplines (subjects)

      Master basic skills including:

    1. mathematical computation
      writing and composition
      oral communication

    Identify & utilize current and available accommodations
Explore life experiences
    Your disability may have/ have had an impact on your opportunities or your level of involvement in high school. Once in college, you will have to create and maximize your opportunities.

      Try a variety of school activities, social organizations and functions, volunteer opportunities and paid jobs

Seek Career Counseling

    Advances in technology have created a wide range of occupations for people with disabilities
    To prepare yourself for the career you desire you should obtain realistic information about employment trends and acquire information about the educational requirements for that profession.

    It is important to have an understanding of your career options and not to let others discourage you from pursuing your interests. And don't let your own anxiety or apprehension turn you from your goals.

    Also, it is necessary to consider the impacts others have on you through their perceptions, assumptions, prejudices, etc.

Base decision making about college on a variety of criteria

    Admission requirements--applicants with disabilities must meet the set criteria
    Programmatic requirements (degree requirements)--colleges are not required to alter programmatic requirements if a course in question is fundamental to the nature of the major

    Other factors about the school:
      -Training available
      -Field of study
      -Reputation of the institution
      -Size and diversity of student body
      -Intellectual and social environment
      -Availability of financial aid, work-study positions, scholarships/internships
      -Quality and type of support services
      -Types of auxiliary aids and accessibility

    Other things to know about:
      -lowered expectations in high school may be harmful…short-term "fix";
      -curricular preparedness, skill building, & meeting established standards with accommodations (v. waiving requirements);
      -be aware of requirements: course, department, degree;
      -note the expectation of your increased level of personal responsibility;
      -differences between high school & postsecondary (see: "Differences");
      -comparison factors: who is now the "average" student (ACT, high school gpa);
      -assess your ability to work, be involved in other activities AND study;
      -make contact with Student Disablity Services to identify appropriate accommodations.
Develop self-advocacy skills (speak up for yourself)
    To make the most of your college career you need to become comfortable in describing to others both your disabilities and your academic needs

    You also must be informed about legislation with which colleges must comply that protects your rights

    Be sure to file appropriate documentation of your disability with the university you attend

    Settings in which you will need to self-advocate:

      - Student Disability Services (see Oklahoma State University's Student Disability Services web site:
        -you must self-disclose
        -need to provide disability documentation
        -ask about their legal rights and responsibilities to you
      - Orientation
        -orientation & mobility on-campus
        -information/materials in alternate format
        -pace of tour, conversation, etc. & your comprehension
      - Housing
        -distance from other buildings on campus-housing preferences (note difference between "preference" and "need")
        -accessibility (building, restroom, telephone, alarm system, etc.)
      - Financial Aid
        -other resources
        -impact of enrolled number of credit hours
        -continuous enrollment and academic progress issues regarding federal financial aid

    Compiled from U.S. Department of Education Document, Heath Resource Center, and American Council on Education


There are a number of ways to maximize your strengths. Focusing on what YOU can control is important. Course selection (size, format, days/times) and schedule creation (credit hours, types of courses, days of the week) are choices you can make. What are things to consider?<P>

Considering disability-related needs in schedule/course selection:

- What should an academic adviser know to help you create a manageable schedule?
- more alert, do better in early morning;
- joints, body ache in early morning;
- topics regarding 'x' trigger reaction (e.g. seizure, anxiety, post traumatic stress);
- difficult topics require more time (e.g. math, foreign language);
- need time to eat and take medication(s) at certain time(s) of the day.

- What factors/variables are important in choosing your schedule?
- class format (small group discussion v. large lecture);
- teaching style;
- exam format (essay v. multiple choice);
- amount of reading;
- number of credit hours (desired or manageable v. advised or required)

Course selection:

- Is math an area of difficulty for you?

    - Create a schedule that will allow more time for difficult topics—fewer credit hours—for that semester.
    - Discuss taking the course(s) in the summer, through independent or correspondence study, at another school (e.g. community college).

- How do you handle a lot of reading?

    - Inquire how much reading is required in the courses you will be taking.
    - Get texts early and begin reading ahead.
    - Ask about books on tape or other means of reading texts.

- What foreign language experience have you had? Is it required for your major?

    - Identify options & information (e.g. majors or schools w/o language requirement; alternatives to language, such as "area of concentration" or computer skills or culture courses; degree options, B.A. vs. B.S.).

Differences to consider:

- M/W/F classes are approximately 1 hour long; T/Th classes are approximately 1 ½ hours long

    - What difference does that make for you?
    - number days/week of being in-class for continuity, practice, (2 v. 3 days/week);
    - amount of time required to pay attention, be seated in class (1 v. 1 ½ hours).

- What about large classes v. small classes?

    - Options of how to meet needs, i.e.
    - permission from instructor for enrollment in full courses;
    - different course for same requirement;
    - take in summer v. fall v. spring (be sure course is offered that semester);
    - ability to hear, see, focus, interact;
    - ask about "priority enrollment" as appropriate option.
- How many hours do you think you want to take?
    - rule-of-thumb is 1 hour in class = 3 hours out-of-class preparation;
    - impact on scholarship, financial aid, vocational rehab, other;
    - concern of time (years to graduate, cost) v. level of achievement (gpa).
- When are you most alert? Is there anything that would affect you taking morning classes? afternoon classes? evening classes?

- How much time should you allow between classes?

    - amount of time necessary to get to next class (look at the map)
    - ability to get organized before beginning class, to re-focus
    - possible time necessary to prepare for class (e.g. read, write lab report, review notes, complete project).
    - desired time to relax, study, eat, take medication(s), etc.
Course style:

·Teaching styles – how do you learn best (lecture, participation, read on own)?
·Test formats – explain to the academic advisor or consider how you do on different types of tests (multiple choice, essay, short answer).
·Talk with instructor/department and/or look at a syllabus BEFORE enrolling in a course. Many syllabi are on-line.


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