Receiving Accommodations in College
I have a diagnosis. Will I be able to register with SAS?
You might. The first step is that SAS must determine – based on the documentation you provide – that you meet the definition under Section 504 and the ADA of an individual with a disability. A diagnosis alone does not mean that you have a disability.
A disability is defined as having “a substantial limitation of a major life activity.” If you are determined to have a disability, you may register with SAS.
I’m registered with SAS, so will I receive the accommodations that I ask for?
Registration alone does not mean that you will receive an accommodation that you ask for. The next requirement is that there is an "access issue." If there is an access issue, SAS will determine specific accommodations. Accommodations are determined by documentation submitted by student as well as student input. Accommodations are granted on a case by case basis and may vary from the requested accommodation.
What is meant by "access"? How does this differ from "success"?
Colleges may not discriminate against students with disabilities by denying them access to its programs, services, activities, or housing; that means we must offer disabled students, what we offer non-disabled students. Thus, they have “access” to what everyone else does.
This is pretty straight-forward in the context of physical access, for example having a ramp or curb cutout to ensure a wheelchair can enter a building or having a strobe light alarm in a dorm room for a student who cannot hear the fire alarm. It is also clear in a classroom context when the access issue is having a desk that can accommodate a wheelchair or having subtitles for a student with a hearing impairment.
But, what about the common academic accommodation of extended time for testing? Where is the access issue? The access issue is that students without a disability have the opportunity to demonstrate what they know. A student with a learning disability may need the extra time to do the same and not be demonstrating the impact of their learning disability.
The college must provide an accommodation that is necessary for access, but the law does not provide for what is necessary for success.
Will I be able to receive the accommodations that I received in high school?
That will depend. High school disability law and higher education disability law differ in many ways. Special Education/IDEA requirements apply to K-12. There is a difference between Section 504 in K-12 versus college. Under subsection D (what applied to you through high school) accommodations are intended to help you be successful. Subsection E (what applies in college) is only about access, not success. That is why the rationale for an accommodation, “But I need this to be successful,” does not substantiate the need for an accommodation in college. Don’t stop reading! See the next question!
But, doesn’t the College care if I’m successful here?!
Of course we do! However, the ways we work to help you toward achieving success are through numerous resources on campus to help you reach your full potential and to promote success [advising team, class deans, faculty, ARC, Writing Center, Tutoring Center, Health Services, Counseling Services, student life programming, residence life staff, etc]. And an additional resource is Student Accessibility Services! Even if we did not issue you an accommodation you requested, we are still a resource to help you be successful. We will meet individually to strategize, identify college resources and provide training in assistive technology.
A few other differences between high school and college:
- Students must self-identity to SAS as a student with a disability
- Self-advocacy is essential in order to navigate through college
- Students must supply appropriate documentation to register with SAS
- Students must sign a release for SAS to be able to speak with a parent or doctor/ counselor
- Accommodations cannot alter the essential elements of the programs/courses
- Accommodations are not retroactive