Because an individual education plan (IEP) is specific to the public school K-12 education system, it will not directly carry over to post-secondary education. However, for students who have a learning disability that is covered by an IEP in high school, colleges are required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to provide necessary adjustments in order to provide the same quality of education as received by students who are not disabled. If you or your child has an individual education plan, read on to learn about their rights and responsibilities as they plan to transition to a college or university setting.
How Does Federal Protect College Students With Disabilities?
Under the federal laws noted above, colleges must not discriminate on the basis of disability and must make the appropriate adjustments to your educational access to ensure that they are not doing so. In addition to these adjustments, a college may not deny your application on the basis of disability and must provide accessible housing for disabled students.
What Are Appropriate Adjustments Under the Law?
The term "appropriate adjustments" covers educational aids and services as well as changes to academic requirements as needed. Common examples include the use of note takers or sign language interpreters; availability of recording devices and other helpful technology; and the option for priority registration, a reduced course load or a substituted class. However, colleges are not required to lower academic requirements for disabled students, only to modify requirements to ensure that students with disabilities are not discriminated against.
What Steps Do You Need to Take to Ensure that You Receive the Needed Adjustments?
While you are never required to disclose a disability to your college or university, doing so can help ensure that you get the services you need. The college is not required to identify your disability and must only provide adjustments if you inform them that you have a disability. To ensure that you have the help you need, you should make sure that you request needed adjustments as early as possible, preferably as soon as you are admitted. You are also required to provide proof of disability. You should follow the procedures to make this request that the college has outlined. While the individualized education plan is not applicable at the college level, it can be used as a guideline as you make your request. Another difference from K-12 experience is that parents are not expected or required to be included in the process of identifying appropriate adjustments.
One valuable resource is the federal government's documentation on college transitions for disabled students. In addition, the National Center for Learning Disabilities offers a free ebook about the college transition for students. By being proactive about planning for your college experience, you can ensure that you will receive a quality education and a great return on your investment even without the use of an IEP.