Differences Between High School and College Disability Services

The transition from high school to college is exciting, and it can also be a challenging time for any student. For students with disabilities, this process can become more stressful due to several changes in disability services. However, when students are informed and prepared, their transition is easier.

Laws that govern services for students with disabilities in high school vary greatly from those that protect students in college. All students with disabilities in a university setting are protected under the ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. These laws protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities and ensure equal access to education. And while equal access does not mean equal success, planning ahead for these differences will be helpful.

Student Self-Advocacy

The role of the student also changes upon entering college. College students with disabilities must take an active role in self-advocacy and seeking accommodations and services. 

  • When entering college, students must self-identify to the Office of Disability Services by providing the appropriate documentation.
  • Once students are determined to be eligible for services, they must schedule a Registration appointment with a DS counselor in order to secure accommodations.
  • Students are also expected to follow the necessary steps in order to receive reasonable accommodations. Please visit our Accommodations page for more information.
  • Unlike elementary school and high school, IEPs and 504 Plans are not part of the accommodation process at the college level.
  • The University does not provide services that are personal in nature. Some examples include personal care attendants and private tutors.

Student Responsibilities

College students with disabilities have similar responsibilites as the rest of their peers.  It is each student's responsibility to comply with all University standards and codes (e.g., academic integrity and code of conduct) and to monitor his or her own academic progress.  Students should meet with their academic advisors for important information about academic progress towards graduation.  In addition, students with disabilities who wish to receive accommodations must:

  • Use the DS Portal to send Accommodation Letters to faculty early in each semester to initiate accommodations
  • Meet with Faculty to discuss accommodations. For Online classes, students should follow up with faculty via email and plan discussions accordingly. 
  • Be an active participant with the DS counselor in the accommodation dialogue
  • Follow Disability Services processes for specific accommodations (e.g., testing accommodations or e-text)
  • Alert their DS counselor of any changes to their needs or concerns about their accommodations

The US Department of Education acts as a great resource for students interested in learning more about disability services and the transition from high school to college. Their website offers the following article to assist in the process:  Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities