Office of Disability Services
Frequently Asked Questions about Disability Services at Colleges and Universities
1. Are there certain colleges and universities that are better for students with disabilities?
It is difficult to rank colleges and universities on regarding services for students with disabilities. Disability is a general term that refers to a wide array of socio-emotional, physiological or neurological conditions that impede learning. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires each college and university to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that all students have access to their programs. If you believe you would benefit from an intense program of services, you should research the various colleges and universities to determine which is most likely to meet your specific learning needs.
2. What kinds of housing options are there for me?
Housing is exactly that, an option. Many colleges and universities do not provide any housing; others have outsourced their housing to private organizations or other agencies. Others offer very limited housing and others still will provide a full-scale of choices. If the college/university offers housing, it must ensure that there is housing accessible to students with disabilities. It is very important to discuss your needs with appropriate university officials well in advance to ensure that any accommodations that might be necessary can be handled in a timely manner. (AHEAD 2014)
3. How does the college/university handle food services for students with food allergies?
Often colleges and universities contract with outside private agencies for food services. It is important to discuss the issue of food allergies during the application process. Many colleges and universities do not offer meal plans, however, if the college/university does offer a meal plan, it must meet its obligations to students regardless of the entity providing that resource. If the college does not offer a meal plan of any sort and students are on their own to utilize on-campus or off-campus food establishments, then the matter becomes the responsibility of the students to resolve. It would still be worthwhile to discuss this issue with the college/university Office of Disability Services personnel. They may have prior experiences or knowledge regarding this issue and can be of assistance to you.
4. Can I visit the Office of Disability Services when I tour the university?
You are more than welcome to visit the Office of Disability Services. The staff would love to have you visit and learn about the support services we provide at the Center for Academic Success. If your visit is to occur during the academic term, the staff will be busy attending to current student needs and if it occurs during the summer or between terms, they may not be in the office. Either way, we really want to meet you but it is imperative to make an appointment in advance so someone can be available to answer your questions.
5. I had an IEP/504 Plan in high school. Why isn’t that good enough for college?
An IEP or 504 Plan addresses the learner’s needs in the K-12 educational program. Postsecondary education is a totally different arena. Almost everything about the postsecondary system is different from what you’ve experienced before. This includes how a college /university may address your needs for accessibility to its educational program. The information it needed to accomplish this is also different and is based on adult learning needs rather than the learning capacities of juvenile learners. While the IEP or 504 Plan may provide the ODS with some measure of what it will need and some historical background, additional information may be required. This chart in the link below provides a general overview of the differences between various laws: http://www.postitt.org/transition_topics/pu_compare.htm
6. I will need some extra help to understand the class material. Can someone help him with that?
St. Andrews provides a wide array of student academic support. The Center for Academic Success has academic aides (staff) that will help students study, organize materials and are available to do read-alouds or scribe for students. Most of the SAU professors are available to students before or after classes to help with those who may be struggling academically. Furthermore, there are often organized peer tutoring sessions available for all students in several courses. If you need tutorial services you will need to arrange for and pay for that yourself. Federal guidelines do not mandate colleges/universities to provide tutorial services to ensure access to their educational programs. SAU, however, has a wide range of academic support service to extend to all students as well as the accommodations for students with disabilities that address specific barriers to academic success.
7. Does the university make special arrangements for students to sit for the SAT?
You must make arrangements with Educational Testing Services (ETS) who administer the SAT. Usually, the high schools are responsible for administering the SAT and should have all the information necessary to address questions. Of course, you could contact ETS directly to find out what would be necessary. You should plan on this well in advance of any scheduled administration of the exam.
8. Does the university provide special equipment for students with physical disabilities?
The college is responsible for ensuring that their programs and activities are accessible to students with disabilities. If this means that physical modifications are needed such as a raised desk or lowered laboratory table, then the university takes care of that. Special equipment of a personal nature is not paid for by a university. However, the distinctions between modified equipment for accessibility and personal special equipment can vary so it is always best to discuss these issues with the Office of Disability Services personnel at St. Andrews. If you are a client of Vocational Rehabilitation, you should be discussing these issues with your counselor as well.
Adapted from AHEAD, 2014 FAQS-Parents. www.ahead.org