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Transitioning Students with Learning Disabilities into the Post-Secondary Education

Catherine Zarate, J.D., M.Ed., Legal Specialist Southwest ADA Center

Contact Information [email protected]

Direct Line: 713-797-7119

Toll Free Line: 1-800-949-4232

A Little About Us!

• • The Southwest ADA Center is a part of the national network of 10 ADA Resource Centers funded by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) under grant number H133A110027 and is a project of ILRU, a Program of TIRR/Memorial Hermann in Houston, TX Our region is called Region VI and includes Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana

• • • Our charge is to promote the voluntary compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide information, training, technical assistance and resources to all audiences.

http://www.SouthwestADA.org/ 1-800-949-4232 (v/tty)


• • To understand the obligations under the law when working with students with disabilities Gain tools and strategies through the presentation of scenarios to ensure students entering post-secondary programs are successful in their pursuit of an education

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) vs. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

• • IDEA is not an antidiscrimination act Section 504 and the ADA are antidiscrimination acts

Which law applies to postsecondary education?

• •

Section 504

– Governs all postsecondary institutions that receive federal financial assistance


– Title II: applies to all state-funded or supported institutions – Title III: applies to all private institutions, excluding educational institutions that are controlled by religious entities

Definition of a Disability under the ADA

Plaintiffs must prove 1. A physical or mental impairment that 2. Impacts a major life activity, and • 3. That the impairment substantially limits that major life activity. This definition is different than under IDEA.

What does the law actually say…

34 C.F.R. § 104.4 (a) Discrimination prohibited

No qualified handicapped person shall, on the basis of handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or otherwise be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity which receives Federal financial assistance.

What does the law actually say…

34 C.F.R. § 104.4 (b)(2)

For purposes of this part, aids, benefits, and services, to be equally effective, are not required to produce the identical result or level of achievement for handicapped and nonhandicapped persons, but must afford handicapped persons equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the person's needs.

6 Different Areas of the Law

• • • • • • Admissions and Recruitment Treatment of Students Academic Adjustments, including the provision of auxiliary aids Housing Financial Aid and Employment Assistance Nonacademic services

College Admission

• • • Institutions cannot discriminate against QUALIFIED individuals with disabilities in the admission process Schools cannot make preadmission inquiries as to whether an applicant for admission is disabled Self-identification is not barred under the law

Admissions Example-

• • Sue applied for admission to her local community college. She submitted her standardized test scores, transcripts, and teacher recommendations to the school. She also disclosed in her application that she had a learning disability. Her grades are in the top percent of the applicant pool. Can the school deny her admission because she has a disability?


• Students wishing to receive accommodations or adjustments must identify the disability. – Documentation must be fairly recent, come from an appropriate expert, and be sufficiently comprehensive

Documentation Example

• • Mike was admitted to Smile College. He went to the Disability Services office to request an accommodation. However, he did not submit any paperwork to the College documenting his disability. Does the school have to provide an accommodation?

Treatment of Students

• • Reasonable Accommodations- schools must make the accommodation unless it would constitute an undue burden or hardship to provide it or if it would require a fundamental alteration to the program. There are three typical types of accommodations – Academic adjustments – Modification or alteration of course examinations – Provision of auxiliary aids

Academic Adjustments

• • Schools do not have to lower their standards nor waive a required math or language requirement Examples – Changes in length of time permitted for the completion of the course or the degree requirements – Substitution of specific courses required for the completion of the program or degree – Adaptation of the manner in which specific courses are conducted or course materials are distributed

Modifying Course Exams

• • Evaluation should represent the students achievement in the course rather than reflecting the students impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills.

However, if those skills are the factors the test is measuring, then no modification needs to be made

Auxiliary Aids

• • • • • Taped texts Interpreters or other effective methods of making orally delivered materials available to students with hearing impairments Readers for visually impaired students Brailled or large print texts Classroom equipment adapted for use by students with manual impairments


• • Schools DO have to provide interpreter services But students must comply with school policies on attendance

Accommodations Example

• • A school offers several chemistry classes for its students. The school has decided to move one of the classes to the first floor to make it accessible to students who use wheelchairs. It also has decided to concentrate students with learning disabilities in that class as well.

Any problems with this?

Nonacademic Services

• Examples include housing, health insurance, counseling, financial aid, athletics, recreation, transportation, and other extracurricular activities

Nonacademic Example

• • Maria is a student with a learning disability. She makes an appointment to meet with her career counselor at the school. During the meeting, Maria reveals that she has hopes of attending law school. The career counselor recommends that Maria pursue a career as a paralegal because “law school is too difficult.” What is wrong with this suggestion?

Nonacademic example

• • Linda wants to run for Vice President of the Student Government. The college tells Linda that she does not meet the requirements for the position because she receives services through the schools Disability Services office.

What is wrong with this situation?

What can the schools do?

• • • Promote self-advocacy among the students It is now the student’s responsibility to request assistance (not the school) Ensure that the school is working with each student to develop a plan that best meets the students needs.

Empowering the Students

• Questions students can ask themselves (or parents can ask of their children) – Does the child truly understand how his brain works and how he learns?

– Can he articulate his abilities and disabilities in a way people can understand?

– Can he provide examples of how his learning disabilities affect his academic performance?

– Does he understand his legal rights with regard to access and accommodations?

– Does he understand what resources are available to him and how to access those services?