Differences between High School and College for Students with Disabilities

High School

In high school, the school has responsibilities, which include the following:

  • Identify students with disabilities
  • Provide an evaluation of the student’s disability
  • Classify disabilities according to specified diagnostic categories
  • Involve parents or guardians in placement decisions in most circumstances or with very few exceptions
  • Provide certain non-academic services
  • Place students in programs by a placement committee with parent participation and approval
  • Structure a large part of the student’s weekly schedule
  • Modify educational programs
  • Prepare Individualized Educational Plans (IEP’s)
  • Provide a free and appropriate education
  • Inform parents of their procedural safeguards (right to due process, etc.)
  • Elementary and secondary institutions provide accommodations to have their students BE successful (IDEA)

Colleges and Universities

  • Students must self-identify by requesting services through the Office of Accessibility Resources at the university which, in turn, is required to protect a student’s right to privacy and confidentiality
  • Documentation of the disability, including a professional evaluation, is the student’s responsibility
  • Colleges have specific guidelines for documentation of a disability. While the classifications or diagnosis of the condition is necessary, a description of the functional limitation(s) caused by the individual’s disability is essential.
  • Parents and guardians are not involved, and privacy laws may bar college staff from even discussing a student’s disability with parents unless permission is given by the student in writing
  • Ensure that non-academic services are accessible, and do not discriminate
  • There are NO IEP’s, 504 plans, or placement committees; a student must be a self-advocate
  • Students structure their own schedules. Recommendations are made to the student, it is the student’s responsibility to follow recommendations and established procedures
  • While the college may assist by providing reasonable academic accommodations and/or auxiliary aids or services to accommodate the functional limitations of qualified students with disabilities (as indicated in appropriate documentation), accommodations cannot lower or alter the standards of the program/course
  • College staff prepare accommodation letters that suggest reasonable accommodations, auxiliary or services  without lowering or altering the standards of the program/course
  • The student requests accommodations and/or auxiliary aids, but chooses his/her own classes and programs, within a school’s requirements
  • Inform students of their rights and responsibilities
  • Postsecondary facilities provide access and an equal OPPORTUNITY for students to be successful (Rehab Act, ADA)

IDEA vs. Section 504

Learn about the differences between Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):

IDEA vs. Section 504/ADA/ADA Amendments Act