Updated: Aug 7, 2022
By Lauren Yost, Staff Writer
“In life, we all have limitations. Some persons’ limitations are more pronounced than others and require accommodations to be made in order to counter or remove the effects of these limitations. Accommodations in higher education as such do not intend to give an unfair advantage to SWDs [students with disabilities] but rather intended to level the playing field according to federal legislation”
If you are a student with a learning, physical or mental health disability you are entitled to receive accommodations in college. This process should begin as soon as you accept a college's offer of admission. The spring or summer is a great time to do this!
Read below to learn 4 important steps about registering with your campus' Accessibility Office!
STEP 1: Contact the Accessibility Office
You can reach your campus Accessibility Office by email, phone, or in-person. You should start this process as soon as you can (during the spring or summer before your first semester). Starting this process early will ensure that you have the accommodations you need on day one of the semester.
You will be asked to complete a Registration Form that asks you to share your basic contact information, disability diagnosis, how your disability affects you in academic and social settings and accommodations that have been helpful for you in the past. You can complete this form by yourself or with a parent.
STEP 2: Submit Documentation
The Accessibility Office at your school will require paper documentation in order to verify your diagnosed disability. Documentation can be submitted via email, fax, or via mail. Again, each college is different and may require you to submit your forms in a specific manner.
Be sure to ask the Accessibility Office what types of documentation they will accept. Each college has a different policy.
Some colleges are very specific about what students need to submit and other colleges are more lenient. Contact your specific campus Accessibility Office for details about what they require.
A helpful piece of information you can provide is documentation from a 504 or IEP plan. This will provide the Accessibility Office with documentation of services you received in high school. They can see what has worked for you in the past, and this information may help build a plan for accommodations in college.
Colleges are NOT required to follow your high school 504 or IEP plan.
They may use these documents as a resource when making accommodation decisions, but are not required by law to follow it.
If you don’t have documentation of your disability, the Accessibility Office will not be able to provide it for you. In this case, you will need to go elsewhere first. The campus health or counseling center may be able to guide you in the direction of a professional off-campus who can provide this documentation. You can also contact a previous clinician and ask for their assistance..
STEP 3: Meet with the Accessibility Office
Once you have submitted the necessary documentation, someone from the Accessibility Office will want to meet with you to discuss what accommodations you will receive in college.
STEP 4: Advocate For Yourself
Typically, the intake meeting will last no longer than an hour. It will be conducted either in-person at the campus Accessibility Office or be held virtually. You’ll discuss with a member of the office what accommodations will work best to help you succeed in college. Depending on your college or university, you may need to attend this meeting alone although some colleges allow a parent to be present.
Sometimes, you will receive all of the same accommodations that you had in high school. But this may not always be the case. Depending on the resources your college has, there may be changes from your high school plan. The plan you had in high school may not translate exactly the same way in a college setting.
On the other hand, your college may have additional or different resources than your high school did. No matter the outcome, the Accessibility Office will do their best to give you the accommodations and resources you need in order to be successful in college.
If you aren’t sure what accommodations you need or if you’ve never had them before, try describing what you find gets in the way of doing your best in your classes. For example, some students have trouble finishing work on time due to their disability. This could translate into an accommodation of getting extended time on exams. You can also ask the Accessibility Office staff member what accommodations are available. Something you haven’t tried or have never considered could end up working well for you!
Click Here to download this free poster!
PRO TIP: Speak Up for Yourself!
Speak up for yourself during the intake conversation. No one knows you better than yourself. If someone is suggesting an accommodation you don’t think you want or need, you are allowed to say no. You don’t have to agree to anything that doesn’t feel right to you. Or, if there is an accommodation you would like or think would be helpful, let them know.
Even if you aren’t sure about what the office can or will offer, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
The more you can express your needs, the more information and insight the Accessibility Office will have to work from. Together, you can shape a plan to thrive in college.
If you are interested in learning more about navigating learning supports and accommodations in college, please contact us. We are experts in the field of disability support in higher education and would be happy to schedule a consultation with you!