Differences Between High School & College ADA Needs

High School College
The K-12 educational system is governed by two laws that apply to students with disabilities – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504.

Institutions of Higher Education are governed by two laws that apply to students with disabilities – the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, amended 2008.
Under IDEA, children with disabilities are entitled to a “Free and Appropriate Public Education”. Equal access to education is the governing principle in higher education. Students have civil rights and must advocate for themselves in order to enjoy those rights.

Public schools include services to assure a student’s success. Public schools are responsible for outreach to students. Section 504 upholds the institution’s right to maintain academic standards. No accommodations may be permitted to reduce that standard for any student. There is no “free” education, and accommodations must be reasonable and must ensure each student’s access, not success.

Public schools receive Federal funding to provide remedial and special education services. Colleges are required to provide reasonable accommodations, but receive no additional financial support to provide support services, and are not required to provide remedial services if such services are not provided for all students.

Plans, either the Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan, drive all school services and accommodations. These plans involve teachers, school psychologists, and administration. A parent’s signature is required; the student’s participation in the planning is optional.

The student is responsible for advocating for the accommodations that are needed. Students make individual decisions on all coursework selection. Parents are not involved in the educational process without the student’s permission.
Students are qualified for public education simply by being of the appropriate age and because they have a disability. “Otherwise qualified” in colleges means that the student must meet all entrance and academic requirements with or without reasonable accommodations.

Public schools, for the most part, are responsible for appropriate assessment of a student’s disability. Colleges do not have to provide assessment for disabilities, but can expect that the students will provide documentation of their disability that meets accepted guidelines.

While the student is in school, the school provides assessment, physical, or other therapy, or personal care. The student is responsible for personal services, (arranging and paying for) personal care, medical and related requirements, just as if they were living independently and not attending school.

Teachers may be expected to learn all they can about the disability of a student in one of their classes. Professors need to know only that which applies to the accommodation the student requests.