Students with disabilities have special rights that protect their ability to receive the same worthwhile education as their abled peers. These rights do not dissolve after high school, but they can become less accessible. Disabled college students are still protected from discrimination and have the right to reasonable accommodations, but colleges aren't required to offer the same extensive disability services that public schools are. They may also require that student prove their disability status and apply for accommodations on their own before they provide such accommodations.
Making the transition from high school to college can be difficult for anyone. It can be especially challenging for disabled students and for their parents, who are often still heavily involved in their lives. Knowing your rights or the rights of your disabled adult child and what to watch out for can help, along with competent legal counsel when necessary. Here is some of the most important information to familiarize yourself with as a disabled college student or an advocate for one.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal civil rights law that was enacted in 1990. Under this act, disabled Americans of all ages are protected from discrimination in basically all aspects of life. This includes work, school, and any location that is open to the public in any way. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments were signed into law over 18 years after the original Act took effect. These amendments further defined the definition of disabled in order to be more inclusive.
When a disabled student or their parents feel that discrimination has taken place on the basis of their disability, a complaint should be filed. Complaints about violations that fall under categories other than employment, air travel, or housing are handled by the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice. You also have the right to file a lawsuit against the educational institution you believe has perpetrated a rights violation.
Requesting accommodations in college is a different process than requesting them in high school. The student is responsible for registering with the university's office of accommodations or office of accessibility, which often requires proof of a medical diagnosis, and completing an application. If the student is approved to receive accommodations, those accommodations may only be valid for one semester before requiring a new application. Testing accommodations are sometimes arranged separately through individual instructors.
The most common accommodations offered by colleges include extended time periods for testing, alternative testing locations, access to a calculator or laptop, an aid for help with note-taking, audiobook access, and sign language interpretation. Students who require more intensive accommodations such as reduced coursework, alternative test formats, audio recordings of classes, alternative evaluations, or voice recognition software are sometimes denied and fall behind as a result.
Disability and Academic Progression
Disabled students may find themselves struggling to maintain the minimum academic standards required by their college or university. While schools have to offer reasonable accommodations to those who apply and qualify for them, they are not required to alter these requirements for students who have disabilities. Often, disabled students who are denied the more intensive accommodations they need soon find themselves facing warnings about their academic progress.
If you or your child has been targeted for falling short of their college's minimum academic standards after being denied accommodations, a rights violation may have occurred. Speaking to an attorney or attorney-advisor can help you determine the appropriate course of action.
Disability and Disciplinary Action
Just as disabled students are not exempt from academic standards, they are also not exceptions to their college or university's disciplinary procedures. However, there are reasonable accommodations that can be requested to make the process more easily understandable and less distressing for the disabled student. For example, the student may request to have an advocate or counselor with them at disciplinary meetings or hearings. They can request that the proceedings be periodically paused to allow for breaks that allow sensory processing or for the meeting or hearing to be moved to a location that is more accessible or familiar. A disabled student may also wish to ask to be allowed to provide their testimony in written form rather than orally.
If you or your disabled child is facing a misconduct charge and has requested accommodations during the disciplinary procedure and those accommodations have been denied or ignored, there may be recourse available. An experienced legal representative can help you decide how to move forward and whether or not an official complaint or even a lawsuit is warranted to right the college or university's wrong.
How The Lento Law Firm Can Help
Facing discrimination at the hands of an institute of higher learning on the basis of a disability is a painful experience. A disabled person's academic performance, self-worth, and mental health can all be negatively affected. The rights of college students with disabilities matter, and so do their futures.
Joseph D. Lento is a widely respected national education attorney. He has spent years defending the rights of college students against unfair consequences and rights violations. Don't be silenced or pushed around by a large college or university. If you are interested in protecting your right or your adult child's right to an equal college education, reach out to Joseph Lento at the Lento Law Firm today to start planning your defense or complaint. Call 888-535-3686 or contact the Lento Law Firm online to begin.