Transitioning to Postsecondary School
The responsibilities of postsecondary schools are significantly different from those of school districts. Moreover, you will have responsibilities as a postsecondary student that you did have as a high school student. It is strongly encouraged that you know your responsibilities and those of postsecondary schools under Section 504 and Title II. Doing so will improve your opportunity to succeed as you enter postsecondary education.
The following questions and answers provide more specific information to help you succeed.
As a student with a disability leaving high school and entering postsecondary education, will I see differences in my rights and how they are addressed?
Yes. Section 504 and Title II protect all elementary, secondary and postsecondary students from discrimination. However, several of the requirements that apply through high school are different from the requirements that apply beyond high school. For instance, Section 504 requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability in the district's jurisdiction. Whatever the disability, a school district must identify the individual's educational needs and provide any regular or special education, and related aids and services necessary to meet those needs, as well as it is meeting the needs of students without disabilities.
Unlike your high school, your postsecondary school is not required to provide FAPE. Rather, your postsecondary school is required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability.
May a postsecondary school deny my admission because I have a disability?
Do I have to inform a postsecondary school that I have a disability?
What academic adjustments must a postsecondary school provide?
Do I have to prove that I have a disability to obtain an academic adjustment?
What documentation should I provide?
Schools may set reasonable standards for documentation. Some schools require more documentation than others. They may require you to provide documentation prepared by an appropriate professional, such as a medical doctor, psychologist or other qualified diagnostician. The required documentation may include one or more of the following: the credentials of the professional; a diagnosis of your current disability; the date of the diagnosis; how the diagnosis was reached; and how your disability affects major life activities or academic performance. The documentation should be current (within the last three years) and provide enough information for you and your school to decide on an appropriate academic adjustment.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan may help identify services that have been effective for you. However, it generally is not sufficient documentation. Postsecondary education presents different demands than high school education, and what you need to meet these new demands may be different. Also, in some cases, the nature of a disability may change.
If your documentation does not meet the postsecondary school's requirements, a school official must tell you in a timely manner what additional documentation you need to provide. You may need a new evaluation in order to provide the required documentation.
Who has to pay for a new evaluation?
Neither your high school nor your postsecondary school is required to conduct or pay for a new evaluation to document your disability and need for an academic adjustment. This may mean that you have to pay or otherwise find funding for the evaluation. If you are eligible for services through your state vocational rehabilitation agency, you may qualify for an evaluation at no cost to you. You may locate your state vocational rehabilitation agency through the Department of Education.
If the initial documentation is incomplete or inadequate to determine the extent of the disability, Disability Resources may require additional documentation. Any cost associated with obtaining additional documentation is also borne by the student. If Disability Resources desires a second professional opinion, Disability Resources bears the cost.
Once the school has received the necessary documentation from me, what should I expect?
What if the academic adjustment we identified is not working?
May a postsecondary school charge me for providing an academic adjustment?
What can I do if I believe the school is discriminating against me?
Practically every postsecondary school must have an employee—frequently called the Section 504 Coordinator, ADA Coordinator, or Disability Services Coordinator—who coordinates the school's compliance with Section 504 and Title II laws. You should contact this person for information about how to address your concerns.
The school also must have grievance procedures that allow you to raise your concerns fully and fairly, and must provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints. School publications, such as student handbooks, usually describe the steps you must take to start the grievance process.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your school's grievance procedures, or you wish to pursue an alternative action, you may file a complaint against the school with the Office of Civil Rights or in a court of law.