For students with disabilities, a successful transition from high school to postsecondary education or the world of work includes obtaining accurate information about their civil rights.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has enforcement responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as amended, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, (Title II), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Every school district and nearly every college and university in the United States is subject to one or both of these laws, which have similar requirements. Private postsecondary institutions that do not receive federal financial assistance are not subject to Section 504 or Title II. They are, however, subject to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by private entities that are not private clubs or religious entities.
Each state has under its jurisdiction, a vocational rehabilitation (VR) services program, which is federally authorized. The federal government provides funds to state vocational programs to assist eligible individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment. These agencies provide a wide range of employment-related services, including services designed to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities from school to post-school activities. Typically, students with disabilities who are determined eligible for vocational services are those with more significant disabilities such as visual impairments, orthopedic disabilities or hearing impairments. Services for students with disabilities such as multiple disabilities or autism may be accessed through other agencies which service adults with mental health problems or mental retardation.
Some of the essential questions which are often asked due to the various differences between laws which govern post-secondary school settings include: test modification are only required which do not modify or create undue financial or administrative burdens, denying applicants admission due to a disability is not permissible, the student need not inform the post-secondary institution of a disability as well as the school is not required to determine a disability after graduation from high school. The burden is placed on the student to seek and obtain reasonable accommodations in order to be successful in the post-secondary setting.
After graduation from high school or over the age of 22, students with disabilities are no longer protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Act and an Individualized Education Plan does not follow the student through college or post-secondary education. A student with a past history of a disability may be granted accommodations under Americans with Disabilities Act but proper documentation must be given to the post-secondary institution before any services will be given. Know your rights and be prepared to take responsibility for your own success.