Several accommodations for college students with disabilities are provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Students are responsible for requesting their own accommodations through the campus disability services office. All services must be provided unless doing so results in a fundamental alteration of the program, or creates an undue financial or administrative burden, says Deborah Leuchovius, transition coordinator for the PACER Center’s National Parent Center on Transition and Employment, a nonprofit.
PACER’s fact sheet, The ADA, Section 504 & Postsecondary Education, notes that students should notify the appropriate institutional office well in advance of the necessary modification or accommodation. “The student and office will usually identify accommodations that were successful in the past,” Leuchovius says. Faculty may also refer students to disability services.
Common accommodations for college students with disabilities
1. Removing physical barriers to provide access to buildings. Obstacles or other features in the building or school environment can impede students with disabilities from gaining full access to facilities, services and programs. But colleges and universities can meet ADA accessibility requirements by removing these barriers and ensuring that all buildings, including residential facilities, are easily accessible.
Related: Tunnels access: Perspective from a student with physical disabilities
That said, buildings constructed before 1977 don’t need to comply with the relevant accessibility code under Section 504—as long as the college can ensure that students with disabilities can engage in programs through other means, such as attending classes that are relocated to an accessible building, Leuchovius says.
2. Changing a classroom environment or task to allow a student with a disability to participate. Examples of such accommodations for college students with disabilities may include additional time or a distraction-free alternate setting for tests. Sign language interpreters, readers and alternative test formats are also common.
3. Modifying policies, practices or procedures. All programs must be offered in an integrated setting. To ensure this, institutions may need to alter policies, practices and methods to accommodate students, including allowing service animals in facilities or rescheduling classes to an accessible location.
4. Providing auxiliary aids and services. Offering assistive technology, such as screen readers, and modified keyboards and mice, as well as aids, such as sign language interpreters and materials in Braille or electronic formats, may be necessary for effective communication.
5. Making other adaptations or modifications that enable a student to participate in the college’s programs, services and activities. ADA and Section 504 provide for individually designed accommodations and program modifications to meet the needs of the student with a disability.
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For instance, colleges with housing must provide comparable accessible housing to students with disabilities at the same cost as to others. To that end, accessible housing should be available in sufficient quantity and variety so that the housing options available to students with disabilities are equivalent to those without disabilities, Leuchovius says.