As a parent of a student with a disability, you probably have many questions and concerns about your son’s or daughter’s future college experience. This guide was written with you in mind—to answer questions, address concerns, describe the new roles your son or daughter and yourself will play in the accommodation process, and explain how post-secondary disability services differ from high school services and supports.
The Office of Disability Services (ODS) works to ensure that educational programming and services are accessible to students with disabilities. Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. According to these laws, no “otherwise” qualified individual shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination” in any program or activity. Individuals who are protected under these statutes include those with physical, sensory, or learning disabilities or other disabilities, such as health impairments or psychological impairments.
As a parent, it is important to understand that the laws that protect students with disabilities are different at the high school and post-secondary levels. High schools are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Post-secondary institutions are governed by the ADA and by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The document “Comparison of Disability in High School and College” outlines some of these differences.
Preparation is essential for a successful transition to college for all students and even more so for students with disabilities, as these students may be less likely than their peers without disabilities to persist and earn a post-secondary degree. Contrary to what many students and parents may believe, this preparation should begin long before college campus tours, interviews, and applications enter the picture. Your son or daughter should begin preparing for life after high school by learning about his/her disability, how the disability affects him/her academically, what coping skills have proven to be effective in the past, and what his/her strengths and weaknesses are. An awareness of how academic needs can be met, especially for a student with involved needs, can help ensure a successful transition. Self-advocacy skills are also crucial to a successful post-secondary experience. These skills are not learned overnight. Rather, students need time and practice to develop and fine-tune these abilities.
Many college freshmen are unprepared for the amount of responsibility that they will face in the postsecondary environment. Your son or daughter can begin developing these abilities gradually by taking increased responsibility for his/her education while still in high school. Encourage his/her participation in the transition planning process, as appropriate. If an academic, accommodation, or teacher-related problem arises, encourage your son or daughter to problem-solve and address the situation independently, while you offer support and additional help, only if needed.
Finally, an awareness of the impact of the post-secondary environment on academic success is also important. College students are expected to meet deadlines, be prepared for class and tests, and make wise use of their time. Making sure your son or daughter has developed good time management, organizational, and study skills will go a long way in preparing him/her to be a successful college student.
Post-secondary institutions provide academic accommodations to students who provide documented evidence of a disability that substantially limits a major life activity (e.g. learning, hearing, seeing, etc.). Accommodations are designed to ensure equal access to academic programming and services. Accommodations must be reasonable and cannot alter the essential requirements of a course or program that a student is expected to meet.
In order to register with Disability Services and receive academic accommodations, your son or daughter must self-identify as a student with a disability by completing an intake form, providing documentation, and completing a collaborative interview. As a parent, your role throughout this process is one that is primarily supportive rather than directive. Your son or daughter will be expected to lead the collaborative interview with a Disability Services staff member, as well as meetings with his/her instructors. Following is additional information about the initial intake process:
Disability Services requires current documentation from a qualified physician or other licensed professional in a field related to the disability. Since each disability is unique, guidelines for what constitutes appropriate documentation for a particular disability are available. Please note that a copy of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan alone is not sufficient documentation. Documentation guidelines can be found on the website under information for students.
The student will meet with a Disability Services staff member and should be prepared to discuss the impact of his/her disability in the academic environment, his/her history of accommodations and the accommodations being requested. This information, together with the results of the documentation review, will help our staff talk with the student and determine reasonable accommodations for the student.
When a decision has been made regarding accommodations, Disability Services will prepare accommodation agreement forms. It is the student’s responsibility to present these forms to his/her instructors in a one-on-one meeting. The student should be prepared to discuss with his/her instructors the impact of his/her disability and how the requested accommodations will support him/her in the classroom.
Disability Services is committed to ensuring all information regarding a student remains confidential as required by “The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” (FERPA). Student files maintained by DS are accessed by authorized office staff only. Information will be shared only after a student has signed a consent form or if required by federal or state law.
- The entire accommodation process must be student-initiated. It is not the post-secondary institution’s responsibility to initiate the accommodation process for the student. While you as a parent may want to advocate for your son or daughter and assist in the accommodation process, confidentiality laws prohibit college/university personnel from discussing your son’s or daughter’s information with anyone, including parents, without written consent from the student.
- Your son or daughter is responsible for ensuring that appropriate documentation is obtained and forwarded to Disability Services.
- Your son or daughter must distribute the accommodation letters to his/her instructors in a one-on-one meeting.
- Accommodations such as note-taking services and testing accommodations require the student to follow certain procedures. If these procedures are not followed, your son or daughter could risk losing the support of these accommodations.
- If your son or daughter experiences any difficulties with his/her accommodations or if the status of his/ her disability changes, it is his/her responsibility to inform Disability Services ASAP. If our office does not hear from your son or daughter, it will be assumed that all is well.
- It is your son’s or daughter’s responsibility to contact our office every semester to request accommodations for that semester. Accommodations are not put in place until requested by the student.
The Learning Resource Center (LA 334) is an academic resource center available to all students. Tutoring is available through the Writing Center (LA 334), the Math Tutor Center (MATH 107), and Chemistry Tutoring (CSB 101). Tutoring in other subjects is available. Visit the LRC's website for additional information at
Counseling Services (UC 226) offers confidential personal and career testing and counseling to currently-enrolled UNO students. Vist the Center's website for additional information at http://counserv.uno.edu.
Student Health Services (UC 238) provides outpatient services to currently-enrolled UNO students.Visit the SHS website for additional information at
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