Colleges and Universities are not included under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Often referred to as IDEA, this is a federal law that ensures that students with disabilities receive a fair public education that is individualized to their needs. This act allows children and their guardians to access the necessary resources they need to prevent their disability from hindering their education. So how can college students with disabilities receive an appropriate education that meets their needs if they are not protected under the IDEA?
Once a student who was previously protected under the IDEA reaches the point of college it is no longer considered an education issue, but a civil rights issue. The Americans with Disabilities Act was introduced back in the early 1990s. This was established so people with disabilities will have equal opportunities in all aspects of life. According to The Conversation, 11 percent of undergraduate students in the U.S. have documented disabilities. These disabilities can range from physical, mental or learning disabilities.
Cabrini University has an entire department dedicated to ensuring enrolled students with disabilities receive an equal and fair education. The Accessibility Resource Center, ARC, located in Founder’s Hall is a safe space where students can receive the accommodations, based on a documented disability, they need in order to be successful in school. Upon enrollment to Cabrini, the ARC will request the documents the student previously had in K- 12, however, the most important thing at this stage is access to the testing or evaluation that was done to create these documents. During a meeting with the student they discuss the needs that they may still require and if it is reasonable, does not affect the course outcomes, those accommodations will be met and the student will receive a VISA, verified individualized services.
“My role is balancing the legal rights of the university as well as those of the student. I want to make sure everyone’s rights are being observed,” Kathy Johnson, executive director of ARC, said. “If a student is challenged in any way with getting an accommodation I want them to talk to me right away because they shouldn’t have to go through that.”
Some accommodations offered can include, extended time for testing in a distraction-free room, use of a peer note-taker, audiobooks to name a few. These services are not only available for students who previously had accommodations in school. College is a new environment for many and some students may not realize they need extra help until they begin. No matter if the student seeks out help on their own or they are recommended by a professor the ARC is a resource students can utilize.
“At the end of the day we are here for the student and as much as we can we try to remove whatever obstacles are in the way for them to show what they know and to participate,” Johnson, executive director of the ARC, said.
The next step after seeking help from the ARC would be to receive an evaluation in order to acquire the proper documents for accommodations. Johnson mentioned that since testing can be expensive she refers students to contact local universities that offer a doctorate in psychology because they can perform the testing at a reduced cost. Another option is to meet with someone in the counseling center, which is free. The counselor is able to relay information to the ARC so that the student can receive the proper help.
Life can trigger all sorts of challenges in the area of stress and mental health and as a result of this temporary support is an option. No matter the issue a student is going through if temporary accommodations can help, the resource center only wants to see the student succeed.
“To be able to provide students the support they need is huge. Especially those first-year students who aren’t sure how to navigate a different environment,” Christy Leigh, accommodations coordinator, said.
Education is a basic human right for all and thanks to the ADA colleges and universities needed to update the way they aid students. Campuses are required by law to be inclusive and help their students with disabilities succeed. If a student with a VISA decides to disclose that with their professor they are required to abide by the needed accommodations and if there are any issues the ARC will do everything they can to see that their students are supported.
“I do feel supported at Cabrini. I think that sending my VISA out at the beginning of the semester to each professor always helps. I think having the option open of when I need those accommodations reduces my stress,” Catherine Mulligan, senior accounting major, said.
The strides the U.S. has made in the last 30 years for disability rights are significant and there is still more room to grow. No matter if you have needed accommodations for your disability in your previous schooling or you require them now, the Accessibility Resource Center is available to you.