By Eve Kessler, Esq.
When students with learning differences transition from high school to college, Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) replace the IDEA as their source of legal protections. This ushers in a new standard for receiving Assistive Technology (AT) services: college students with disabilities must be provided with aids, benefits, or services that level the playing field and that provide them with an equal opportunity to achieve the same result or the same level of achievement as others. But while students may be eligible for AT, they are no longer entitled to it without identifying themselves as students with disabilities and advocating for the supports and services they need.
Simply put, once you’re in higher education, it’s up to you to proactively take charge of the educational supports you need.
Quality Indicators for AT
To prepare for this transition, students should acquire the following skills before entering college. Use this list of Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology-Post Secondary (QIAT-PS) to evaluate your readiness for accessing AT and other LD services in a college setting. If you fall short in any of these areas, work to improve your skills and knowledge to ensure that you can make the most of the options available on your campus.
- Self-awareness. Name and describe your disability, understand your strengths and difficulties in accomplishing tasks, and recognize how AT can help improve your educational outcomes.
- Knowledge of legal rights. Understand Section 504 and the ADA, be able to identify times when your rights are not being addressed, and know how to get help when you are denied access to your educational programs.
- Disclosure of disability. Provide relevant information about your disability, know when sharing information about a disability is or is not required, and use the school’s processes and procedures for requesting AT accommodations.
- Self-advocacy. Know about available AT supports and take the lead in interacting with disability service offices to acquire needed AT funding, training, coaching, devices, or services.
- Speak or write effectively to faculty, service providers and peers about your disability, how it impacts your educational performance, and how and why you need to use AT.
- Self-evaluation. Evaluate your performance when using AT and make adjustments/improvements to the way you use it in order to improve your educational performance.
- Strategic Use. Use a variety of AT solutions from low-tech to high-tech and choose appropriate and effective options for a range of academic, social and independent living situations.
- Independent Use. Use AT accommodations effectively and independently, without reminders, to accomplish tasks and overcome access barriers to achievement.
- Problem Solving. Identify AT problems and use basic strategies to solve simple technical difficulties independently or, if your problem-solving skills are insufficient, know where and how to acquire technical assistance.
- Long-term Planning. Identify new and useful AT solutions as they become available, arrange for maintenance and upkeep of personal AT devices, budget for future AT purchases and, when needed, apply for funding for AT devices and services.
This post is based on a presentation by Professor Bo Zamfir, Center for Educational and Assistive Technology, Southern Connecticut State University and the QIAT-PS Student Self-Evaluation Matrix, http://qiat-ps.org. Eve Kessler, Esq., a retired criminal appellate attorney, is Executive Director of SPED*NET, Special Education Network of Wilton (CT), and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.