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A Season of Uprooting and Blooming Part II

by Emily Kubaszak, Associate Director, Accessibility Resource Office, Saint Mary's College

spring flowers overlooking the Dome

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

As the 2022-23 school year winds down, amid the flurry of spring programs, sacraments, field days, and graduations, we must preserve some time for transition planning. For our final blog of this school year, PIE continues our April conversation about transition planning with further considerations for high school and beyond. 

In this part of the conversation, Emily Kubaszak, the associate director in the Accessibility Resource Office at Saint Mary’s College, shares insights for families thinking about college and the educational teams that support high school students preparing for this transition. 

As students transition from high school to college, they will notice that the nature and delivery of support for students with disabilities change. While high schools have an obligation to identify and educate students with disabilities, the responsibility shifts to the student at the college level to initiate and utilize reasonable accommodations. The college’s responsibility is to provide equitable access to educational resources and reasonable accommodations to support an inclusive academic community for students with disabilities.

Differences at a Glance

High School College
Focus is on providing appropriate education for all students, including modifying curriculum and course expectations when needed to meet the needs of students. Focus is on providing equitable access to overcome barriers. The accommodations provided cannot fundamentally alter the course or program.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act establish the requirements and guidelines for schools in the delivery of appropriate education to students with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 (Subpart E) or the Rehabilitation Act establish the guidelines for the provision of reasonable accommodations to provide access for "otherwise qualified" students based on the colleges' admission criteria. 
A team consisting of administrators, teachers, parents, specialists, and the student determine the specialized instruction and accommodations that will be provided to the student. Through an interactive process between the student and the disability support office, reasonable accommodations are identified to ensure equal access and participation. Course objectives and the fundamental nature of the course are not changed, and the student is responsible for meeting the course requirements, including assignment due dates.
The Local Education Agency (LEA) evaluates and identifies students with disabilities who qualify for special education services. The student initiates a request for accommodations and provides documentation of the disability and the functional limitations that result from it. 
Parents communicate with teachers regarding a student's performance and have access to monitor the student's grades.  Parents do not communicate with faculty and information can only be shared with them if the student provides written consent. 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children's educational records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student ("eligible student"). Under this law, postsecondary students become the primary party responsible for their educational information, including the disclosure of disability information, the requesting and use of accommodations, and the communication of academic information. Students must be the ones to initiate requests for accommodations, request any changes to accommodations, and renew accommodations. 


While IEPs and 504 plans can provide helpful information and history for colleges, these plans do not transfer to college with the student, At the college level, students may be approved for specific accommodations that provide access to the college environment and experiences. Appropriate parties are notified of the approved accommodations that provide access to the college environment and experiences. Appropriate parties are notified of the approved accommodations, but disability information is not shared. 

It is important that students have current and specific documentation with the impact of the disability clearly noted from a qualified professional. Preferably, evaluations will be completed using adult scales or measures. Documentation must include a formal diagnosis, as well as a discussion of how the diagnosis is an impairment to a major life activity. All documentation will be kept confidential and separate from the student’s academic file. 

Colleges will have a disability services office that manages the accommodations process according to the requirements set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Students and families should visit a variety of postsecondary institutions, meet with disability specialists, and explore accessibility, to find a school that is a good fit. It is also important to consider the resources available to all students, such as tutoring services.

Students with intellectual disabilities should not rule out the possibility of postsecondary opportunities. The inclusion movement is spreading at the college level, providing options for students who traditionally would not have been accepted to participate in this level of education. Think College provides resources and a listing of postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities.

Self-advocacy, organization and time management strategies, and the ability to manage self-care needs (medication, etc.) are other important considerations for students with disabilities to think about and develop as they transition to postsecondary education.

If you are interested in further resources on secondary transition planning, including transition assessments and/or how to promote student participation in the process, please visit: