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RAISE The Standard, May 2022, v.8 n.6

RAISE (The National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-determination and Employment (RAISE) Technical Assistance Center) logo

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Screen grab from Rethinking College, young man with Downs syndrome shaking hands with a fellow student in a college cafeteria

Post-Secondary Education

College is about more than academic learning—it can help to enrich one’s life and expand connections. It can help youth gain independence, learn new skills, explore interests, become more employable, and build social connections.

Increasingly, youth with disabilities are making plans to continue their education beyond high school. To be successful, they will need to be well informed about their rights and responsibilities, as well as the responsibilities of the colleges and universities they select.

In this issue of RAISE The Standard, we unpack some of the issues and complexities of a transition to higher education.

Rethinking College is a 25-minute film that explores the growing movement to include students with intellectual disabilities in higher education. Produced by Think College, the video presents perspectives of parents, educators, advocates, policy leaders, and (most importantly) students, and illustrates how colleges and universities can provide a setting for all students to grow, learn, and build toward better futures.

View the Rethinking College video now.

Want more? Access the viewer’s guide and to have a discussion.


Edie Cusack video still of her Charlston TedX presentation

"Exceptional treatment does not equal an exceptional life, it equals an exception from life."

Edie Cusack has been educating and advocating for and educating students with intellectual disabilities for over 30 years. Edie’s TEDx Charleston talk drives home the realities of graduation for many people with intellectual disabilities, and maps out the learning that happens, not only in the classroom, but outside of academic life. She reminds viewers that treating people with I/DD as “exceptional” and “special” should take a back seat to treating them “just like anyone else.”

Access Edie Cusack’s TEDx Talk here.

The DO-IT Center produced this 5-minute video sharing the experiences of five college students with disabilities. Anita, a self-described “full-time wheelchair user,” invites Carl, Katelyn, Eric, and Calleese to discuss the perceptions of other people, assumptions people make, how disability impacts their identity, and their approach to interacting with others.

View the DO-IT Center video.


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Appealing Services and Denials from Your State’s VR Agency

You have the right to appeal or challenge a decision that you feel is not in your best interest. The Client Assistance Program (CAP) can help you if you have applied to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) or are already a client. The purpose of CAP is to advise and inform applicants and individuals eligible for services and benefits available under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), including students with disabilities.

Contact CAP if you:

  • Have recently become disabled and are wondering how to apply for rehabilitation services;
  • Are denied the right to apply for services;
  • Are found to be not eligible for services;
  • Disagree with the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE);
  • Disagree with VR’s decision to close your case;
  • Are having difficulty finding rehabilitation services and want information about other resources;
  • Are concerned about your relationship with your VR counselor or staff members;
  • Are dissatisfied with the rehabilitation services you are receiving;
  • Do not understand your rights or the services under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act; or
  • Your case has been closed and you want to be reconsidered for rehabilitation services.

It is normal to feel uncomfortable or nervous about speaking up, but it is important for everyone that you are able to make the choices that will benefit you in the long run.

To find CAP in your state, go visit


Word cloud flow chart about college supports - support, equipment, goals, programs, resources, personal help, with disability services in the center
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Office of Disability Services

The moment a student accepts a diploma from high school, their right to a free appropriate public education comes to an end. While colleges do not have to comply with IDEA, they do have follow federal civil rights legislation, including the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure equal access for people with disabilities, and to protect them against discrimination. Colleges must provide accommodations to students who are eligible under ADA. Some may also provide support services like tutoring or coaching for a fee.

Here is how to get started:

Step 1: Meet with the Office of Disability Services

You will be asked to document your disability, so be prepared with a recent medical report, or an educational or psychological evaluation, depending on the nature of your disability.

Once deemed eligible, you can discuss the types of accommodations you need. There is no list of accommodations because everything is considered on an individual basis.

Some of the most common types of accommodations include:

  • Sign language interpreters
  • Test-taking accommodations, such as extended time and alternative formats
  • Note-takers/scribes
  • Audiobooks and other technology
  • Flexible attendance
  • Course substitutions and/or waivers
  • Housing accommodations
  • Wheelchair ramps and elevators
  • Special parking spaces

If you had an IEP in high school, it can help identify the type of accommodations you may need, but there are no IEPs in college.

Step 2: Notify Professors of Your Eligibility for Accommodations

After receiving confirmation of eligibility for accommodations, you will need to notify each of your professors to start setting up accommodations. It might be best to arrange a short, private one-on-one meeting during a professor’s office hours.

Step 3: Regularly Remind Instructors Whenever You Need Accommodations

In college, professors can have hundreds of students in a semester, and some classes are taught by graduate students. You will need to remind professors of your accommodations.

Learn more about how to access college disability services and accommodations here.

PACER Center produced this 60-minute webinar, Tools to Help Manage Daily Life for College Students with Intellectual Disabilities. Check it out now.


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Federal Action to Increase Access to Higher Education

The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 includes language authorizing the creation of comprehensive transition and postsecondary (CTP) programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students enrolled in a CTP program were also made eligible for certain kinds of federal financial aid. CTP programs are now operating in many states.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 included language requiring an increased focus on the period when students with disabilities are transitioning from high school to postsecondary education or employment settings. The law requires state vocational rehabilitation systems to reserve 15 percent of federal funds for pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) and to increase coordination with state education systems.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services are in every state. A federally-funded agency, state VR programs provide and/or fund services designed to support people with disabilities as they pursue meaningful employment—which can include higher education.

VR counselors can be an important part of the IEP transition team. If a student is eligible, they will work with their VR counselor to develop an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) that identifies needed VR services.

Services available through VR programs vary widely depending upon the state. They can include assessment; vocational evaluation, counseling, and guidance; referral to services from other agencies; vocational and other types of post-secondary education and training (including self-determination and self-advocacy training); interpreter and reader services; rehabilitation technology services and other job accommodations; placement in suitable employment; employer education on disability issues; post-employment services; services to family members; and other goods or services necessary to achieve rehabilitation objectives identified in the IPE.

VR agencies can provide tuition and other services for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities—including college and even graduate level training in any field—along with the purchase of tools, materials, and books. It is important to note that vocational rehabilitation is not a financial aid program. VR programs will need to determine that the student can achieve this work goal, and that participating in the educational program is necessary to pursue a specific line of work.

Visit this page at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to learn more about the role of your state’s VR agency in higher education.


Anomie Fatale

We have all heard about "the mind-body connection," in which our thoughts and feelings influence our physical well-being. What happens when we flip that around? The "body-mind connection" when physical illness or disability influences our mental health is just as real.

In this issue of RAISE The Standard, we hear from Anomie Fatale about the mental health challenges of having a physical disability. Anomie was in college when surgeries and a genetic condition left her with quadriparesis. Her life changed suddenly: Her long-time boyfriend left. She lost her housing and her driver’s license and quit college.

"For many years I felt like a failure and a burden because of my physical disability. I told myself I was defective, broken, and hopeless. Those feelings made me susceptible to toxic relationships and unprofessional care support. I put up with so much BS in my disabled life because I was struggling too much to allow things to matter to me mentally and emotionally… Everything kept falling because the system to support disabled lives, visible and invisible, is very broken."

- Anomie Fatale

Click here to read the full blog post.


There are eight (8) Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Parent Centers throughout the US that provide training and programming to youth/young adults with disabilities and their families, professionals, and other PTIs and CPRCs on the issues surrounding youth transition.


RSA Parent Centers are funded by the Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which is part of the US Department of Education.

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In this issue of RAISE The Standard, meet PACER Center’s Project Launch. PACER is partnering with other parent centers in Region C1, an eight-state region (Minnesota, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Illinois, and Michigan), to improve employment and independent living goals of individuals with disabilities. PACER coordinates joint activities with parent centers in these states to share expertise among centers and support training and information activities that meet the needs of transition-age youth with disabilities and their family members. The project includes focused activities to ensure it meets the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse and other underserved families.


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Think College: A non-profit dedicated to developing, expanding, and improving research and practice in inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disability. Learn more here.

National Center for College Students with Disabilities: A federally-funded national center for college and graduate students with any type of disability, chronic health condition, or mental or emotional illness. Learn more here

The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD): A national non-profit membership association for individuals committed to equity for persons with disabilities in higher education. Learn more here.

The Campus Disability Resource (CeDaR): A database that can help users find disability-related information from nearly 4,000 degree-granting colleges and universities across the United States. Learn more here.


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June 24

8th Annual RAISE Summit: Building New Relationships in our New Reality, in-person in Philadelphia. Click here to register and to get more information.

July 18–22

AHEAD Equity and Excellence Conference, live in Cleveland, Ohio. Click here to register and get more information.

August 2–4

AHEAD Virtual Mini-Conference, with select highlights from the live conference. Click here to register and get more information.

RAISE The Standard

Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.

Executive Editor:

Josie Badger

Visit our Website:

The RAISE Technical Assistance Center is working to advance the accessibility of its digital resources, including its websites, enewsletters and various digital documents.

* For more on SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and all of the complementary programs supported, visit


RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.

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The RAISE Center is a project of the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and is funded by the US Department of Education's Rehabilitation Service Administration. The contents of this resource were developed under a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Education (H235G200007)). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education and should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

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