February 2019, Vol. 5, No. 2
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
In this issue, we look at the topic of post-secondary education for students with disabilities. We explore options and ideas for 2- and 4-year college programs, as well as trade and vocational programs.
Here are a few thoughts:

Why College? A college degree has long been associated with greater earning potential, access to jobs with benefits, better career opportunities and growth potential, greater job satisfaction and security, and personal development.

According to data presented by National Center for Education Statistics, employment rates for people with a college degree – and even those with SOME college – are consistently greater than for those solely with a high school diploma.

Earnings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that for those with a bachelor’s degree, median weekly income is about $461 more per week than those with only a high school degree. That is a whopping $23,000 a year!
In addition, a growing number of college programs are offering non-degree options for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These programs provide a “college experience” through which students learn to master transition skills, advanced academics and explore career areas.

With facts like that, every student should be asking the question: “Is college for me?”

Why Vocational School? Vocational schools are a direct line to a skilled job. Generally speaking, it takes less time (and money) to complete a vocational training program than it does to complete a college degree program, so a student gets a jump start on a career.

It is also more likely that a student will complete a vocational program. According to the Community for Accredited Schools, the completion rate in vocational colleges in the United States is 23 percent higher than that of four-year institutions.

There are also many high-paying jobs - from paralegals and web developers to appliance repair and electricians - which pay well and do not require a 4-year college degree.

Still not convinced that a vocational school is worth considering? We love this info-graphic by The Simple Dollar.

“A generation ago, we signed our children into institutions. Later, they were called uneducable. But they just keep proving us wrong over and over. The story of college is just their next chapter.”
~ Angela Jarvis-Holland

We love this personal perspective about why college matters to people with disabilities.

And in this short video, ‘I’m Thinking College,’ learn from Haley, Bud, Will, Liz, and other students affiliated with Vanderbilt University’s Next Steps program. 

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How to "Think College"

While this terrific tool is written for those seeking a college program, the principles apply to students looking for ANY post-secondary program.

Where do you begin to find the ‘JUST RIGHT’ fit? You need to know what questions to ask. That is why this simple tool is so useful. This 8-page tool lays out important questions students and parents can ask about the college, student experiences, academics, residential access, disability supports, tuition and fees, job prospects and post-graduation support.

Are you ready to begin your college search?

We love this nation-wide search tool at ThinkCollege. Here, you can find and compare information on 265 college programs for students with intellectual disabilities. Search by program name, location, and other keywords

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Part I: Differences Between Secondary and Post-secondary Education

There are big differences between high school and post-secondary education programs. We like this simple summary from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

Secondary Education (High School)

  • Governed by federal laws: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
  • Purpose: To ensure that all eligible students with disabilities have available a free appropriate public education (FAPE), including special education and related services (IDEA). To ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity (504/ADA).
  • Eligibility: (for special education services) All infants, children, and youth (0 through 21 years) with disabilities (as defined by the state Administrative Rules for Special Education, and/or the ADA).
  • Documentation: School districts are responsible for providing trained personnel to assess eligibility and plan educational services.
  • Receiving Services: School districts are responsible for identifying students with disabilities, designing special instruction, and/or providing accommodations.
  • Self-Advocacy: Students with disabilities learn about their disability, the importance of self-advocacy, the accommodations they need, and how to be a competent self-advocate.

Post-secondary Education (College/University)

  • Governed by federal laws: Section 504 (particularly subpart E) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
  • Purpose: To ensure that no otherwise qualified person with a disability be denied access to, or the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by any program or activity provided by any public institution or entity (504/ADA).
  • Eligibility: (for disability services) Anyone who meets the entry level-age criteria of the college and who can document the existence of a disability as defined by the 504 ADA.
  • Documentation: Students are responsible for obtaining disability documentation from a professional who is qualified to assess their particular disability.
  • Receiving Services: Students are responsible for telling Disabilities Services staff that they have a disability, and for requesting accommodations for each class. Accommodations (not special education) are provided so students with disabilities can access the educational programs or courses used by other students.
  • Self-Advocacy: Students must be able to describe their disability, identify strengths and weaknesses, and identify any accommodations needed and how to be a competent self-advocate.

Part II: Demonstrating the Need for Accommodations

Here we offer a deep dive into strategies for both students and school guidance counselors.

For Students…

To get services and assistance from Disability Services (DS), you usually have to register with the office. They collect information about you, your disability and accommodations, and are required by law to keep that confidential, unless you give them permission to share it. That information they collect is the "documentation."

Because not all disabilities are easy to see or understand, documentation explains your disability and helps you and DS figure out what accommodations or services you might need.

Documentation of your disability also helps protect your rights under disability laws. If you've provided documentation of what you need, the college needs to provide services and accommodations.

According to NCCSD Training Center, there are three types of documentation:

Self-Report - You can best explain the barriers or problems you encounter with transportation, buildings, classrooms; classes, reading course materials, taking notes or exams.

It's importa nt that you know how to explain this to the Disability Services office and others who might need to know.

Examples for self-report include:

  • You give a report to Disability Services, verbally, in a letter, in an email, or through some other form of communication.
  • Your parent or a family member tells Disability Services about you.
  • Your disability is part of your identity; for example, you identify as a member of deaf culture.

Observation and history - Parents, teachers, family members and friends can be a good source of information about how you experience your disability. They can tell about your childhood, and how you did things at school and home.

If you were in special education, got a 504 plan, or received other supports or accommodations in high school, your teachers, school counselor or parents probably kept notes of that. You should try to get copies of those records to share with the Disability Services office, as well. Some examples of these are: IEP's, 504 Plans, Summary of Performance, teachers’ notes, letters to your parents or report cards.

Examples include:

  • Aspects of your disability are readily apparent to others (e.g., a wheelchair).
  • A written history of accommodations in high school (an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan).
  • Documentation that you used disability accommodations at another college, a workplace, or in the armed forces.
  • A card authorizing you as a certified service animal user.

Clinical Evaluation reports - Disability Services offices seem to really need information from your doctor, psychologist, or other health service providers. Hearing and vision exams, medical reports, psychological tests, and psycho-educational evaluations are all examples of this kind of information. Because most Disability Services staff are not health professionals, they need this kind of information to help verify and support your request for accommodations.

Each Disability Services office will have different requirements about the kind of clinical reports it wants to see. It's important to have reports that show your current disability experience, so you might need to meet with your doctor to update your records.

  • High school documentation of a disability (usually in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)) – if it is older than high school, it may not be accepted.
  • A letter from a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, audiologist, or other health care professional.
  • Documentation you used to get disability services from the federal or state government.

For High School Guidance Counselors…

We love this guide created by George Washington University, The National Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities, and HEATH Resource Center. In the 192-page guidebook, Guidance and Career Counselors Toolkit: Advising High School Students with Disabilities on Postsecondary Options, Chapter 4 takes a deep dive into what counselors can do to facilitate the acquisition of self-determination and self-advocacy skills.

  • Encourage students with disabilities to take the coursework required to achieve their post-secondary goals.
  • Help students understand their abilities, interests, talents, and personality characteristics so that the student can develop realistic academic and career options.
  • Review the financial aid opportunities available specifically for students with disabilities.
  • Advise students with disabilities of the availability of accommodations during standardized testing (ACT, PSAT, SAT, etc.). Provide facilities for non-standardized administration of comprehensive/qualifying examinations.
  • Advise students of college majors, admission requirements, entrance exams, financial aid, and training opportunities. Provide this information early on so that students can get a head start.
  • Assist students in developing a comprehensive transition portfolio or file to share with college admissions personnel and college service providers.
  • Help students to access vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, when necessary.
  • Help to keep students’ future options open.
  • Include students with disabilities in ALL college related activities, such as college fairs, college tours, and career fairs.
  • Promote the development of student responsibility by increasing opportunities for students to advocate for themselves and their needs.

Video still from 5 Tips for New College Students with Disabilities, Tip #1 Sign Up for Support
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Self-advocacy and communication are vital if a student expects to get the supports he/she needs in a post-secondary program. Here are the top 5 tips from AHEAD...

  1. Sign up for help
  2. Know your college or career training school
  3. Get involved and don’t be shy
  4. Read the rules
  5. Ask for help


Think College: https://thinkcollege.net/

National Center for College Students with Disabilities: http://www.nccsdonline.org/

Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD): https://www.ahead.org/home

The College Experience: https://thecollegeexperience.org/

Love Because, Never Despite, Disability

By Jessica Benham, Director of Development at The Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy

“I want a world where disabled people learn how to have healthy relationships alongside their abled peers, where disabled people are seen as valuable friends, lovers, partners, spouses not in spite of their disability but because disability adds to the fullness and beauty of their being.”

Conferences and Webinars
February 20, 2019 @ 2PM
RAISE Center presents a webinar: Enhance Authentic and Meaningful Youth Engagement: Using the Y-VAL

March 7, 2019 @ 1PM
Think College presents a webinar:
Assessing Risk and Developing Strategies for Inclusive Postsecondary Education Programs

March 7, 2019 @ 3PM
AHEAD presents a webinar:
Access Considerations in On-Campus Housing

April 4, 2019 @ 3PM
Think College presents a webinar:
Transition: Developing Effective College-based Transition Services

May 6, 2019
RAISE Summit
Charlotte University Place, Charlottesville, NC

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:
Peg Kinsell
Visit our Website:
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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RAISE is funded by the US Department of Education to provide technical assistance to, and coordination of, the 7 PTI centers (RSA-PTIs). It represents collaboration between the nation's two Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) and the seven Regional PTACs.