College Planning for Students with Disabilities

Preparing for Your Education After High School

Going to college can be scary, but the right preparation can make your experience less intimidating. Below are links to information about the accommodations that can be made for students with disabilities taking standardized college admissions tests.

The regulations for accommodating students with disabilities in high school are very different than those in college. The chart below addresses some of these differences.

TopicHigh SchoolCollege/University
Who is responsible for identifying the student and their disability? The school The student
Who/what determines the eligibility of a student for services? A multidisciplinary team Documentation from a licensed professional or medical doctor, prior records, and IEP
Who is responsible for services? Most services are provided. Some services, like tutoring, may be at student's expense.
What plan for service is needed? Individualized Education Program (IEP) Usually a letter describing accommodations from the college's office of disability Services is given to faculty with the student's approval
What type of a learning environment is offered? Students are served with non-disabled peers to the degree possible. No 'special education' in college. Course requirements are the same for all students, however, students with disabilities may use appropriate academic accommodations.
What laws are applicable to the student? Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Finding a School to Meet Your Needs

For all students wishing to continue their education, finding the best school to meet their needs can be difficult. For many students with disabilities, this task can require additional searching.

  • Review these questions to ask disability services staff when visiting school campuses:
    • What is the procedure for identifying yourself and your disability to receive accommodations? What documentation is required?
    • What experience does the college have in serving individuals with your disability?
    • What specific accommodations and services can be made for various types of disabilities? Is there a separate cost for any of these services?
    • Is there adaptive equipment (e.g. voice-synthesized computers and calculators, reading devices, tape recorders, hearing amplification systems) available for your use?
    • Does the school work closely with other support agencies, like Vocational Rehabilitation agencies?
    • Is the entire campus accessible?
    • Are there any student disability support groups on campus that you can join?
    • Are there any types of financial aid/scholarships specifically available for disabled students? If yes, how do you apply for them?
  • Look into special admissions policies for students with disabilities.

Easing The Transition to Higher Education

Once you decide which school is for you, there are several steps that students with disabilities should follow to ease their transition to college or technical training programs.

  • Contact the coordinator of disability services of the campus you plan to attend.
  • Provide the required documentation of your disability. This information will vary by disability, situation, and campus. A letter or report from a physician that specifies a diagnosis and functional limitations is usually required.
  • Inform the financial aid office of any disability-related expenses, such as:
    • Special equipment (related to the disability) and its maintenance.
    • Cost of services for personal use or study, such as readers, interpreters, note takers, or personal care attendants.
    • Transportation, if traditional means are not accessible.
    • Medical expenses not covered by insurance that relate directly to the individual's disability.
  • Request services through the office of disability services each academic term. Know your specific needs as they relate to your disability and how your documentation supports these needs.
  • Work out specific accommodations to aid with your disability.


There are a variety of resources available to students with disabilities who plan to pursue their postsecondary education. Listed below are a few sources of information regarding the success of students with disabilities in furthering their education.

  • Oregon's Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
    • Assists Oregonians with disabilities to achieve and maintain employment and independence
    • Provides rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities and makes eligibilitydecisions for disability benefits
  • Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education
    • Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
    • Questions and answers about the transition to college
  • DO-IT Program
    • Promotes the success of students with disabilities in postsecondary programs and careers
    • Resources for students with disabilities to help further thier education
  • HEATH Resource Center
    • National clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities
    • Advice and links to information about continuing your education