Resources for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities are accessing higher education at greater rates than ever before. In accordance with state and federal laws, Virginia institutions provide a wide range of accommodations on campus for students with disabilities, such as extended time on examinations, separate classrooms, preferential seating, alternative forms for testing, note-taking assistance, textbooks in electronic audible, or Braille format, and interpreting services. Individual institutional information and contacts for state-supported schools can be found below. If you do not see your school of interest listed, please contact them directly.
Transitioning to Higher Ed from K-12
Students with disabilities can face more obstacles in making the transition to college than other students, and the process for requesting an accommodation is markedly different between the K-12 and postsecondary levels. In elementary and secondary school, students are identified by school divisions as needing special education services, and in order to comply with federal law, the school division writes an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan and provides the necessary services. The Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) guarantees a “free, appropriate public education” paid for by government funds and administered through standard protocols by the school system. Once these students graduate and enroll in postsecondary institutions, however, they are left to navigate the educational support process on their own. They are no longer covered by the IDEA, but by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) instead. The ADA’s primary tool in this regard is the use of “reasonable accommodations” to ensure equal access to postsecondary opportunity, instead of ensuring a free, appropriate special education for students with disabilities, as the IDEA intends. To understand the basic differences between IDEA and ADA, students can find more information on the U.S. Department of Education's website.
Transition planning from secondary to higher education can have a significant impact on students’ willingness to reach out to the disability services office on campus. It is important to begin the discussion of accommodations with students while they are in high school. For example, transition planning can include a cursory examination of the disability offices and procedures at those institutions students are considering. By educating students ahead of time about their rights and responsibilities and available services, high school educators can address any lack of knowledge or understanding about transition from high school to college. In turn, an increased discussion of options during transition planning can encourage students to seek assistance from the disability services office on campus before any major academic problems occur. This is a shared responsibility during the transition planning process between high schools and institutions of higher education to increase communication and collaboration.