Accessible College: A Guide for Students with Disabilities, Part 1

About the Series

It’s never too early to start preparing for life after high school, and students with disabilities shouldn’t feel left out of that. Universities across Ohio and nationwide have options available to accommodate various student needs. This series will cover the process students and their families must undergo to prepare and apply for college, what to do once the student gets in, and various rights and recommendations for while they’re in school.

Preparing for Postsecondary Education

What to do while the student is still in high school…

Before families begin looking into postsecondary education options, it’s important to begin taking the right steps while the student is still in high school. This begins with transition planning. Transition planning is outcome-oriented planning focused on preparing the student for their post-graduation goals. In Ohio, schools must begin transition planning when the student turns 14, and it is reevaluated at 16. The school works with the family to assess which classes will best prepare the student for their post-graduation life.

The student’s school district of residence is responsible for transition planning. Even if the student does not have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), they may still receive transition planning services. Be sure to reach out to the school district, even if the student attends private school, to begin transition planning as soon as possible.

The student will also want to prepare all the necessary documents while in school. High school seniors who plan to go to college should insist that their high school provide up-to-date copies of all documents regarding their disability. This might include an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a 504, and a Multi-Factored Evaluation (MFE).

Even though your MFE lasts 3 years, it is good practice to get the evaluation in the senior year of high school so it will carry on throughout postsecondary education. In Ohio, it’s also important that students connect with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). The Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) program may provide funding for students who want to attend college in order to be employable.

Most importantly, remember to begin working on this early on. Start looking at possible colleges/universities during junior year or the summer before senior year. Attend tours of the campuses to see how accessible they really are. Get in touch with the high school guidance counselor during junior year to make a plan. Make sure to apply for whatever accommodations you may need for standardized testing (ACT and SAT). Preparing for postsecondary education for anyone is a lot of work, but it may take more time to weigh the options if you or your child has a disability.

Contacting the schools…

It’s very important to begin accessing postsecondary options early on. Things to ask yourself while looking at schools might include:

  • What specific accommodations does the student need?

  • Does proximity to home or family members matter?

  • What does the school offer?

If the student is looking to apply nationwide, the best universities with the best national reputations for accessibility and accommodation are:

If the student has intellectual and developmental disabilities, the following schools in Ohio offer Postsecondary programs accommodating those needs:

A full description of each program can be found here.

Don’t limit yourself when looking into colleges and universities. While the above lists have the best options for accommodating certain needs, many postsecondary schools are willing to work with the student. Be sure to actually schedule visits to the schools if you have the time. Universities are always willing to set up tours of the campus, make sure you check it out to get a feel for what it would be like for a student with a disability. Reach out to the disability services office so you can meet with them while you’re there too. For a full list of the disabilities services offices for all University System of Ohio schools, click here.

Next in the Series…

Now the student has chosen what college to go to, what’s next? In the next Accessible College article, learn more about what the student should be doing once they are at school in order to ensure they are getting the most out of their educational experience.

More Resources

This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a Grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.  The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Lead researcher/author: Tia Garcia, J.D. Candidate, 2019, Legal Intern