Helping students understand the difference between access and success can be a challenge. Essentially, all college students with disabilities are entitled to equal access to all courses and activities offered at the college. However, equal access does not mean equal success, and this is where the confusion might occur. This confusion can result in disappointment, frustration, and maybe even anger for students.New college students find that their disabilities are handled differently than they were in high school. Even nontraditional students will encounter changes upon enrolling in college. These changes can be difficult to navigate, but identifying them and considering strategies to implement can help. This approach can also help prevent some of this confusion students may feel.Perhaps one of the most important changes encountered by students with disabilities in higher education is that they must self‐identify.Another change is that students must self‐advocate for accommodations, both to you or your office staff and to their instructors. Their instructors won't have documentation of their disability that tells them what accommodations to implement.Plus, an important change for newly enrolled students is that they won't receive modifications in college. For instance, students usually are not allowed to make up work they missed or have multiple tries to succeed at an assignment. Moreover, no one will regularly have meetings about them and checking on their achievement. Students with disabilities will have the same workloads, must complete the same requirements, and must meet the same standards to achieve success as students without disabilities. Finally, students with disabilities will encounter changes that can affect their daily routines, their social interactions, and even their lifestyles.In short, helping students understand the differences between access and success might resolve some of this confusion. First, instead of providing information about the different types of disability support offered for adults, focus upon how these supports are designed to support their autonomy as an adult. For example, as adult students, they can choose their classes, their instructors, the time of day they attend, and when they study. And adult students can say no to supports that they do not want.Adult students can also choose their major field of study. Consider encouraging adult students to focus upon what they can do, not on what they cannot do, as might have happened in the past. Being honest is important; for example, math might not be the best choice of major for a student with a math disability. You don't want to tell students that they cannot choose that major, but you should tell them that it is a more difficult path. You can share some of your personal limitations too. For example, maybe you really enjoyed a sport in high school but found out that you did not have the level of skills needed to participate in this sport in college.It isn't repetitive to emphasize that this access can also mean that students have more opportunities to make mistakes. As they have the freedom to choose their activities, they can also make poor choices, and these choices might result in consequences that in the past did not occur. You will want to ensure that students are aware that access comes with personal responsibility.Further, encourage your adult students to check in with your tutoring department if they encounter difficulties in their course content. Make sure they understand that many students access tutoring to promote their success, and plenty of these students do not have disabilities.Finally, encourage your students to think about what helps them to learn instead of thinking about what obstacles they encounter when learning. If they know they need more time to complete assignments, help them to plan for this, which can eliminate asking for extra time after a due date. If they know they become anxious when taking tests, encourage them to request quiet environments when testing.Most important, emphasize that success in college is not a guarantee, and effort may not earn a passing grade. They will have to work hard, perhaps accept some lower grades, and maybe even take a little longer to graduate. But these statements are true for all students in college — not just students with disabilities. Your goal is to offer them access. Success is in their hands.About the authorStephanie Gaddy, Ed.D., is a contributing faculty member in the College of Education and Leadership at Walden University. She previously directed a disability services office. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disability Compliance for Higher Education – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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