More and more high school students with disabilities are planning to continue their education in postsecondary schools, including vocational and career schools, two- and four- year colleges, and universities. As a student with a disability, you need to be well informed about your rights and responsibilities as well as the responsibilities postsecondary schools have toward you. Being well informed will help ensure you have a full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the postsecondary education experience without confusion or delay.
High school students with disabilities usually have a team of people to determine what they need to be successful in school. Their team, which consists of the school psychologist, school counselor, teacher, parents, student, etc., puts together an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan which outlines the student’s modifications and other support that the student will need to successfully complete high school. The team looks at the documentation and how the student is performing at home and in class to determine the plan of action for the student.
When a student enters college, IEPs and 504 plans are no longer an option, even if the student had such a plan while in high school. In fact, many colleges do not accept either of these as documentation, but require a psychological evaluation or the medical doctor’s report, depending on the disability. Accommodations at the college level are focused on access to learning. It is up to the student to request accommodations. The Disability Services Office, which is required by law to be on every college campus that receives federal funding, evaluates requests for accommodations, and determines if the requests are supported by the documentation. If you are exploring your college options and may need accommodations, reach out to the Disability Services Office at the colleges you are considering to learn more about their approach to providing accommodations.
Most postsecondary schools have an office to help you with accessibility, accommodations, and assistive technology on campus. These offices are often called “disability services,” and will work with you to help meet your needs so you can access an academic program of study. You will have a representative that you can contact any time with concerns or requests for assistance. It is their duty to aid you by creating environments of equitable access, from classes to extracurricular activities, and on-campus housing. Academic standards will not be altered, but the mission of disability services is to create equal opportunity for access.
After choosing a school and being accepted, contact disability services for an initial meeting.
When you meet with disability services, be prepared to provide documentation of your disability; this requirement varies by school. Your school’s website may have additional information on accommodations they offer and documentation requirements.
The information about your disability you share with your disability services representative is confidential. Once the need for academic accommodations has been determined, disability services will draft an accommodation letter to your course faculty with a list of suggested accommodations. Some colleges will send this accommodation letter to faculty members for you. Others may give you the letter and ask you to share it with your instructors. In either case, it is your responsibility to discuss your academic accommodations with course instructors.
The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is committed to providing a user experience that is accessible to the widest possible audience. This website was last audited via for ADA compliance via Axe accessibility software built by Deque and by heuristic review for accessibility in May 2021. We are actively working to increase the accessibility and usability of our website and in doing so adhere to current WCAG & ADA Guidelines.
Need help? (615) 741-1318
Colleges offer accommodations for a variety of disabilities. However, the accommodations offered by each institution may vary. Use the information below as a starting place when exploring your postsecondary options. Contact the Student Disability Services Office at the colleges you are exploring for more information about the services offered.