Disability Resources

Accessible & Inclusive

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.

Girl reading books

Modifications vs. Accommodations

high school

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. 


Requesting Academic Accommodations

Student Disability Services

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.

TN Public University Disability Services Offices

TN Community College & TCAT Disability Services


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.

Resources By Disability

Select a disability category for information and resources.

Low Vision


Deaf/Hard of


Intellectual and


Low Vision


Deaf/Hard of


Intellectual and


State Services & Support

The following institutions provide services and support for students with disabilities.
Inclusive Higher Education

Tennessee provides inclusive higher education programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities on college campuses across the state. These efforts have included forming a statewide alliance with universities and disability advocacy partners.

Vocational Rehabilitation

The Vocational Rehabilitation Services program includes determination of eligibility, nature and scope of VR services and the provision of employment-focused rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities consistent with their strengths, priorities, and resources.

Tennessee AHEAD

Tennessee AHEAD serves those people in postsecondary education and like organizations throughout the state of Tennessee in supporting people with disabilities in achieving their educational and training goals.

Accessibility Statement

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

Disability Resources Information

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.

Blindness/Low Vision


It is estimated that nearly 42% of blind or visually impaired individuals are in the workforce, but less than 15% have earned a bachelor’s degree. These individuals face unique challenges in the classroom. If you have dreams of earning a college degree, that opportunity is available to you. Through mobile phone applications, computer software, and student services and groups, individuals with a visual impairment can make the transition to college life as smoothly as other students.

Blindness/Low Vision Definition

A visual impairment is a functional limitation in the eyes. For a variety of reasons, the eyes do not always work as they should. While certain impairments are treatable, the following conditions cannot be fixed with corrective lenses.

  • Blindness is classified as total blindness if the student demonstrates a visual acuity of 20/400 or worse, with a visual field of less than 10 degrees. A student may be classified as legally blind if they cannot read any of the letters on the 20/100 line of a clinical visual exam. Blind students typically depend on assistive technology to follow visual assignments and presentations in the classroom. 
  • Common visual impairments include low vision and light sensitivity issues. A student who is visually impaired has visual acuity of 20/70 or worse, even with correction. Vision impairments may prevent students from seeing instructional materials and visual presentations in class.
  • Other health conditions affecting student vision may include degenerative loss of vision or low or limited vision resulting from an accident or medical condition, such as diabetes. 
Common Accommodations

Common accommodations for students who are Blind or Low Vision include alternative print formats, magnification devices, bright incandescent lighting, raised lettering, tactile cues, adaptive computer equipment, the use of scribes and readers for exams, print scanners, priority registration, taped lectures, lab or library assistants, and time extensions for assignments and exams.

Resource Links


  • Ariadne GPS
  • Braille Typing Apps: The MBraille keyboard allows users to type in contracted or uncontracted English braille. Apps like Visual Brailler are useful to practice UEB braille.





Mobility Resources


Mobility impairments vary over a wide range, from temporary (e.g., a broken arm) to permanent (e.g., a form of paralysis or muscle degeneration). Other impairments, such as respiratory conditions, may affect coordination and endurance. These can also affect a student’s ability to participate/perform in class.

Physical access to a class is the first barrier a student with a mobility impairment may face, but it is not the only accessibility concern. An unshoveled sidewalk, lack of reliable transportation, or mechanical problems with a wheelchair can easily cause a student to be late or absent.

Mobility Impairment Definition

Mobility impairments range in severity from limitations of stamina to paralysis. Some mobility impairments are caused by conditions present at birth while others are the result of illness or physical injury.

Injuries to the spinal cord cause different types of mobility impairments, depending on the areas of the spine affected. Quadriplegia refers to the loss of function to arms, legs, and trunk. Students with quadriplegia have limited or no use of their arms and hands and often use motorized wheelchairs. Paraplegia refers to the loss of function to the lower extremities and the lower trunk. Students with paraplegia typically use a manual wheelchair and have full movement of arms and hands.

Below are brief descriptions of other causes of mobility impairments.

  • Amputation is the removal of one or more limbs, sometimes caused by trauma, malignancies or other conditions.
  • Arthritis is the inflammation of the body’s joints, causing pain, swelling and difficulty with mobility.
  • Back disorders can limit a student’s ability to sit, stand, walk, bend, or carry objects. They include, but are not limited to, degenerative disk disease, scoliosis, and herniated disks.
  • Cerebral palsy is the result of damage to the brain prior to or shortly after birth. It can prevent or inhibit walking, and cause a lack of muscle coordination, spasms, and speech difficulty.
  • Neuromuscular disorders include a variety of conditions, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and ataxia, which result in degeneration and atrophy of muscle or nerve tissues.
Common Accommodations

Common accommodations for students with mobility impairments include: priority registration; notetakers; accessible classroom, location, and furniture; alternative ways of completing assignments; lab or library assistants; assistive computer technology; conveniently located parking; and time extensions for assignments and exams.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing Resources


When deaf and hard of hearing students begin college, they face numerous changes and challenges. The first of these is greater responsibility. In high school, teachers or aids devoted to deaf services ensure students are properly accommodated. The school provides an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that teaches faculty and staff how to modify the learning environment to accommodate students with hearing loss. At the college level, students are responsible for requesting services and ensuring their needs are met. They must contact the department of disability services to establish their needs and arrange accommodations. It is also the student’s responsibility to communicate their needs to each instructor.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing Definition

In general, there are three types of hearing loss: conductive loss, sensorineural loss, and mixed loss.

  • Conductive loss affects the sound-conducting paths of the outer and middle ear. The degree of loss can be decreased through the use of a hearing aid or by surgery. People with conductive loss might speak softly, hear better in noisy surroundings than people with normal hearing, and might experience ringing in their ears.
  • Sensorineural loss affects the inner ear and the auditory nerve and can range from mild to profound. People with sensorineural loss might speak loudly, experience greater high-frequency loss, have difficulty distinguishing consonant sounds, and not hear well in noisy environments.
  • Mixed loss results from both a conductive and sensorineural loss.
Common Accommodations

Common accommodations for students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing include using American Sign Language (ASL), interpreters, assistive listening devices, volume control telephones, signaling devices, (e.g., a flashing light to alert individuals to a door knock or telephone ring), priority registration, notetakers, captioned videos, and time extensions for assignments and exams.



Among children and adolescents, diagnoses such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD are fairly routine. For example, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that about one out of every 54 kids is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This represents a significant portion of the adolescent population, and also the population of the average public school system.

These and similar conditions are frequently regarded as “abnormalities” of the brain. A new movement, called the neurodiversity movement, is seeking to change the negative view that often follows people who have these conditions. Instead, the movement redefines these “abnormalities” as variations of brain functionality. The goal is to eliminate the stigma that surrounds these diagnoses and foster self-esteem and resilience.

Neurodiverse Definition
  • Neurodiversity is a concept that considers the range of differences in human brain function and behavioral traits as normal variations. Though often used to refer to the autism spectrum, some definitions may include learning disabilities and even mental health conditions.
  • Autism is a developmental condition marked by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships and in using language and abstract concepts.
  • Autism spectrum disorder describes a range of neurodevelopmental disorders varying in degrees of impact on daily functioning. Recently, advocates have begun referring to “autism spectrum,” dropping the term “disorder,” to stress that neurological differences are normal human variations.
  • Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder characterized by social, emotional and communication challenges. Individuals have average or above-average IQs and may be referred to as having “high functioning autism.”
Common Accommodations

Accommodations for students on the neurodiverse spectrum may include allowing a computer for in class work, tests and assignments, providing a note taker or the instructor’s lecture notes, allowing work assignments to be done at a slower pace, providing extra time to take tests and providing readers and scribes (or technology that reads and takes notes). Also allowing the student to choose their seat and helping to assure it is always available may be important.

Intellectual and


In 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) for the first time provided access to financial aid to students with intellectual disability attending college programs that meet the requirements of a “Comprehensive Transition Program” (CTP). The legislation emphasizes participation in inclusive college courses and internships and requires the students to be socially and academically integrated to the maximum extent possible. CTPs are designed for postsecondary students with intellectual disabilities to continue academic, career and technical, and independent living instruction in order to prepare for employment.

As of March, 2019, there were 265 non-degree programs on university and college campuses across the country offering students with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to take college classes, engage in career development and independent living activities and participate in the social life of the campus.

Intellectual and Developmental Disability Definition

According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), intellectual disability is characterized by limitations in reasoning, learning, problem solving and adaptive behavior. Adaptive behavior includes social and practical living skills. Intellectual disabilities fall under the umbrella of developmental disabilities. Learning disabilities are neurologically-based and lead to processing issues that can affect organization, time management, memory, attention span. Learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities are not the same thing, but some of the resources that can help with intellectual disabilities can also help with learning disabilities, particularly campus-based resources.

The diagnosis of a learning disability is often made by a psychologist trained in administering and interpreting psycho-educational assessments. Psychologists use the results of their assessments to understand how individuals receive, process, integrate, retain, and communicate information. Since these functions cannot always be directly observed, it is often difficult to diagnose specific learning disabilities, determine their impact, and recommend appropriate accommodations.

There are many types of learning disabilities; they often impact student abilities in one or more of the following categories:

Spoken language—listening and speaking.
Written language—reading, writing, and spelling.
Arithmetic—calculation and mathematical concepts.
Reasoning—organization and integration of ideas and thoughts.

Learning disabilities may also be present along with other disabilities such as mobility and sensory impairments, brain injuries, Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), and psychiatric disabilities.

Common Accommodations

Accommodations may include peer note-takers from the class or a copy of the instructor’s lecture notes or outline; allowing the student to tape record lectures; additional time to complete in-class assignments, particularly writing assignments; extended exam time, typically time and one half to double time; taking exams in a room with reduced distractions; the assistance of a reader, scribe, or word processor for exams; the option of an oral exam; the use of spelling and grammar assistive devices for essay exams; use of a calculator for exams; and use of scratch paper during exams.

Other Disabilities

Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities

Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities refers to a range of syndromes and conditions characterized by different types and degrees of emotional, developmental, cognitive, and/or behavioral manifestations. The terms “psychological disabilities” and “psychiatric disabilities” are used interchangeably by professionals in the field. Examples of psychiatric disorders include but are not limited to obsessive-compulsive, bipolar, generalized anxiety, mood, and post-traumatic stress disorders. Students with such conditions might have challenges in handling the demands of their coursework, thus requiring consideration for academic accommodations.

Chronic Illness

Chronic Health Conditions that impact a major life activity may be considered for possible accommodation. Examples of chronic health conditions include cancer, POTS, autoimmune disease, diabetes, and lupus; this is by no means a complete list of such medical conditions. A condition does not necessarily qualify for accommodations; medical documentation must substantiate how the condition impacts a major life activity.

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