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FAQs

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Q: I am in a Special Education program in my high-school. Will I be automatically included in the Disability Services Office in postsecondary education?

A. No. Postsecondary education will require that you self-identify with the Office of Disability Services (the name of this office will vary) at the school.

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Q. Why would I want to self-identify as an individual with a disability?

A. As a student with a disability, you will be eligible to receive the accommodations you may need in order to be successful at the school. Some common accommodations are extended time to take exams, alternate formats for print material, or assistive technology and you might not be able to get them if you are not registered as a student with a disability at the Disability Services Office. A postsecondary school is not legally bound to provide accommodations to an individual until that individual self-identifies as an individual with a disability.

The requirements of a special education program are set by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) but the IDEA does not apply to postsecondary schools. The main laws that cover students in postsecondary schools are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Sections 504 & 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act). Both of these Acts (especially the ADA) are laws of empowerment not entitlement; meaning that you need to be knowledgeable about the law in order to put it to work for yourself.
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Q. How and to whom must I self-identify as an individual with a disability?

A. Most postsecondary institutions will have an office dedicated to services for individuals with disabilities. The paperwork required may vary a bit at different institutions, but generally it will require you to provide documentation of your disability. Then the institution will be required to provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations to give you an equal opportunity to take part in the its programs and services.
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Q. What do I do once I self-identify?

A. That is up to the policy of the school involved. In most cases you will meet with the person that runs the office dedicated to serving students with disabilities and together, you and that person will work out the circumstances about various accommodations.
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Q. Doesn’t self-identifying as an individual with a disability put me at risk of being treated differently by professors or teaching assistants at the school?


A. No. If you are treated differently because you are an individual with a disability, that would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the office that serves students with disabilities would likely step in. 
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Suggested questions to ask colleges if you have physical disabilities


What follows are questions that you may want to ask of the office that serves students with disabilities. You may also want to ask if the college has had students with physical disabilities before and if you would be able to speak with them about their experience. 
  • Are the campus grounds wheelchair accessible? Don’t forget that accessibility can include wheelchair ramps, curbcuts, clear pathways, lowered parking meters, lowered mailboxes, lowered telephones, and elevators. 
  • Are the campus buildings accessible? Are there wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs? Are the halls wide enough to accommodate large wheelchairs and student traffic? Are there elevators? Are elevators equipped with lowered buttons and is the speed of the elevator doors slow enough to allow individuals to enter and leave comfortably?
  • Are the bathrooms accessible? Are there wider doorways, wheelchair-size stalls, higher commodes, and lowered sinks? Are all other necessary fixtures lowered for easy access? Are the showers wheel-in? Are there shower benches? 
  • Are the laundry facilities accessible? Is there enough room for a wheelchair? Are the washers/dryers from loading or top loading? Are there any services where students can send away their laundry to be done?
  • Are the college-run eating facilities accessible? Are there wider doorways and accessible bathrooms nearby and easy to reach? Are the aisles wide enough for wheelchair movement? Are the counters lowered for easy cafeteria service and is there assistance if they are not? 
  • Where can personal care attendant services be acquired? 
  • Does the University have any classroom furniture for accommodations? Are there note takers, readers for those with functional limitations, and specialized computer keyboards, such as a one-handed keyboard? Is there recording equipment should a person have need for it? Can the professor provide lecture notes? Are students given extra time on tests and are the instructors briefed on how to work with their students with disabilities? Are there tutorial services available? If lab work is required, is there assistance in laboratories? 
  • Do they provide transportation throughout the campus for persons with disabilities and make available information and training on how to use public transportation? 
Don’t forget that the community surrounding the school can be very important to you and your education as well as the actual campus. In the community you are largely covered by the ADA. If you have difficulties or problems with an obstacle in the community surrounding the school, ECNV suggests that you contact the local Center for Independent Living (CIL) to ask for advice and assistance. A directory of CILs can be found at www.ilru.org/html/publications/directory/
 
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Suggested questions to ask colleges if you have sensory disabilities

What follows are questions that you may want to ask of the office that serves students with disabilities. You may also want to ask if the college has had students with sensory disabilities before and if you would be able to speak with them about their experience. 

For persons who have low hearing or are deaf:
  • Are there on and off campus sign language interpreters, note takers and assistive listening devices in the conference halls to assist individuals who have low hearing? Are students given extra time on tests if it was previously requested as an accommodation? Are the instructors briefed on how to interact with their students with disabilities? Does the school provide CART services for lectures and other events?
  • Are there TTY's in the libraries, buildings, and dormitories? Are there strobe light fire alarms with signage? Are there sensors available that can signal when a door is opened, a phone rings, or a doorbell rings?

For persons who are blind or have low vision:
  • Is there travel instruction to aid students in learning the campus grounds and buildings? Are building and campus signs written in large bold letters for easy viewing? Is there Braille signage on elevators, doorways, and telephones? 
  • Is there assistance in the cafeteria? Are menus in Braille and in large print? 
  • Are there four-track or two-track tape recorders with variable speed and tactile markings on the operating controls? Are there Braille writers and Braille printers, talking computers and scanners in the libraries and other places on campus? Are there books and materials in large print? Are there CCTVs or other magnifying devices available at school facilities on and off campus? Are there readers and Braille transcribers on and off campus, for tests and other materials? Is there information on where books can be recorded? Is there information on volunteer and paid readers in the community? Are there any recorded or Braille materials in the library? If lab work is required, is there assistance in laboratories? 
  • Where can other assistive technology and reader services be acquired? Are there readers for study and/or examinations? Are there tutorial services available? Is extra time given for testing if it was previously requested as an accommodation, and can lecture notes be provided for study? 
  • Does the school provide transportation throughout the campus for persons with disabilities and make available information and/or training on how to use public transportation? 
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Suggested questions to ask colleges if you have cognitive disabilities

What follows are questions that you may want to ask of the office that serves students with disabilities. You may also want to ask if the college has had students with cognitive disabilities before and if you would be able to speak with them about their experience. 
 
  • Is there assistance in learning the campus? 
  • Are there pictorial descriptions of how to get around buildings and where rooms are located? 
  • If necessary, will assistance be given in campus locations where money changes hands so that correct change can be assured?
  • Is there computer software to assist with learning? Are there talking computers? Do the computers have voice input devices? Are there remedial classes and learning materials if needed? Are there special materials that are pictorial in nature? Where can other assistive technology and reader services be acquired? Are there readers, on and off campus, for study and/or examinations? Are there tutorial services for persons with cognitive disabilities available? Is extra time given for testing and can lecture notes be provided for study if previously requested as an accommodation? 
  • Is transportation provided throughout the campus for persons with disabilities and is information and training available on how to use it as well as public transportation? 
  • Are there any specific programs for people with cognitive disabilities?
 
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Suggested questions to ask colleges if you have mental health disabilities

What follows are questions that you may want to ask of the office that serves students with disabilities. You may also want to ask if the college has had students with cognitive disabilities before and if you would be able to speak with them about their experience. 
  • Is there assistance in learning the campus? 
  • Are books and other printed material available on audio or videotape? 
  • Are there specially trained tutors to work with persons with mental illness?
  • Where are campus and off-campus counseling centers, clinics and psychiatric facilities? Are there hotlines, support groups, and social networks?
  • Are there any facilities for relaxation and stress management on campus?
  • What are the policies regarding mental health leave and mental health emergencies? 
  • Is extra time given for testing and can lecture notes be provided for study if previously requested as an accommodation? 
  • Do they provide transportation throughout the campus and make available information and training on how to use it as well as public transportation?
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Resources 

Accredited Online Schools & Colleges
www.accreditedonlinecolleges.org/Resources/Accredited-Online-Colleges-and-Disability-Education/ 

BestColleges.com
Website provides a directory of financial aid opportunities for students with disabilities.
www.bestcolleges.com/resources/disabled-students/ 

FastWeb: Scholarships, Financial Aid and Colleges
www.fastweb.com 

Federal Student Aid Information Center
www.fafsa.ed.gov 
1-800-4-FED-AID

HEATH Resource Center
Online Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities. 
www.heath.gwu.edu 
The George Washington University
HEATH Resource Center
2134 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20052-0001
(202) 973-0904 (V)
(202) 994-3365 (FAX)
AskHEATH@gwu.edu 

Learning Ally
www.learningally.org
20 Roszel Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
(800) 221-4792 (voice)

There are many schools in the ECNV service area and in Virginia in general. A comprehensive listing of public colleges and universities in Virginia can be found at www.schev.edu/Students/PublicCollegeList.asp and a listing of private colleges and universities can be found at www.schev.edu/Students/PrivateCollegeList.asp?from=
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