Differences Between High School and College for Students with Disabilities

Accessibility Services


Secondary School

  • Education is a right under IDEA and must be provided in an appropriate environment to all individuals.
  • School district is responsible to identify a student’s disability.
  • School district provides free testing, evaluation, and transportation to program.
  • Transition planning and timelines exist to clarify students’ vision, identify programming choices, and coordinate appropriate coursework options.
  • School district develop IEP to define educational supports and services under special education.
  • No IEP/Special Education in college.
  • Access to general curriculum, necessary modifications, and a variety of appropriate accommodations are available.
  • Personal services for medical or physical disability are required.
    School year is September to June.
  • Main office exists as the center of activity for school.
  • Rigid schedule with constant supervision.
  • Classes meet daily.
  • Attendance is taken.
  • Guidance counselors or other staff schedule support services for students.
  • Someone is available to help plan study time (teachers, SPED, parents).
  • Classes generally held in one building.
  • Average class is 35-45 minutes.
  • Daily contact with teachers and support staff.
  • School responds to parent concerns; parent permission required (until 18 years).
  • Student generally live at home.

Higher Education

  • Education is not a right. Students must meet admission criteria defined under ADA as “otherwise qualified” (Access).
  • Students must self–identify.
  • Student must provide current and appropriate documentation as defined by the college; if documentation from high school is not adequate, student pays for additional testing.
  • Students make all coursework selections.
  • No IEP/Special Education in college.
  • Student is responsible to self –identify and self-disclose and must work with their Disability Services office to determine eligibility and appropriate accommodations.
  • No fundamental alterations to the curriculum are made; academic accommodations are provided to students with documented disabilities as defined by ADA.
  • No personal services are required(No personal care assistance provided).
  • School year is August- December, January-May.
  • Students are responsible to know where to locate information, assistance, study support.
  • Greater flexibility of scheduling.
  • Classes meet weekly not daily.
  • Attendance policies are at discretion of instructor.
  • Students connect with disability services staff to arrange support services (Accessibility Services located in Career Development Office).
  • Student responsible for setting and following through on all scheduling and study time.
  • Classes are held at many different sites.
  • Class times vary from 50 min. – 4 hours.
  • Classes meet less frequently, impacting access to instructors and assistance.
  • Student is an adult with all decision making authority; parental contact is not permissible without a signed (FERPA).
  • Students are responsible for housing, transportation, finances, etc.