College Assistance for Young Adults with Disabilities

Assistance for Young Adults with Disabilities Attending College

As children with special needs complete high school and become adults, parents may be looking for additional educational opportunities for them. Fortunately, your family may be able to take advantage of some forms of assistance that may enable, support, and assist young adults with disabilities as they attend college. Rubin Law can assist you in helping plan for the future of your child with special needs and determining what programs are right for you and your family.

Public Act 102-0516

In 2021, the Illinois legislature passed HB3950, which became Public Act 102-0516. This law amended various code sections related to special education to create better access to higher education for young people with disabilities. More specifically, it provides the following:

  • School districts must provide students with disabilities with specific information about the district’s career and technical education (CTE) opportunities and postsecondary CTE opportunities as part of their transition planning;
  • Students in high school with individualized education programs (IEPs) can enroll in the district’s CTE program at any time if participation in a CTE program is consistent with the student’s transition goals;
  • Requires a high school and community college partnership agreement to include the collaborative process and criteria by which a school district and a community college district shall work to ensure that individual students with disabilities have access to dual credit courses, provided that those students can meet the criteria for entry into a dual credit course;
  • Requires each community college district to provide access to higher education for students with disabilities;
  • Encourages each community college to offer for-credit and non-credit courses as deemed appropriate for the individual student based on the student’s abilities, interests, and postsecondary transition goals, with the appropriate individualized supplementary aids and accommodations;
  • Strongly encourages each community college to have its disability services coordinator or the coordinator’s representative participate either in person or remotely in meetings held by high schools within the community college district to provide information to the student’s individualized education program team about the community college and the availability of courses and programs at the community college.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require that students with disabilities have equal access to postsecondary institutions. All public and private colleges operated by nonreligious entities must comply with the ADA. Additionally, all colleges and universities that receive federal financial assistance or allow students to receive federal financial aid must comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. As a result, institutions subject to one or both laws may not:

  • Ask students to disclose whether they have a disability;
  • Deny a student admission based on their disability; or
  • Exclude a student from admission to a particular class, program, or activity based on disability.

However, whereas K-12 schools have proactive duties under the law to identify and accommodate children’s disabilities, the duties of colleges concerning student’s disabilities are different. Students (and their parents, if needed) likely must do more advocating for themselves to document their disabilities and request reasonable accommodations than they did in the pre-college educational setting. For instance, students are responsible for providing the college with documentation of their disability through medical records and/or IEPs or Section 504 plans from high school. They are also responsible for asking for reasonable accommodations from the college; the college must respond to the request in a way that provides equal access to education for all students. Colleges also are not responsible for providing necessary devices and aids for disabled students, as schools were required to do for minor students.

Typically, colleges have a disability office or coordinator who serves as a point of contact for a student with disabilities. That person will notify the student’s professors of the student’s disabilities and any approved request for a reasonable accommodation.

Students and their parents should keep in mind that under some circumstances, colleges do not have to grant requests for reasonable accommodations, such as in the following circumstances:

  • If providing the accommodation would place an undue financial or administration burden on the college;
  • If providing the accommodation would change the nature of the academic program to give the student an unfair advantage over other students, lower academic standards, or significantly change what is required to complete a class or program; or
  • If the accommodation is personal, such as needing a personal device or personal care attendant.

If a student disagrees with the college’s denial of a request for a reasonable accommodation, there is an appeal process through the school, as well as a complaint process through the Office of Civil Rights through the U.S. Department of Education. There are time limits for submitting these complaints, so it is best to seek legal counsel and file any appeals and complaints as soon as possible after the denial of reasonable accommodation occurs.

Resources for College Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Parents of young adults with intellectual disabilities considering college may want to look at the resources available through the Institute for Community Inclusion’s “Think College” initiative. You can find a planning guide for families and other resources to support students with intellectual disabilities who wish to attend college.

Contact Us Today to Learn More About Our Legal Services

Rubin Law is the only Illinois law firm to dedicate itself exclusively to providing compassionate legal services for children and adults with special needs. We offer unique legal and future planning techniques to meet your family’s individual needs.

Call us today at 866-TO-RUBIN or email us at to learn more about the services we can offer you and your family.