Making it through high school, college or university is a challenging task for all disabled students. First of all, it does take certain effort to proceed with studies as individual overcomes physical or mental learning limitations. What makes a major difference is a knowledge about available resources for students with disabilities. No matter what kind of learning help is required, much more assistance is available today, thanks to improved legislation, technology benefits, and greater awareness of students with disabilities. After all, every learner has special needs. Therefore, what it takes is finding suitable resources that will help focus on the most important factors that can turn the learning process into a fun and enjoyable experience.
Section 504 or What Are Your Legal Rights?
When applying for college or requesting special help services, it is crucial to know your legal rights and terms, which constitute obligations provided by educational institutions or the state. Although, most people dealing with disabilities have heard of Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Act, not many actually implement all existing benefits or use it as a special needs resource.
Section 504 is a civil rights law, prohibiting all kinds of discrimination against people with disabilities. It aims to ensure that a child with a disability has equal access to education. There are also major differences between Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which include different procedural mechanisms and safeguards. While IDEA represents grant statute with funding for special education programs provided at the state level, Section 504 is more specific. It requires a student to have a particular impairment, which brings "substantial" limitation to one or more daily life activities. What makes this law tricky is evaluation and list of disability causes not covered. Although it speaks of students "with physical or mental impairment" in general, a common list of disabilities under Section 504 includes neurological, respiratory, mental, psychological, learning disabilities. If there are any disorders that include eating, walking, sleeping, reading, thinking, communication or getting focused functions, it is most likely to be included.
Please, note that revealing disability status to college is optional and should not be forced under the Section 504 law, yet if a student requires academic or medical aid, such information should be made available. After all, any school or college need time and resources to provide special needs help. Different resources for disabled students may include, but are not limited to:
- Devices for sound amplification
- Digital services to take notes
- Different locations for testing
- Special accessibility classes
- Mentoring services groups
- Course substitution accommodations
- Priorities in class registering
- Speech to text software
- Sign language interpreters
Note that each university may have different funding and resources, therefore, it is recommended to research this information in advance before applying or contact local college help center for assistance.
Special Education Resources for Parents and Students
- Center for Hearing and Communication is a great resource to learn about the latest technology and solutions for people with hearing impairments.
- Gallaudet University is a unique university and national education center for students with hearing impairments or total deafness. Providing four-year Liberal Arts courses among others, it is the only university in the world aiming to not only provide education, but assist in future employment options.
- Starkey Hearing Foundation - this foundation helps people in need in more than 100 countries, providing diverse healthcare services, hearing aids, equipment, and links to thematic websites.
- Hand Speak - amazing website offering free sign language resources, including American Sign Language dictionary. Great video guides and writing dictionary.
- Be My Eyes - popular free mobile application that helps connect blind or low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers from all over the world. One can receive visual assistance via live video call basically for any purpose. There are also business solutions available.
- American Council of the Blind - this website has all the necessary information regarding scholarships, college funding, legal support and other resources for students with disabilities. Additionally, there are current news about special schools or top universities that provide special accommodation courses.
- Family Connect - contains resources for parents of children with visual impairments. It helps college students with disabilities find information about how SAT or ACT tests can be taken in special environments. Great community support.
- ADA - legislation and information about accommodation for students with physical disabilities. Learn what physical disabilities fall under IDEA or ADA regulations. All kinds of technical assistance types are explained in detail.
- The American Association of People with Disabilities - a nationwide resource filled with information and links related to employment, schools, and higher education. There is information on legislation, scholarships, community support, teacher selection tips, and local student groups in particular areas.
- American Association on Health & Disability - find current information on scholarships, explore through list of latest changes among national universities to find most suitable degree programs.
- International Dyslexia Association has wide range of special resources with latest research news, list of helpful tutors, and information on contacts for academic language assistance for all ages.
- Ginger is a helpful software that helps to check grammar, rephrase sentences or correct mistakes. It has text reader, dictionary, and many other resources to train dyslexic individuals.
- Dyslexia Connect - list of online tutoring services, which are performed virtually. An objective here is to provide special training with the same tutor, scheduling sessions according to school duties.
- Attention Deficit Disorder Association College Resources - lists educational resources for students with campus life tips, latest applications, special programs, networking, and employment opportunities.
- Priority Matrix - helpful software that assists with task management responsibilities for ADHD students. Organize, prioritize, research your workflow.
- The National Resource Center on ADHD - comprehensive list of resources with healthcare information, diverse college application information, answers to common parenting questions.
- ADHD&You - study of resources provided by colleges for ADHD students with study tips and professional recommendations.
- Autism Society - national membership organization in the United States that aims to provide a list of useful student resources. There are guides on preparation for college life, national contact center for Autism, an extensive list of local resources.
- Audio Notetaker - crucial software to capture university lectures via live recording. Everything is organized by colors and special notes, so students can easily identify and transpose data to audio material.
- Autism Speaks - premier advocacy organization with focus on post secondary education resources. It researches available scholarships, special college internships and legal resources along with diverse guides about college life for autistic students.
- Think College - national organization dedicated to analysis, study, and development of special higher education options for individuals with cognitive disabilities. Helpful, detailed information for students, parents, and professionals in Education or Healthcare.
- Cognitive Problems Caregiving - informative resource with tips for caregivers with important educational aspects for parents of children with cognitive challenges.
- Pacer's Center for Parents of Students with Intellectual Disabilities - comprises library, success stories, learning center, video guides, community support and other resources for students with disabilities. There is extensive information on middle to high school transition, post secondary education, and employment options.
- Co:Writer Universal - special word prediction application with speech recognition feature. Special needs students can use this software solution for grammar check or vocabulary training sessions.
- The National Center for Learning Disabilities - this website has information for students, legislation rules, and updates on special education programs.
- Learning Disabilities Association of America - funded and controlled by parents for decades, this organization is an educational resource for parents, students, and special education teachers. There is information about thematic events.
- DO-IT Center - provided by the University of Washington, it focuses on empowering people with learning disabilities through technology and adjusted education programs. Learn how classroom and workplace facilities can help special needs people benefit from technology advancements.
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association - education, research, careers, publications, advocacy news for college students with disabilities related to speech impairments.
- The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders - funding programs information, training, research on special aid kits, news reports.
- MyTalk Tools - free or commercial version of application that helps students of all ages communicate via images, sounds or word sequences.
- Speech Trainer 3D - graphically appealing, animated video model training application for consonants and vowels pronunciation.
What School or University Parents Need to Choose
If you seek resources for children with special needs or require transition to another college, there are several important recommendations to follow when choosing a suitable school. Most importantly, start with the selection of a major that inspires and reflects professional interests. A common mistake among parents is looking for colleges aimed at people with disabilities instead of taking time to find the best fit in terms of curriculum and finances. Undoubtedly, special resources presence is crucial, yet most top schools in America provide special accommodations with great community support for learners who need extra assistance.
An important step to consider is researching a list of available resources and financial help either provided under Section 504 law or via state-funded programs aimed to assist students with disabilities. There are cases when resources for students with disabilities are not covered by the state programs, therefore, always ask school counselor about additional scholarship possibilities or on-campus facilities. If qualifying for academic requirements, there may be exceptions. Alternatively, there are state-run organizations like Assistive Technology Act project, which receives additional funding support for gifted students with disabilities. A key part is to check everything in advance and inform school not only about existing situation, but of your vision and objectives. After all, one can teach a bird to flap its wings, yet true art lies in creating the right conditions for it to fly.