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Accommodations for College Students
Dr. Mike Brown, Professor School Psychology, East Carolina University

I have some suggestions for parents whose kids are having difficulty getting colleges and universities to waive course requirements for students with disabilities. Although universities are not eager to waive requirements, they can often be persuaded to do so.

The student should contact the disability support office at the university. Most universities have this office, not just public universities.

At my university, students enhance their chances of getting waivers of requirements if they have a history of meeting the requirements for a learning disability in high school, had an accommodation plan in high school, and bring this documentation with them when they meet with staff at the university.

The disability support office can recommend to the academic dean that an appropriate substitution be made.

It is more difficult to get a substitution for those majors that have math as an integral part of the curriculum--like physics or chemistry. But for non-mathematical majors, the substitution should be only moderately difficult.

The student should also look at whether there are other options – for instance, a logic course may be an acceptable substitute for a liberal arts degree.

Many universities are now getting the message about Section 504 plans.

Students need to be persistent. It's important to keep a log of who they talked to and what they were told. Parents may need to get involved.

Encourage the student and family to talk to disability support first, then talk to the dean and later the president's office.

Good luck!

Mike Brown
Assistant Professor of School Psychology
East Carolina University


Although college students with disabilities are protected from discrimination under Section 504, some professors take a dim view of students who request accommodations.

College-bound students need to learn self-advocacy skills - how to present information about their disability and accommodations so professors want to help. When college students master self-advocacy skills, they are more likely to make a successful transition from high school to college.


After High School: An Overview for Students - A Q&A on topics related to the law for students who are entering college.

College Students and Disability Law - Today, more students with documented disabilities are in higher education than ever before. Although the process has been slow, colleges and universities have made their programs more and more accessible, sometimes in good faith, sometimes due to coercion by federal agencies and courts.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities (U. S. Department of Education). Booklet for students who plan to continue their education after high school; includes questions and answers about admissions, accommodations & academic adjustments, documentation, evaluations, and discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In html

ADA Q & A: Section 504 & Post secondary Education - Many parents of students with disabilities are familiar with rights and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). As students and their families prepare for the transition from high school to post secondary education they often find they are less familiar with the protections provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These frequently asked questions will answer many of your questions about the ADA and post secondary schools.

Education Discrimination Information - excellent information and resources from the American Diabetes Association.

Self-Advocacy: Know Yourself, Know What You Need, Know How to Get It by Nancy Johnson. "Self-advocacy is the ability to understand and effectively communicate one's needs to other individuals. Learning to become an effective self-advocate is all about educating the people around you. There are three steps to becoming an effective self-advocate . . ."

Wrightslaw Discussion of Section 504, the ADA, and the IDEA. Many parents and educators are confused about rights and benefits under Section 504 and the IDEA. This article describes the purposes of these laws and differences in legal rights in several important areas: eligibility, procedural safeguards, impartial hearings, access v. educational benefit, and discipline.


Help for College Students with Disabilities from Wrightslaw - Parents of disabled kids are often surprised to learn that their college-bound children are no longer eligible for services. This Flyer includes resources in three areas: rights and responsibilities under Section 504, planning and preparation, and keys to success.

We suggest that you make two copies of the Help for College Students with Disabilities Flyer - one for your child, one for yourself. After you and your child review these resources, sit down to discuss what you have learned.
More flyers from Wrightslaw

Learn more about Section 504 and the ADA.

Learn more about rights and responsibilities in college.

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Revised: 02/28/08
Created: 01/03/00

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