Students with disabilities have specific rights regarding education under several laws. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA require that students with disabilities receive services in the least restrictive setting. Both laws require schools, including colleges, provide reasonable accommodations.
As a student with a disability, you are also protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law. Chapter 766, the Massachusetts special education law, was changed in the year 2000 but you may still hear it referred to as Chapter 766 or just as the Massachusetts special education law. Both the state and federal education laws require a team to create an individual education plan (IEP) for you which address your educational needs and the services you require.
The team decides on goals and objectives and determines what services you need. The team also considers whether or not you need assistive technology to reach your goals and objectives. Assistive technology can be low-tech (such as a pencil grip) or high-tech (such as a voice recognition computer). Your parents can accept or reject the entire IEP or portions of it. Members of the team include your parents or guardians, teachers, speech therapists or other service providers, school psychologists, the director of special education, and anyone else that your parents request.
What can be in the IEP?
- Special transportation
- Modified discipline code
- Occupational, physical, or speech therapy
- Hearing aids
- Reduced homework
- Extended school year
If you are under 14 years old, you may attend the team meeting at the request of your parents. Once you turn 14, you must be invited to all of your team meetings and you can bring anyone you want with you. If you choose not to attend the meetings, the team must be sure that your preferences and interests are included. Your input is needed.
When you turn 18 years old, you have the right to accept or reject your IEP. Discuss it with your parents or guardians. Some schools may take advantage of your inexperience or lack of knowledge of your rights. Don't give up your right to be educated!
Federal law requires your IEP team to include a transition plan when you turn 14 years old. The transition plan can include specific areas of study, vocational training, mobility training, and other services you need to prepare for when you're no longer in school. The school must provide the services listed in your plan and your plan must be updated every year.
When you turn 16, your plan must connect you with the agencies (such as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission or the Department of Mental Retardation) whose services you will need when you are out of school.According to the Massachusetts special education law, if you will need services from a state agency when you're out of school, the school must make a referral to the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP). The referral must be made two years before you either graduate or turn 22.
Chapter 688 (also know as Massachusetts Transitional Planning Services -- Turning 22) is a law that provides for planning the services you will need when you're out of school. If you're eligible, a transition team is assembled and an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) is created. The plan has to be approved by the Department of Education (DOE), the Executive Office of Human Services (EOHS), any other agencies involved and you or your guardians.
Members of the team include the members of the IEP team and the agency you need services from. The most important member of the team is you. It's your life that is being planned. You need to be there to be sure your wishes are included.
Any services to be provided while you are still in school will be paid for by the school. When you're no longer in school the appropriate agency will pick up the cost if there's money available. It's crucial to plan ahead because if you don't, you may not get the services you need even if the agencies have enough money.
Colleges cannot refuse to admit you because of your disability. You are entitle to participate in all courses and activities. You can live on or off campus as other students can. Courses in inaccessible rooms must be relocated if you have a mobility disability that prevents you from getting to them.
Your rights in college are different from your rights in elementary, middle and high school. Colleges don't write IEPs. You won't have a one-on-one aide like you may have had in high school. The teacher won't modify your work for you. Colleges are not required to provide you with personal nursing care or assist you in the bathroom.
Colleges must provide reasonable accommodations at no cost to you. For example, if you're deaf, you may need an interpreter. If you have cerebral palsy, you may need a note taker. If you have a learning disability, you may need extra time to complete your work or you may need materials on tape. If you have low vision, you may need help filling out financial aid forms. Service animals are allowed in classrooms and in dorms. Assistive technology such as an FM system must be provided in class if needed.
For more information on your rights as a college student, read the Americans with Disabilities Act Titles II and III and Effective Communication sections of this guidebook or call CORD at (508) 775-8300.
or one of the other resources listed at the end of this guide.