Accessing Disability Services: Collaboration Between Programs

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Section 4: Collaboration between Programs for Students with ID and Disability Services Offices

Meet Nicole, a student at University of Vermont. “One of the things that I had to learn how to do was communicate with my professor when I needed more time on a project or reading assignment.  I began to understand how to develop a course of study at UVM that best suited my particular needs and goals for the future. I realized that if I wanted to 'make the grade,' I had to put in the time and work hard. Throughout my time at UVM, I learned how to be a better self-advocate and ask for accommodations when I needed them. This was an important aspect of becoming an independent college student.” Find Nicole’s story in the sidebar.

Ongoing communication between disability services and program staff keeps everyone on the same page!

While the postsecondary program staff has the responsibility to handle day-to-day operations and many tasks that are specific to the program goals and mission, the input and involvement of Disability Services is vital to smooth program operations and an authentic college experience for the students. As program “champions,” the DS professional and the program staff are in the unique positions to collaborate and customize a program that fits comfortably into the culture of the college and campus. The DS professional knows the administration and faculty hierarchy and is able to anticipate and address concerns. Program staff members know the specifics of the programs and the needs of the students. The DS professionals are in the position to lend a postsecondary point of view that the program staff may not have, and the program staff is in the position to educate the postsecondary DS professionals on program best practices.

Roles and Responsibilities
DS Professionals Program Staff
Recognize that students with ID have a right to access all areas of the IHE including DS Services Include DS providers as part of the advisory committee for the program
Become educated about the changes in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) and the ways the law supports students with ID Understand the differences between the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as they apply to disability services in higher education. Note changes in privacy rules, documentation requirements, and accommodation guidelines.
Become the IHE champions for students with ID who wish to attend college Work alongside IHE champions to provide additional support
Collaborate with program providers to develop an inclusive program design for students with ID Collaborate with DS professionals to develop an inclusive program design for students with ID and to access accommodations.
Support the design and implementation of campus programs and services that are welcoming and inclusive for students with ID Provide program data to the college that informs key decision makers about the accomplishments of the program
Provide accommodations, campus access, and technology usage to students with ID according to DS guidelines. Work with program providers regarding any specific institutional issues or concerns. Provide frontline support for day-to-day student academic needs, mentoring services, internships, socialization activities. Work with DS providers regarding any specific institutional issues or concerns.
Work with program providers to support IHE administration, faculty, and staff regarding modifications for auditing or non-credit class work. Work with DS professionals to support IHE administration, faculty, and staff regarding modifications for auditing or non-credit class work.


In this Think College Story, a student tells of her experience planning and preparing to attend college, and ultimately completing a program at Think College Vermont.Read more

This table outlines seven critical areas where Disability Services and program staff need to work together, and lists appropriate roles and responsibilities for each office.Read more