Between kindergarten and high school, teachers must seek out students in need of special-education services and provide those services for them, Cook said. But in college, the law that governs special-education changes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means that special education ceases to exist, Cook said.
“We have services, accommodations, in college, but it is not special education,” Cook said.
Once in college, students with disabilities must seek out the assistance and resources they need on their own, Cook said.
This change to self-advocacy is “a huge leap,” said Linda Lindley, a transition specialist with the Foothill Special Education Local Plan Area.
For example, while a special-education student who needed extended time on a test in high school would have had that accommodation set up for them at their school, at the college level, a student would need to self-identify and provide documentation of their disability in order to receive that accommodation, Cook said.
“We can’t go out and search for them,” said Ellen Oppenberg, a learning specialist with the college’s Center for Students with Disabilities. “They have to come to us.”
The Center for Students with Disabilities advises students about their classes and connects them with resources like tutoring.
Certain accommodations — such as note-taking assistance, audio recordings of textbooks, and tutors — are still available for disabled students at the college level, but these accommodations must be deemed “reasonable,” Oppenberg said.