Alexa Brill graduation

In kindergarten through twelfth grade, students with disabilities are entitled to the reasonable accommodations they need through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). In college, these no longer apply. People with disabilities are still entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but you have to go to the disability office on campus and tell them what you need. No one will ask you or do it for you. You have to advocate for yourself. The same goes for the workplace. You have to tell your employer what you need.

Luckily, I learned this before college. When I was 16, I attended the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network (PYLN) in coordination with the PA Community on Transition Conference, where #IWantToWork Campaign Manager, Dr. Josie Badger, was a leader. I also observed my parents’ persistence as they advocated for me. By the time I got to college, I already had an idea of what to expect. I went back and forth across campus to the disability office every day until I had what I needed.

I went to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. They have a good disability office there. They provided homework aides, private test areas, scanned my books into digital format so I could read them independently on the computer, etc. I also took my laptop to class and recorded the lectures since I couldn’t take notes. This same strategy helps with my employment at The Arc of PA. I can’t use their computers, so I use mine.

In college, you also have the opportunity to learn a good work ethic. It’s your responsibility to do your work well, and have it done in a timely manner. This is also a quality employers look for. If I hadn’t gone to college, I might not have learned these strategies until later. Since I went to college, I already had an idea of the accommodations I needed to be successful in employment.

Check out these resources as well:

Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR)

OVR can pay for the accommodations you need while a college.

Support, Advocacy and Assistive Technology to Facilitate the Transition to Higher Education

“Find specific information and resources on a variety of different disabilities, learn how to make the transition into [college and] the workforce easier, and find out what your legal rights on campus are.”

Transition Resources A – Z (From AHEAD – Association on Higher Education And Disability)

Postsecondary Education – National Parent Center on Transition and Employment

By Alexa Brill

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