Services for Students with Disabilities

Transition from high school to college

The transition from high school to college for those with disabilities is not difficult as long as you understand the differences in support services and prepare for the new challenges you will face.

This tutorial is designed to help you understand these differences and help you prepare, so let’s get started.

As a student with a disability, you were provided support services in high school under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This law required your high school to ensure that you were provided a free, appropriate public education.

Your high school was responsible for identifying your need, providing appropriate assessment and working with your parents to decide upon the support services that were needed. With your hard work and their support success was guaranteed.

In high school, you may have received any of the following accommodations:

  • Open-book exams
  • Modified tests
  • Oral testing
  • Paraphrasing test questions
  • Tutoring
  • Modified textbooks (lower reading level)
  • Unlimited excused absences
  • Use of word banks on tests
  • Classroom aide/personal care attendant
  • Tailored homework assignments
  • Course waivers
  • Weekly parent call/note

Universities and colleges, like UMKC, are not under the IDEA but are required to abide by a different set of laws. These include The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These laws require that universities not discriminate against an otherwise qualified person with a disability. Typically, most of the accommodations mentioned on the previous page would not be provided in a college setting. In college, students with disabilities are expect to be more independent than in high school but you can succeed if you hang in there.

We don't leave you hanging all by yourself. While you are expected to be more independent and more of a self-starter, we do provide accommodations that are designed to give you equal access to our learning environment. The challenge is there, and so is the support.

While success cannot be guaranteed, we do give you the support you need to do your best. We develop an individualized plan of accommodations based upon your unique needs.

Not everyone needs all accommodations, but typical accommodations are:

  • Sign language interpreters
  • Peer notetaker
  • Reduced distraction exam room
  • Extended exam time
  • Reader/scribes for exams
  • Assistive listening device
  • Large-print handouts
  • Reduced course load
  • Books on tape
  • Preferential seating

By planning ahead you can be ready to succeed as you face the challenges of college. You need:

In order to receive support services in college you will need to have current documentation of your disability. Typically, documentation needs to be no more than three years old. It needs to be comprehensive and establish that you have "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities." This is the ADA definition of a disability. Ideally, you should see if your high school can conduct a comprehensive evaluation during your senior year.

UMKC uses nationally recognized guidelines for documenting disabilities. Follow these links to see what your documentation should include:

Success in college depends on hard work, persistence and the development of strong study skills. As a student with a disability you not only have to face the normal demands of college but you also face the unique demands of managing your disability. Pick up a good book on study skills for college. Also, start developing good time management skills now. It will serve you well throughout college.

Self-advocacy is not the ability to win arguments or fight for you rights. Rather, it is the ability to effectively articulate your talents and abilities as well as what you need to succeed. You should:

  • know yourself and your disability;
  • be able to explain your disability to others;
  • be able to explain you needed compensatory strategies; and
  • take initiative and communicate.


For more on transitioning to college, see the Missouri College Guidebook.

For more on developing good study skills, see the Learning Toolbox.

If UMKC is where you want to be, stop by the Admissions Office.

If you have disability related questions or plan to attend UMKC, contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Document Center

The HEATH Resource Center

Gates to Adventure

Missouri College Guidebook