Differences between High School and College Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

The transition from high school or community college to SJSU can be difficult for any student, especially for students with disabilities. Once transitioning over from high school to SJSU, students will be treated as adults and expected to assume responsibility in advocating for their needs. Additionally some of the accommodations students received in high school or at a community college may not be available or appropriate in a university such as SJSU. 

As students begin their academic careers at SJSU, it is important to keep in mind that the education and the accommodations received will be affected by a different set of laws, policies, and procedures. These laws guarantee equal access and opportunity to an education without fundamentally altering the essential requirements and expectations of a class or program. These laws require that the student assume responsibility for providing documentation of their disability, identify needed accommodations, and make timely requests for support and services. 

The AEC is the University center responsible for assisting students with disabilities to determine and provide reasonable and appropriate academic accommodations and services to promote retention and graduation. Students with disabilities are encouraged to register with the AEC to assist in achieving equal access to University programs and facilities.

Prior to attending SJSU, students should familiarize themselves with the changes that occur in the transition from high school to the university setting. 

Applicable Laws



I.D.E.A. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

A.D.A. (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990)

Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

I.D.E.A. is about SUCCESS

A.D.A. is about ACCESS





Student is identified by the school and is supported by parents and teachers

Student must self-identify to the Accessible Education Center

Primary responsibility for arranging accommodations belongs to the school

Primary responsibility for self-advocacy and arranging accommodations belongs to the student

Teachers approach the student if they believe he/she need assistance

Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect students to initiate contact if needing assistance


Parental Role



Parent has access to student records and can participate in the accommodation process

Parent does not have access to student records without student’s written consent

Parent advocates for student

Student advocates for self

Parents and teachers may closely monitor student’s study habits.

Students are responsible for developing study habits that lead to their own success.


Required Documentation



I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan and/or 504 Plan)

High School I.E.P. and 504 are not sufficient; student documentation may need to be updated.

Documentation guidelines specify information needed for each category of disability.

School provides evaluation at no cost to student

Student must get evaluation at own expense

Documentation focuses on determining whether student is eligible for services based on specific disability categories in I.D.E.A.

Documentation must provide information on specific functional limitations, and demonstrate the need for specific accommodations





Teachers may modify curriculum and/or alter pace of assignments

Professors are not required to modify curriculum design or alter assignment deadlines

Students are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed, and often re-taught, in class

Students are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may not be directly addressed in class

Students may not need to read anything more than once, and sometimes listening in class is enough

Stduents need to review class notes and text material regularly

Teachers may provide one to one feedback on daily classroom performance.

Professors expect students to meet syllabus requirements and are available for meetings with students during office hours.

Attendance is taken and reported.

Student is responsible for attending class.


Grades and Tests



I.E.P. or 504 plan may include modifications to test format and/or grading

Grading and test format changes (i.e. multiple choice vs. essay) are generally not available.

Accommodations to HOW tests are given (extended time, test proctors) are available when supported by disability documentation.

Testing is frequent and covers small amounts of material

Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material

Makeup tests are often available

Makeup tests are seldom an option; if they are, students will need to request them

Teachers often take time to remind students of assignments and due dates

Professors expect students to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of students, when it is due, and how students will be graded


Study Responsibilities



Tutoring and study support may be a service provided as part of an I.E.P. or 504 plan

Students with disabilities must seek out tutoring resources as they are available to all students.

Student's time and assignments are structured by others

Students manage their own time and complete assignments independently

Students may study outside of class as little as 0 to 2 hours a week, and this may be mostly last-minute test preparation

Students need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class


Adapted from ADHEAD guidelines 2010