Category Archives: Accessibility

While many students with disabilities enter college, keeping them there is another story….

There are many success stories about students with disabilities attending college. But there is still much work to do.  This article addresses barriers to staying in college for students with disabilities.

Why Are Huge Numbers of Disabled Students Dropping Out of College?

    ….an estimated 60% of disabled young adults make it to college after high school, yet nearly two thirds are unable to complete their degrees within six years. Is this the fault of their disabilities, or is something more complex at play? The testimony of disabled students suggests that the problem lies not with their disabilities, per se, but with the numerous barriers they encounter in higher education, from failing to provide blind students with readers, to the refusal to accommodate wheelchair users in otherwise accessible classrooms.

….What can be done to improve conditions for disabled students in the United States? How do we create a more welcoming, sustainable educational environment for them? Two things are key: promoting a proud self-advocacy culture, and reforming institutional attitudes about disability.

Read the article here.


Overcoming Barriers to Reach the Employment Dream

The Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights,  Eve Hill, has posted an article on the blog of the U.S. Department of Justice (January 31, 2014) which chronicles the story of Pedro, a young man with an Intellectual Disability, and his journey to employment.

Pedro’s Story: When Given the Chance, People with Disabilities Can Overcome Barriers to the American Dream

Every day, countless Americans with disabilities are excluded from accessing important ladders of opportunity.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is an important tool for challenging assumptions and discrimination that trap people with disabilities in poverty and segregation.  When given the chance, people with disabilities are establishing their rightful place in the greater American workforce and the middle class, and are showing that they, too, can achieve the American Dream.  Pedro is one such person.

When Pedro graduated high school in 2010, at age 21, he found himself at home with no job prospects and no career direction.  A native Spanish speaker with intellectual disabilities, Pedro’s education had not prepared him to enter the general workforce; instead, he was headed for a life of segregated employment and below-minimum wages.

Pedro attended a Providence, R.I., high school where students with intellectual disabilities participated in an in-school “sheltered workshop,” where there were no students without disabilities.  The students spent their school days sorting, assembling and packaging items such as jewelry and pin-back buttons, earning between 50 cents and $2 per hour for their labor.  Rather than providing the education and services needed to help them transition into regular jobs, the school prepared students for segregated, below-minimum-wage work in adult sheltered workshops.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s 2013 investigation of Rhode Island found that, indeed, the school-based workshop was a direct pipeline to a nearby adult workshop.

Like many before him, Pedro began working at the adult workshop after high school.  Staff described Pedro as an excellent worker who stays on task and performs well, but he was paid just 48 cents an hour.  And because people who enter this workshop often stay there for decades, and are rarely offered help to move into community-oriented jobs, Pedro’s career outlook was dim.

That all changed in June 2013 when the department entered into an interim settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence, requiring the state and city to provide the employment services necessary to help workers at the adult workshop and students at the school-based workshop move into integrated, competitive-wage jobs.  At the same time, the Providence Public School District closed the school-based workshop so students with disabilities can focus on education and career preparation.

Read the rest of Pedro’s story here.

Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act

A bill that was initally introduced in November 2013 by U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) is being re-introduced by United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), as “bipartisan legislation that would help strengthen the accessibility of educational technologies for college students with disabilities” according the Senator Warren’s website.

Senator Warren spoke at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on February 27, 2014 to announce the introduction of the legislation:

A summary of the previously introduced bill by rep. Petri states:

Technology, Equality and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act or the TEACH Act – Directs the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to develop accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related information technologies in institutions of higher education (IHEs).

Requires those guidelines to: (1) include performance criteria to ensure that electronic instructional materials and related information technologies are accessible to the blind and disabled; (2) be consistent with the standards for technical and functional performance criteria issued pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and (3) be, to the extent practicable, consistent with national and international accessibility standards for those materials and technologies.

Directs the Access Board to review and, as appropriate, amend the guidelines every three years to reflect technological advances or changes in electronic instructional materials and related information technologies.

Deems IHEs that use electronic instructional materials and related information technologies that comply with the guidelines to be in compliance with nondiscrimination provisions under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Read the text of the legislation here.

Read the fact sheet on the legislation here.

Community College Assistive Technology Program Helps Prepare Students for the Future

Hudson Valley Community College in New York has a thriving program to assist students with disabilities with access to the college’s programs and to prepare for the future. This news cast video describes the program:

Read more here.

Preparing for Post-Secondary Education Accessibility: Looking Beyond Academics

The author of this post highlights areas of accessibility in the post-secondary setting that one might not initially think about.

Going into post-secondary education is a big step for anyone. If you have a disability, it can be a great way to gain some independence.  However, before researching costs or courses, you should be thinking about accessibility.

When it comes to post-secondary education, accessibility involves more than just whether or not you can physically get around the campus.  Along with physical accessibility, you need to look at the accessibility of the school’s services and the accessibility of the surrounding area.

Continue reading this post here.

Scott MacLellan has a series of articles on Transition at the Support for Special Needs Blog.  All of the information is based on his personal experience as a person with a disability.