Category Archives: Accommodations

Visionary Employers “See the Light”: Disability Hiring

An increasing number of employers are beginning to “see the light” with regards to hiring people with disabilities.

Carol Glazer, President of the National Organization on Disability, has posted an article in the Huffington Post,  Retailers Can Learn From Each Other When it Comes to Disability Hiring, where she highlights the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and how some employers are stepping up.

In a race for talent, companies are now realizing that people with disabilities are a largely untapped pool that, as a result, has seen unemployment rates remain stubbornly high when compared to the general population. So when an employer the size of Starbucks plants a flag and says it is going to make this a priority, others are likely to follow.

Galzer provides examples of how retail giants like Starbucks and Walgreens have created initiatives to hire people with disabilities, whose talents bring extraordinary contributions to the workforce. Continue reading

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.

Facing, and Accepting, the Disability Lion

Many Advisors in college disability resource centers (DRC) we have visited have shared that students with learning disabilities will often not seek services when first entering college because they want to see how they do without any type of support.

Understandable.  You turn 18.  You graduate from high school.  You’ve had an IEP or 504 for years with accommodations to help you get through assignments and tests.  For the past 8 months you have been able to advocate for yourself. You’ve been accepted to your college of choice, you have been oriented to the DRC there.  You feel you are ready to face the lion all by yourself, without any kind of support.

But by the end of your first college semester you find yourself wondering if you can really do this.  Although you are working very hard – staying up late at night, participating in study groups, having some of your new friends help you out – you can’t meet deadlines, your anxiety at test time takes over, and you end up with either very low or failing grades.  You realize you need help.

A blog post in Diverse Issues in Education describes this exact situation and what colleges are doing to ramp up services for students with learning disabilities.

Endowed with a newfound freshman’s hunger for independence, Alix Generous thought she could conquer college without seeking help for the learning disabilities she had dealt with since she was 11.

She was wrong.

In her first year at the College of Charleston, Generous decided against using the school’s assistance programs for students with dyslexia and other disorders, even though she had relied on such help throughout her childhood.

“I was like, ‘Now I’m 18 and can do what I want.’ I definitely had that attitude. But a lot of it also was ignorance,” said Generous, who grew up in Maryland.

“It totally screwed me up,” she said. “In the easiest classes, like Intro to Theater, I got a C.”

Generous finally started accepting extra help, and her grades improved. She later transferred to the University of Vermont, where she is now a junior. She gives talks about her experiences to audiences across the country.

But tens of thousands of other college students keep their learning disabilities a secret.

Now some colleges and universities are focusing more attention on getting reluctant learning-disabled students to disclose their conditions before they run into severe problems in the classroom — and bring down those schools’ increasingly important graduation rates.

Just a quarter of students who received help for their disabilities in high school acknowledge in college that they need the same assistance, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

And while 94 percent of high school students with learning disabilities get some kind of help, just 17 percent of learning-disabled college students do.

Read more 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.

“Works for Me” – Life After High School Resources

Works for me  is a website that has resources for people with disabilities on employment and post-secondary education.  The section for youth in transition offers videos and information on how to get started on the journey to adulthood. It is specifically designed for Pennsylvania youth, but the information is very useful for youth in high school anywhere who has a disability.

“For special education students, diplomas, jobs increasingly elusive”

This article, posted in The Hechinger Report, February 3, 2014, chronicles the struggles of a young woman with a disability in pursuing her post-secondary education because she did not have a standard diploma.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Four weeks into a medical assistant program at Antonelli College, Nikki Mclendon eagerly took her parents to the college’s student appreciation day. The 20-year-old looked forward to discussing her progress and pre-registering for the next term, but instead received devastating news.

School officials told the Mclendons their daughter was ineligible to continue. Without warning, the career technical college that accepted Mclendon a year after she finished high school said the “occupational diploma” she’d received from Forrest County Agricultural High School disqualified her.

“I thought, ‘What? I just went through my first semester of college…. I’m having a blast at it, and you all are ruining my career,’” Mclendon recalled.

Mclendon had no way of knowing the alternate diploma many Mississippi special education students choose if they cannot meet the academic requirements of a regular diploma would be a roadblock to higher education and a career — one the state can ill afford. In Mississippi, some 20 percent of youth ages 16-24 are not in school or the workplace, the highest rate in the U.S., according to U.S. census data.

When Mclendon was admitted to Antonelli, the school had not yet received her transcript, said Steve Bryant, president of Antonelli’s Hattiesburg campus. Mclendon was allowed to start classes and start paying tuition for the $30,000 program, which was refunded when she left. Then the transcript showed that she had not passed all her exit exams, and did not have a regular diploma.

“If we can’t verify when the transcripts arrive that they did in fact receive a normal, regular high school diploma, then the student’s conditional acceptance is revoked,” Bryant said.

What happened to Nikki Mclendon is emblematic of a larger problem in Mississippi, where students are much less likely to graduate with a regular diploma after they are classified with a disability. A review of data by the Clarion-Ledger, of Jackson, Miss., found that the majority of special education students receive an occupational diploma, meant to prepare students for a job, or a certificate of completion, meant to honor special education students’ efforts in high school — even if they fell short of graduation requirements.

As a result, thousands of capable students leave high school with few career and education options in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Read the article here.

College Offers Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities

Posted in theBismark Tribune, January 19, 2014

After struggling through classes at Bismarck State College, Kaela Surface sought out an alternative type of education at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla., a school specifically geared toward students with learning disabilities.

Surface was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and a math learning disability when she was about 4 years old.

….Beacon College has an enrollment of 190 students.

“Seventy-six percent of our students graduate with a BA degree within four years of admission,” Shelly Chandler, vice president of academic affairs at Beacon College, said. “We offer an education specially geared toward students with learning disabilities because we have a student-centered learning model with lots of support services.”

Some learning services offered at Beacon College are learning specialists, life coaches, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, math specialists and peer tutors.

Requirements for admission into Beacon are a regular high school diploma or GED, the ability to do college work as evidenced by IQ and achievement testing and a documented learning disability or ADHD.

Read the entire article here.