|Students with disabilities are one of the most unemployed and underemployed groups in America today. Postsecondary education is becoming increasingly more important in the workforce. More and more careers are requiring at least a bachelor’s degree in order to gain and retain positions. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and with the focus on transitioning students from high school to post-school activities, more and more students with learning disabilities are choosing to attend college. However, recent legislation and current trends in education have unintentionally erected a stumbling block for students with learning disabilities as they transition from secondary to postsecondary education.
A primary issue is that the secondary schools are no longer providing the types of assessments and evaluations that are being required at the postsecondary level. This incongruency may cause a break in accommodations, forcing some students to attempt some of their college career in the absence of appropriate academic accommodations. Transitioning students are already bombarded with numerous burdens and difficulties. The absence of accommodations for students who truly need them puts them at a big disadvantage when compared to their peers without disabilities.
The purpose of the current study was to explore the criteria for documentation for students with learning disabilities as they attempt to gain access to disability support services at postsecondary educational institutions. An online survey tool was developed through a literature review and a 3-round Delphi process with experts in the field. The survey was a collaborative effort with the Association of Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), and the population was postsecondary educational institutions who were members of AHEAD or the Disabled Students Services in Higher Education (DSSHE) listserv for the 2007-2008 school year. Participation in the survey was voluntary.
The research questions were: (a) How recent must the documentation be in order for students with learning disabilities to become eligible for services?; (b) Are adult measures generally required in order for students with learning disabilities to become eligible for services?; (c) Which tests and scores are required, recommended, accepted, discouraged or not accepted in order for students with learning disabilities to become eligible for services?; (d) Are temporary academic accommodations generally given while a student makes an attempt to gain up-to-date and complete documentation?; and (e) Are there any significant differences between disability documentation criteria for institutions when examining size, type and funding source?
The results of the study show that there is much divergence among institutions of higher education with regards to what constitutes “good and acceptable” documentation. Requirements such as recency, the use of adult measures, and acceptable assessments used during testing differed greatly among institutions. These results are not promising for transitioning students with learning disabilities. Students with learning disabilities should be able to benefit from their college experiences just as much as all other students. This document divide for students with learning disabilities transitioning to postsecondary education is a growing area of concern that needs to be further explored. The researcher hopes that this study can benefit subsequent researchers and encourage all stakeholders to work together with a common goal of success for these students as they attempt to succeed and gain academic accommodations at the postsecondary educational level.