Lesson 16: Rights and Responsibilities As a College Student with Vision Loss

Key Considerations

As a high school student who is blind or low vision, you have a team of professionals who are responsible for providing specialized services to you that will prepare you for your transition into college or career school. Your school district is required to identify you as a student who is blind or low vision, evaluate your needs, and create an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that outlines the services that will be provided to you to meet your needs. The law that covers the services you receive in high school is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

After you graduate high school, you will not be entitled to the same services and supports you previously received under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You will no longer have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are the laws that mandate your access to services and accommodations as a college or career school student who is blind or low vision.

Before you continue your education in a post-secondary school, you should be well informed about your rights and responsibilities as well as the responsibilities your selected institution will have towards you as a student with vision loss. Having this knowledge prior to beginning your post-secondary education will increase your opportunities for success at your institution and in your courses.

As a college or career school student, you will be obligated to identify yourself as a student who is blind or low vision if you need or want accommodations that allow you to fully participate in your courses. Simply put, your institution is not going to identify you as a student who is blind or low vision. It is your job to self-identify, and it is up to you to start the process of sharing information about yourself and your need for accommodations. If you don’t want services from your institution, you don’t have to tell your instructors about your vision loss. Choosing to disclose your disability to your professors is solely up to you.

If you choose to disclose your disability, each institution has a disability coordinator you will work with to advocate for your needs. In high school, your parents or school staff, such as your teacher of students who are blind or low vision, may have advocated on your behalf. In college and career school, you will be expected to identify and advocate for yourself as a student with vision loss.

Under the federal laws of the Rehabilitation Act and ADA, you are guaranteed an equal opportunity to participate in post-secondary education. Upon submission of documentation of your disability, you will work with the disability coordinator to identify academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services (commonly referred to as accommodations) you may need. An example of an academic adjustment is extended time on a test. Auxiliary aids and services include a video magnifier or screen reader.

Assignment #1

Read the following article to learn what you are entitled to as a college or career school student who is blind or low vision in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act:

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Post-Secondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Assignment #2

Test your knowledge of your rights and responsibilities as a post-secondary education student by answering the following True/False questions. If the statement is false, rewrite the incorrect portion of the statement so that it is true.

  1. The college or career school I apply to is permitted to ask me if I have a disability prior to making a decision about my admission status.
  2. A college or career school can deny me admission because of my vision loss.
  3. The educational institution I attend is obligated to identify me as a person with a disability and automatically provide academic adjustments.
  4. A copy of my IEP or 504 Plan is sufficient documentation of my disability for my educational institution so I can receive academic adjustments.
  5. I can be denied services if documentation of my visual diagnosis is unclear.
  6. If my educational institution requests additional testing to document my vision loss, the institution is responsible for arranging and paying for the testing.
  7. If I fail my first midterm test, I can apply for academic adjustments and retake the test.
  8. A reduced course load is an example of an academic adjustment.
  9. My educational institution will be required to provide personal devices such as eyeglasses or a long white cane for my personal use.
  10. My school is required to provide every academic adjustment that I want.
  11. My disability coordinator will check with me once a week to be sure I am receiving my accommodations and that they are working for me.
  12. My disability coordinator will not tutor or help me manage my time or schedule.
  13. My disability coordinator will contact all of my professors to discuss my specific needs.
  14. If my academic adjustments are not working for me and I fail my course, my school must allow me to retake the course free of charge.

Assignment #3

Read pages 67 through 81 of Chapter 2 in College Bound, A Guide for Students with Visual Impairments, 2nd Edition, by Ellen Trief. Take notes of pertinent information to refer to as you answer the following questions:

  1. What organization has an online toolkit you can refer to regarding legislation, accommodations, and self-advocacy?
  2. List four resources for locating up to date information about your legal rights.
  3. What is the Federal Privacy Act?
  4. There are many differences between high school and your post-secondary education options. List five new responsibilities you will have as a college or career school student with vision loss.
  5. Which national organizations offer support and information about self-advocacy for college or career school students with vision loss?
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