A Parent's Guide to UAF Disability Services
As a parent of a student with a disability, you probably have questions and concerns about your son’s or daughter’s future college experience. This guide was written with you in mind—to answer questions, address concerns, describe the new roles your son or daughter and yourself will play in the accommodation process, and explain how post-secondary disability services differ from high school services and supports. Please feel free to contact us if you have further questions or need more detailed explanations.
UAF Disability Services ensures that academic programming and services are accessible to students with disabilities. Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended, prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities. According to these laws, no “otherwise” qualified individual shall, "solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination” in any program or activity.
As a parent, it is important to understand that the laws that protect students with disabilities are different at the high school and post-secondary levels. High schools are governed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Post-secondary institutions are governed by the ADA and by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Universities do not offer the same or even similar services to what may have been available in high school. At the higher education level the student is responsible for successful completion of all courses.
Transitioning to Higher Education
Contrary to what many students and parents may believe preparation for college should begin long before college campus tours, interviews, and applications enter the picture. Your son or daughter should begin preparing for life after high school by learning about his/her disability, how the disability affects him/her academically, what coping skills have proven to be effective in the past, and what his/her strengths and weaknesses are. Self-advocacy skills are crucial to a successful post-secondary experience and your young adult will need time to develop, practice and fine-tune their self-advocacy abilities.
Often first year students are unprepared for the amount of responsibility that they will face in the postsecondary environment. Your son or daughter can develop skills and abilities by taking increased responsibility for their own educational and personal goals while in high school.
You can help by encouraging your son or daughter to problem-solve and address the situations independently, while you offer support and additional help, only if needed.
The Accommodation Process
UAF provides academic accommodations to students who provide documented evidence of a disability that substantially limits a major life activity (e.g. learning, hearing, seeing, etc.). Accommodations are designed to ensure equal access to academic programming and services. Accommodations must be reasonable and cannot alter the essential requirements of a course or program that a student is expected to meet.
In order to receive academic accommodations, your son or daughter must self-identify as a student with a disability by completing an an application for accommodations, providing documentation, and participating in and interactive interview with the UAF Director of Disability Services.
As a parent, your role throughout this process is one that is primarily supportive rather than directive. Your son or daughter will be expected to respond to questions and discuss needs during the interview process. It is best if parents, guardians and other adult participants allow the young adult to speak for themselves.
Disability Services requires current documentation from a qualified physician or other licensed professional in a field related to the disability. Since each disability is unique, guidelines for what constitutes appropriate documentation for a particular disability are available. Please note that a copy of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan alone is not sufficient documentation. Documentation guidelines can be found on the website under information for students at Disability Services documentation .
When a decision has been made regarding accommodations, Disability Services will prepare letter of accommodation. It is the student’s responsibility to present the letter of accommodation to the instructors and to meet with the instructor during office hours. The student should be prepared to discuss with his/her instructors the impact of his/her disability and how the requested accommodations interface with the course syllabus and the essential requirements.
Disability Services is committed to ensuring all information regarding a student remains confidential as required by “The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” (FERPA). Student files maintained by DS are accessed only by authorized office staff.
Parents Please Keep in Mind
- The entire accommodation process must be student-initiated. It is not the post-secondary institution’s responsibility to initiate the accommodation process for the student.
- While you as a parent may want to advocate for your son or daughter and assist in the accommodation process, confidentiality laws prohibit UAF personnel from discussing your son’s or daughter’s information with anyone, including parents, without written consent from the student.
- Your son or daughter is responsible for ensuring that appropriate documentation is obtained and received by UAF Disability Services.
- Your son or daughter must distribute the accommodation letters to his/her instructors at the beginning of each semester.
- Accommodations such as note taking services and testing accommodations require the student to follow certain procedures. If these procedures are not followed, your son or daughter could risk losing the support of these accommodations.
- If your son or daughter experiences any difficulties with his/her accommodations or if the status of his/ her disability changes, it is his/her responsibility to inform Disability Services ASAP. If our office does not hear from your son or daughter, it will be assumed that all is well.
- It is your son’s or daughter’s responsibility to contact our office every semester to request accommodations for that semester. Accommodations are not put in place until requested by the student.
Check List for a Successful Transition
- Assist your child to develop self–advocacy skills.
- Be sure your child knows his/her diagnosis and can communicate their needs.
- Help your child to know his/her learning style. Which is more helpful, visual or verbal information?
- Make sure your child can identify his/her strengths and interests.
- Assist your child in voicing and identifying their challenges.
- Allow your child to practice stating their needs.
- Collect recent documentation regarding your child’s disability. Documentation should include diagnostic information, tests used to determine diagnoses not IEPs or 504 plans.
- Review and understand the documentation.
- Make an appointment with UAF Disability Services Director, Mary Matthews by calling (907)474-5655.
- Bring documentation to the appointment and prepare your child to discuss their needs.