Thousands of teenagers and young adults will begin college this fall, but some of them will need more help than others. People with disabilities often have more trouble navigating higher education. According to the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Impact, on average, only three out of ten young adults with disabilities have taken post-secondary education courses. I have discovered one possible reason for this.
Some colleges are a little hesitant in allowing those with physical disabilities to bring personal care assistants (PCA) into a college classroom. But a PCA is a vital accommodation to those with physical disabilities who want to continue to higher education.
Some colleges worry that the PCA will receive a free education or do the student’s work. Colleges need to change their outlook on this; students with physical disabilities have the brain power to do college academics. But they often need help with physical barriers, like manipulating materials, taking books out of backpacks, setting things up, turning pages, taking notes, among other things. Obviously, students with physical disabilities must have these accommodations to succeed in college.
Some colleges expect disabled students — who sometimes can’t be understood well — to use classmates as helpers. This could be problematic because peers are focusing on their own work and cannot be expected to help with any request. Instructors shouldn’t be the ones helping students either; they have a whole class to teach. If dogs and miniature horses can help the physically handicapped in classrooms, why can’t humans?
There are three laws that say students who need physical help can bring someone in a college classroom: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Minnesota Human Rights Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. According to wrightslaw.com, Section 504 and the ADA states that a reasonable accommodation is “modifying rules, policies or practices; removing architectural or communication barriers; or providing aids, services, or assistive technology.” Some colleges are way ahead. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater actually provides in-class aides to assist the physically disabled. Others, like Augsburg College, pay note takers, thus making them accountable.
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Written by: Michael L. Sack