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An Institutional Perspective on Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education
NCES 1999046
August 1999

Support Services or Accommodations Designed for Students with Disabilities

This section provides information about the provision of special support services or accommodations designed for students with disabilities. Postsecondary institutions subject to Section 504 and the ADA are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability and must provide program modifications and auxiliary aids to students with disabilities to the extent required by law. Institutions that enrolled any students with disabilities in 1996-97 or 1997-98 were asked whether the institution had provided various support services or accommodations to a student with disabilities during that time. Information was obtained only about whether a service or accommodation was provided, and not about whether it was requested, since institutions keep records about service delivery but not about service requests. Thus, an institution may not have provided a service because either no student requested it or there was inadequate documentation to support it, rather than because the institution was unable or unwilling to provide the service.12 Information was also obtained about whether the institution worked, either formally or informally, with the state vocational rehabilitation agency, and whether the formal planning process for the purchase and implementation of new technologies explicitly considers the needs of students with disabilities.

Provision of Support Services or Accommodations

Almost all (98 percent) of the institutions that enrolled students with disabilities had provided at least one support service or accommodation to a student with disabilities (not shown in tables). Most institutions (88 percent) had provided alternative exam formats or additional time, and 77 percent provided tutors to assist with ongoing coursework (table 10). Readers, classroom notetakers, or scribes were provided by 69 percent of the institutions, and registration assistance or priority class registration were provided by 62 percent. Institutions also frequently provided adaptive equipment or technology, such as assistive listening devices or talking computers (58 percent), and textbooks on tape (55 percent). Sign language interpreters/ transliterators were provided by 45 percent of the institutions, and course substitutions or waivers by 42 percent. One-third or fewer of the institutions provided the remaining support services or accommodations.

Whether various support services or accommodations were provided varied substantially by institutional type and size (table 10). The general pattern was that public 2-year and 4-year institutions were more likely than private 2-year and 4-year institutions to have provided a service or accommodation, and medium and large institutions were more likely than small institutions to have provided a service or accommodation. Large institutions were also more likely than medium institutions to have provided many of the services. This pattern of service provision is consistent with the distributions of enrollments of students with disabilities.

Working with the State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency

All institutions, including those that did not enroll any students with disabilities in 1996-97 or 1997- 98, were asked whether the person or office responsible for providing support services to students with disabilities worked, either formally or informally, with the state vocational rehabilitation agency regarding students with disabilities. Sixty percent of all institutions indicated that they worked with the state vocational rehabilitation agency (figure 2). However, institutions that enrolled students with disabilities were much more likely to work with the state vocational rehabilitation agency than were institutions that did not enroll students with disabilities. Among the institutions that enrolled students with disabilities, public 2-year and 4- year institutions were much more likely than private 2-year and 4-year institutions, and large institutions were more likely than medium institutions, which were more likely than small institutions, to work with the state vocational rehabilitation agency (table 11).

Planning Process for New Technologies

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is interested in knowing to what extent the needs of students with disabilities are considered by institutions in the planning process for the purchase and implementation of new technologies, such as the upgrading or replacement of computers and telephones. All institutions, including those that did not enroll students with disabilities in 1996-97 or 1997-98, were asked whether the institution has an institution-wide formal planning process for the purchase and implementation of new technologies, and if so, whether the formal technology planning process explicitly considers the needs of students with disabilities, and whether input is requested from the disability support services office or coordinator to assist in the formal technology planning process.

About half (54 percent) of all institutions indicated that they have an institution-wide formal planning process (figure 3). Institutions that enrolled students with disabilities were more likely than institutions that did not enroll students with disabilities to have an institution-wide formal planning process: 63 percent compared with 31 percent. Among those institutions with an institution-wide formal planning process, about half of all institutions explicitly considered the needs of students with disabilities, and about half requested input from the disability support services office or coordinator. Institutions that enrolled students with disabilities were more likely to consider the needs of students with disabilities and seek input than were institutions that did not enroll students with disabilities (figure 3). Among institutions that enrolled students with disabilities and that have a formal planning process, public 2-year and 4-year institutions were more likely than private 2-year and 4-year institutions, and large institutions were more likely than medium and small institutions, to explicitly consider the needs of students with disabilities (table 12). Similarly, public 2-year institutions were more likely than private 2-year and 4-year institutions, and public 4-year institutions were more likely than private 4-year institutions, to seek input from the disability support services office or coordinator (table 12). In addition, large institutions were more likely than medium institutions, which were more likely than small institutions, to seek such input.


12It also is not possible from these data to ascertain the quality of the support services that were provided. For example, it would be useful to know if the sign language interpreters were certified and the adaptive equipment and technology was up-to-date and in good working order. However, the constraints of a brief PEQIS survey did not allow this kind of detailed information to be collected.

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