Once high school ends, so do IEPs. Find out more in our Bridges Resource Library “Life After IEPs—When Do Things Change, and Why?” entry.
Join us as we examine how students’ rights to instructional services change when they are no longer eligible for IEPs.
Rights to Instructional Services Under IEPs
IEPs typically provide a wide range of instructional services for students with disabilities. In addition to the regular instruction all students receive, students with IEPs are entitled to disability-related instructional services, including braille instruction, cane travel instruction, and instruction in using accessible assistive technology.
Rights to Post-secondary Instructional Services Under Section 504 and the ADA
Unlike IEPs, the reasonable accommodations required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) must be specifically requested by the disabled individual. Please note that the post-secondary school is permitted to require proof of the disability/disabilities for which the reasonable accommodations request is made. Additionally, it is usually helpful to make the request as early as possible and to engage in a dialogue about what reasonable accommodations one needs.
Post-secondary educational institutions include college, universities, community college, vocational rehabilitation centers, and many more. The vast majority of these institutions are subject to Section 504 and the ADA and may not discriminate against disabled individuals.
Section 504 and the ADA provide civil rights protections, but they do not provide specific educational rights. Thus, blind/low vision students in post-secondary education have a right to reasonable accommodations needed to access the regular education provided, but they do not have the right to receive disability-specific instructional services (unless those are part of the school’s regular curriculum).
For example, a college has no duty to teach a blind/low vision student how to use JAWS screen reading software. However, if the college provides instruction in different programs, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, a student who uses JAWS may request instruction in those programs using screen reading software. In most cases, this would be a reasonable accommodation, even if the college doesn’t have anyone on staff who is trained to do so. Unless the college is very, very small and has almost no funding, providing equitable services to a screen reader user should be considered a reasonable accommodation, and the college could provide it using contractors or other resources.
What Does This Mean?
After high school, a disabled individual does not have the right to disability-related instructional services that are not part of the regular curriculum. However, the individual DOES have the right to receive reasonable accommodations to access the regular curriculum. Examples of these reasonable accommodations include braille, enlarged print, accessible electronic materials, accessible science lab equipment, accessible class software, etc. However, it is important to remember that, while both Section 504 and the ADA require the school to provide reasonable accommodations, these laws do NOT require the school to teach you how to use these reasonable accommodations.
Contact the Bridges Helpdesk for More Information
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 357-1546
- Voice mail: Call (410) 357-1546, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.
Updated as of September 29, 2023.