As an occupational therapist, I recently evaluated a young woman who has a significant learning disability. She is interested in attending college, however, we know that computers are required in college for even non-academic functions, such as registration and communications, and she has difficulty using them. She is seeking an accommodation, but isn’t sure what she needs or what to do. Do you have any suggestions on how a student can survive college without computer skills, or in regard to legal support for appropriate accommodations?
Thanks for going the extra mile to help this young woman. There are actually several underlying issues related to your question. Can this student use any kind of computer technology? Are there any assistive technologies (AT) that may be effective for her? What accommodations can the post-secondary institution provide and what are her legal rights in regard to accommodations?
An initial step to consider would be an assistive technology assessment, possibly arranged through the local Vocational Rehabilitation Center as an element of her Transition Plan. The next step would be a visit to a local college and discuss options with the Disability Resource Center. Here is some information on these steps:
- AT assessments: It may be that computers will work for her with appropriate accommodations, or perhaps some other type of assistive technology will be more appropriate. This student needs to know what she needs before she can request appropriate accommodations. If there are personnel in the school who can do this, seek them out. Otherwise, start with Step 2.
- If she is not currently a client of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in her state, she may be eligible to apply for services. Work with the Transition Coordinator at the high school who should have a connection with the VR system. They may be able to help provide an (AT) assessment for her and perhaps even assist with funding.
- Plan a visit to a Disability Resource Center at a local college. They can counsel her about expectations and assumptions, inform her of the types of accommodations they are able to provide students, and may have information about other colleges’ programs. The recent guide, Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators will provide you information about students’ civil rights in regard to post-secondary education.