People with Disabilities and Postsecondary Education -- Position Paper

National Council on Disability
Lex Frieden, Chairperson
September 15, 2003

Executive Summary

The National Council on Disability (NCD) undertook this synthesis in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Students with disabilities, who now are estimated to represent nearly 10 percent of all college students, currently experience outcomes far inferior to those of their non-disabled peers, despite the fact that research shows that they are more likely to obtain positive professional employment outcomes after degree completion than their peers. The purpose of this paper is to provide background that might guide reauthorization of the HEA to better support students with disabilities to achieve equal postsecondary outcomes.

Detailed information is presented here on interrelated issues impacting student preparation and access to postsecondary education: participation, retention and persistence towards degree completion; financial aid barriers; difficulties in interagency collaboration; emerging needs in personnel preparation; and gaps in the research base guiding policy and practices. There are five broad areas for policy makers to address in the reauthorization of the HEA. NCD's recommendations draw from the extant research and from the direct input of youth with disabilities:

1) Improving Postsecondary Education Access through the Formation of a Federal Commission. A Federal Commission is needed to investigate and resolve discrepancies and issues across secondary and postsecondary institutions and to study and develop solutions for systemic transition problems for students with disabilities.

2) Improving Access to Postsecondary Education by Providing Information on Postsecondary Educational Support Provision. A national Web-based Assessment Center and Register of organized data and information on disability supports and services is recommended to enable students and families to better anticipate what supports and services will be needed, and whether they are available, in postsecondary settings.

3) Improving Participation and Persistence in Postsecondary Education through Formation of a National Technical Assistance Network. A national network of technical assistance centers should be established to assist faculty and disability support programs in postsecondary education settings, and to provide effective practice models, training of faculty and support personnel, and technical assistance to programs and people with disabilities.

4) Improving Financial Aid for People with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education with New Flexibility. Amendments to the Higher Education Act are needed to remove barriers to financial aid for students with disabilities and to provide funds for research, demonstrations, and training on disability-related financial aid issues.

5) Addressing Emerging Needs through Targeted Personnel Preparation and Research. Postsecondary education personnel preparation should include research and training on disability-related supports and services and should emphasize recruiting, educating and providing accommodations to teachers with disabilities.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

I. Introduction

II. People with Disabilities and Postsecondary Education

A. Preparation to Access Postsecondary Education
B. Performance in Postsecondary Education
C. Attainment of Employment Following Postsecondary Education

III. Issues for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities

A. Issues of Access to Postsecondary Education

1. Issues in Preparation for Postsecondary Education
2. Issues in Transition to Postsecondary Education

B. Issues of Student Progress in Postsecondary Education

1. Participation
2. Retention and Persistence

C. Financial Aid Issues

1. Cost and Time Factors
2. Social Security Issues
3. Issues Concerning Eligibility for, and Retention of, Federal Aid
4. Specific Financial Burdens Associated with Disabilities
5. Financial Aid and the Higher Education Act

D. Issues of Interagency Collaboration and Postsecondary Education

1. Fragmentation and Inconsistencies in Service Provision
2. Differences in Service Emphases

E. Emerging Areas of Need

1. Issues of Personnel Preparation
2. Gaps in the Knowledge Base

IV. Recommendations for Policy Makers

A. Addressing Access Issues through the Formation of a Federal Commission
B. Addressing Access Issues by Providing Information on Postsecondary Educational Support
C. Addressing Participation and Persistence Issues through the Formation of a National Technical Assistance Network
D. Addressing Financial Aid Issues through Flexibility
E. Addressing Emerging Needs through Personnel Preparation and Research

1. Training of Personnel
2. Further Research
3. Further Study in Financial Aid
4. Further Support for Disability Demonstration Efforts

V. Conclusion


I. Introduction

Americans of every historical era and demographic group have recognized the power of education to transform the lives of people and sustain the life of democracy. Gradual changes in the labor market have rendered a postsecondary education critical to professional success. Leadership in the nation's business, information, and commerce sectors has pointed to the need for highly educated workers, competent in higher-order thinking and technical skills, as the nation seeks to thrive in the competitive global economy. Completion of postsecondary education, including vocational-technical training, significantly improves the chances of securing gainful and satisfying employment and achieving financial independence. Students with and without disabilities who earn Bachelor of Arts degrees are almost on par in terms of attainment of subsequent employment (OSERS, USDOE, November 29, 2000; Harris eSurvey, 2000; HEATH Survey, 1998).

Policy and curricular changes at the secondary level have been supported by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title II of the HEA under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). These adjustments have focused on improving academic achievement and post-school expectations for students with disabilities with the hope of facilitating access to higher education. Although supported in secondary education under IDEA, students with disabilities who succeed in secondary education are not receiving services to help them prepare for the disability-related challenges they will encounter during the post-school years. (Brinckerhoff, 1994; Izzo, Hertzfeld, & Aaron, 2001). Their lack of transition preparation has potential consequences for those college students who are unprepared to make financial decisions, learn about legal rights, and self-advocate for their support needs. Students with disabilities who access postsecondary education find the provision of assistance is no longer automatic or standardized under one federal rubric. The Rehabilitation Act and the ADA do not mandate specific accommodations. Individual institutions have considerable discretion to interpret the parameters of the reasonable accommodations required by law. Resources are often inadequate and disconnected. The type, range, availability of, and terms related to services are often widely discrepant and poorly integrated while access to mentors or technological training is either limited or non existent (Stodden, Jones & Chang, 2002).

In subsequent employment, fewer young adults with disabilities possessing a Bachelor of Arts degree work full time when compared with people without disabilities holding the same degree (National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports, 2002). Individuals with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line as those without disabilities (New Freedom Initiative, 2001). Fewer individuals with disabilities are employed when compared with those people without disabilities. Of those people with disabilities who are employed, the vast majority work at low-paying, non-professional jobs, which lack prestige, come with no security, room for advancement, or significant medical or retirement benefits (Stoddard, Jans, Ripple, & Krauss, 1998).

Researchers and practitioners in the field of disability and postsecondary education have amassed substantial data which is evidence of the great strides made since legislators first recognized the rights of people with disabilities and also of the value of their participation in and completion of postsecondary education. Professionals have also ascertained numerous barriers and gaps in knowledge that remain. In fact, the knowledge gleaned from data remains vastly insufficient to the knowledge still to be found. The relative paucity of research is evidence of the newness of the field of study, but such gaps in knowledge render the enactment of policy changes leading to continued progress on an appreciable, universal scale difficult. Therefore, we recommend that evidence based research be conducted to provide a comprehensive foundation of knowledge from which evidence-based strategies may be determined. We recommend that research:

  • Document the importance and value of postsecondary education for people with disabilities through close secondary analysis of extant data sets.
  • Determine the current status of people with disabilities in postsecondary education by expanding the National Longitudinal Transition Study (NLTS).
  • Gather data on a national level in order to acknowledge services and accommodations for postsecondary students with disabilities; to learn about the ways in which student education, accommodations, medical and other services are financed; and to understand the differences in services provided, costs to students, and success rates from state-to-state.
  • Explore the issues that contribute to this current status through a number of effectiveness studies focusing upon specific factors that lead to successful outcomes for students with disabilities.
  • Include disability statistics in the data collected by the Student Aid Recipient Survey conducted by the Commissioner of Education Statistics, so that analysis of student expenses and ability to repay loans can include this information (Higher Education Act Section 131).

The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, therefore, must contain a mandate to conduct a national study that will yield a clearinghouse for the collection, classification, and ongoing dissemination of data regarding the status of people with disabilities in postsecondary education and subsequent professional employment. It should include the institutional characteristics and legislative policies both conducive and preclusive to their positive outcomes. The study should take a holistic view of this growing population, recognizing the interdependent relationships between students with disabilities, natural supports, disability support staff, service providers, federal funding agencies, secondary and postsecondary staff and faculty, policy makers, researchers, and health care providers. At the same time, we further recommend the funding of broad-scale demonstration and intervention studies aimed at improving outcomes and success rates of students with disabilities in postsecondary education and beyond.

Congress is encouraged to review the most promising evidence based practices arising from previous studies and to enact the changes in federal policy that will best support the efforts of students with disabilities. These changes should encompass preparation for, transition to, access to, retention in, and completion of postsecondary education. We further urge Congress to consider the recommendations of this study, as well as those of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities in drafting the reauthorization of the HEA.

II. People with Disabilities and Postsecondary Education

In order to provide a comprehensive knowledge base from which recommendations for evidence based practices and policies may be determined, it is necessary to know the status of people with disabilities today in postsecondary education. Information should be included about their status in the settings which lead up to higher education and follow it - that is, secondary education and employment environments. The information provided below is evidence that there has been steady but limited progress in all areas leading to improved quality of life for this population. However, change has been slowed by systemic barriers at all educational levels and complex interactions between the services available. Subsequent discussion of the issues leading to this current status will clarify the need for changes in policy and continued research.

A. Preparation to Access Postsecondary Education

For nearly two decades, significant changes have been reported regarding the practices by which students with disabilities are prepared for post-school success, including their preparation for college or university. Among the positive results for students with disabilities are (NCSPES, 2002; OSERS, 2000):

  • The percentage of students with disabilities graduating from high school with a diploma has risen steadily in recent years (51.7% in 1994 to 55.4% in 1998).
  • The percentage of adults with disabilities who report completing high school increased significantly between 1986 and 2000 (61% in 1986 to 78% in 2000).
  • The number of students with disabilities dropping out of high school has begun to decrease (35% dropped out in 1994, compared to 31% in 1998).

Nevertheless, students with disabilities continue to lag behind their cohorts without disabilities in terms of postsecondary academic preparedness. The U.S. Department of Education's 21st Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the IDEA reported that a smaller percent of students with disabilities graduated with high school diplomas from 1996 to 1998, compared to students without disabilities (US DOE, 1999). Furthermore, the following data indicates a gap in efforts to provide appropriate and equal opportunity to this population (NCSPES, 2002).

  • Youth with disabilities drop out of high school at twice the rate of their peers without disabilities.
  • At the present time, fully 85% of all high school dropouts have some kind of disability (US DOE, 1999).
  • Students with disabilities are less likely than their peers without disabilities to complete a full secondary school academic curriculum, especially in math and science curriculum areas.
  • Youth with disabilities seldom attend or have any but the most perfunctory involvement in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings (Abery & Stancliffe, 1996), thus are rarely prepared with a post-school transition plan.
  • When ranked according to how qualified they were for college admission, students with disabilities were "much less likely to be even minimally qualified," based on an index score of grades, class rank, NELS composite test scores, and SAT/ACT scores (NCES, 1999)

Also of concern is the data that indicates that many students with disabilities are not being appropriately identified and served during childhood and adolescent years. The following statistics may be the result of delay in the diagnosis and identification of individual disabilities:

  • In a recent study, 31% of the participants with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) indicated that their disability was first identified at the postsecondary level (NCSPES, 2002).
  • When declaring a primary disability, 44% of the participants with an attention deficit disorder (ADD) indicated that their disability was first identified at the postsecondary level.

B. Performance in Postsecondary Education

Given the substantial research conducted through the National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports (NCSPES) and other agencies, as well as the implementation of various legislative mandates and the consequent growing awareness concerning students with disabilities, there are a number of positive developments supporting the access and retention of people with disabilities in postsecondary education and subsequent employment. Among the positive outcomes of various federal directives and initiatives, and increased awareness, are (Harris eSurvey, 2000; HEATH Survey, 1998; US DOE, 2000):

  • The percentage of college freshmen with a disability has more than tripled over the last twenty years (3% in 1978 to over 9% in 1998).
  • The number of high school graduates with disabilities matriculating in postsecondary education has risen from 3% in 1978 to 19% in 1996 (Blackorby & Wagner, 1996; Dukes & Shaw, 1999).
  • One in eleven (or, 154,520) first-time, full-time freshmen entering college in 1998 self-reported a disability ranging from hearing, speech, orthopedic, learning, health-related, partially sighted or blind, or other conditions (HEATH, 1999).
  • More than 50% of students with disabilities enrolling in postsecondary education persist toward a degree or credential.
  • Nearly all public postsecondary institutions enroll students with disabilities (approximately 98% of public institutions in 1998).
  • Most postsecondary education institutions enrolling students with disabilities provide some level of services, supports, or accommodations to assist their access to education.

However, despite these above areas of progress - which pertain mostly to beginning college rather than long term outcomes - significant complications remain. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all postsecondary institutions "are required by law to provide any reasonable accommodation that may be necessary for those people with an identified disability to have equal access to the educational opportunities and services available to non-disabled peers, if requested" (PL 101-336; PL 105-17). The nature of this language allows variant interpretation and likely causes the differences in implementation and outcomes seen across the nation (Stodden, Jones, & Chang, 2001). Recent research reports the following information (National Survey of Educational Support Provision, 2000; National Focus Groups of Youth with Disabilities, 2000):

  • Youth with disabilities are significantly less likely to start postsecondary education than are their peers without disabilities (27% of students with disabilities transition to postsecondary education compared to 68% of their peers without disabilities).
  • Of all students pursuing postsecondary education, students with disabilities are significantly more likely to be enrolled in sub-baccalaureate programs such as two-year colleges or "other" institutions such as for-profit vocational institutions. (NCES, 1999).
  • Young adults with disabilities in postsecondary education are less likely to persevere and complete a degree or certificate than are their peers without disabilities.
  • On average, students with disabilities who finish postsecondary education take twice as long to complete their degree than do their non-disabled peers, yet special provisions for financial aid are not in place.
  • More than 80% of youth with disabilities who attempt postsecondary education require some assistance to manage/coordinate their educational and related services.

C. Attainment of Employment Following Postsecondary Education

The value of a postsecondary education to youth with disabilities cannot be over-stated. When this population is not supported through policies that enhance its chances for success in college and professional employment, the cost to the nation is likely to be higher. This is so because of the supplemental and/or dependent support they may require from others, and the likelihood that they will need to take out extra student loans to manage additional costs associated with their disabilities. Yet, the quality of life for individuals with disabilities is improved dramatically through increased participation in meaningful employment, community involvement and social acceptance. However, for individuals who do not obtain a degree in a postsecondary education program, prospects for finding meaningful and renumerative employment are increasingly limited.

The barriers within postsecondary education that obstruct the progress of students with disabilities bring about the following employment-related realities:

  • Individuals with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line as individuals without disabilities (New Freedom Initiative, 2001).
  • Individuals with disabilities are less likely to be employed than individuals without disabilities, across all age groups (NCSPES, 2002). Only 49% of individuals with disabilities are employed versus 79% of individuals without disabilities (U.S. Census of Population and Housing, 2000). The employment rates for individuals with cognitive impairments and significant disabilities are even lower (Kiernan, 2002).
  • 67% of youth with disabilities with a Bachelor of Arts degree were working full time compared with 73% for people without disabilities holding the same degree (National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports, 2002).
  • Of those people with disabilities who are employed, less than one half of one percent are professionals. Instead, the vast majority of individuals with disabilities who are employed work at low paying, non-professional jobs which require no higher education, are associated with less prestige, and provide no security, room for advancement, or significant medical/retirement benefits (Stoddard, Jans, Ripple, & Krauss, 1998).
  • Working-age adults with disabilities consistently earn less than do their peers without disabilities.
  • Employers are "resistant to hiring workers with disabilities because of their discomfort in having these workers, their concerns about costs, or their belief that such workers do not have the skills to perform particular jobs" (CWD, 2003, p.1). However, 61% of employers reported the average cost of accommodations for their employees with disabilities was $500 or less (CWD, 2003).
  • Other people's low expectations for people with disabilities are often internalized. A recent research project found that people with disabilities "seem to be learning at an early age that they have only two options-to perform a menial job or apply for SSI benefits at age 18 rather than aspiring to higher education or a professional career" (Half the Planet Foundation, Section V, 2002).
  • 36% of employed people with disabilities report encountering at least one instance of discrimination in the workplace due to their disabilities (National Organization on Disability, 2000).
  • The ADA allows employers to have much more discretion in the ways in which support can be provided than do secondary or postsecondary schools. As such, there is a tendency for employers to provide assistance based solely on cost (NCSPES, 2002), which can often lead to inadequate accommodations or none at all.

Furthermore, individuals with disabilities who do not have a college degree are significantly less likely to own a computer or reap the professional and social benefits of electronic "networking" than individuals with disabilities who have graduated from college. While only 12.7 percent of non-graduates with disabilities own computers, the percentage jumps to 46.5 percent for people with disabilities who have obtained college degrees. Moreover, only 2.4 percent of people with disabilities who lack high school diplomas use the Internet compared with 30.2 percent of college graduates with disabilities who regularly log on (Kaye, 2000). This lack of computer access is a potentially significant problem for people with disabilities. Assistive technology is an important tool for overcoming disability-related obstacles while computer access helps students learn about self-advocacy and their rights in the postsecondary setting. Individuals with disabilities who do not obtain a college degree or a certificate of completion of advanced education are known to show more restricted participation in community and leisure time activities, more dependency on parents and federal and state cash transfer programs, and significantly lower rates of home ownership (Turnbull, Turnbull, Wehmeyer, & Park, 2003; Snow, Wallace & Munro, 2001; Radnitz, Tirch, Vincinguerra & Moran, 1999).

Many of the negative outcomes for youth with disabilities described above are the result of problems that have been ongoing and compounding for decades. Serious gaps remain in the services and supports provided to this population. It is not through lack of effort on the part of policy makers, advocates and people with disabilities that this is so. Myriad issues must be examined to fully understand what is preventing our efforts to move forward and produce results in a more timely manner. Careful consideration must be given to the barriers students with disabilities face as they transition to and through the environments related to education. It is also important to understand how these settings connect, or fail to connect, and exactly how inadequately addressed issues in childhood build upon each other and present even greater challenges at the postsecondary level. In preparing to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, it is important to focus on the positive outcomes that have been reported for youth with disabilities, and to expand and enhance the strategies and practices that are known to improve outcomes.

III. Issues for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities

Barriers exist for people with disabilities in both secondary and postsecondary educational settings, as well as in the provision of government-funded support services. Progress has often been far too slow, hindered by systemic structural and pedagogical obstacles. There has been consistent but limited progress over the past decade for youth with disabilities (AYPF & CEP, 2002). Current practices and policies continue to hinder the progress of students with disabilities as they seek to access, persist in, and complete their education in secondary and postsecondary settings. These problems include: discrepancies in service delivery modules and terminologies; lack of interagency collaboration, and inadequate funding for resources and staff development. Ultimately, student employment opportunities are limited. The issues below are presented in detail to facilitate and lend clarity of vision to efforts to ameliorate the outcomes for youth with disabilities in higher education.

A. Issues of Access to Postsecondary Education

Education is the key factor in achieving employment and thus an enhanced quality of life for people with disabilities. The right of entry, or access, which is defined in the 1996 Oxford Dictionary as the "right or opportunity to reach, or enter, or visit", to postsecondary education is wrought with barriers for youth with disabilities. One of the problematic areas encompassed is preparation for and transition to postsecondary education programs. Without access to higher education, youth with disabilities find restricted opportunities for meaningful employment and are therefore denied the higher standard of living that greater numbers of their non-disabled peers enjoy.

1. Issues in Preparation for Postsecondary Education

In order to access postsecondary education, students with disabilities must first successfully complete a recognized program of academic study in secondary education. During secondary school, the emphasis is often on providing youth with disabilities with prescriptive, specialized services and supports focused specifically upon remediating learning or behavior deficits experienced by the student. Students with disabilities are often not active participants in the decision making process around the determination of their supports (Abery & Stancliffe, 1996). They often leave secondary school without advocacy skills and without knowledge of the impact that their disability has upon their learning or of the related modes of assistance which can help mitigate this impact. Furthermore, they are without an understanding of how to negotiate postsecondary settings, where the focus is on providing "reasonable accommodations" rather than on detailing services focused upon meeting individual needs (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003; NCSPES, 2002). Therefore, students with disabilities are leaving the secondary education setting without the essential skills of access to higher education: self-determination and self-advocacy.

Critical components to postsecondary education access are the skills of self-determination and self-advocacy. Efforts have been made over the past twenty years to teach youth with disabilities these skills (i.e. decision-making, problem-solving, goal-setting and attainment, leadership) based on teacher interpretation of self-determination. Rather, these efforts should be based on providing real, authentic opportunities to make decisions and accept consequences (Brinckerhoff, 1994; Izzo et al., 2001). As discussed above, numerous self-determination projects recently have begun to show more promise, but no longitudinal data exists that demonstrates the degree of success of these projects empirically (Wood & Test, 2001). Moreover, the projects were mostly limited to a particular district or individual school and cannot contribute to a clearinghouse of evidence-based practices. Thus the strategy of teaching self-determination, widely believed to be a promising practice, is not being extensively implemented at the secondary school level, or even at the postsecondary level. Without the skills of self-advocacy and self-determination, students with disabilities seeking secondary education will find this an extremely difficult goal to achieve.

Even with the implementation of promising programs, students with disabilities may find it difficult to achieve high academic standards due to the failure of many secondary institutions to provide adequate or appropriate curriculum (Berliner & Biddle, 1996; Fuchs & Fuchs, 1998; Hatch, 1998). According to Stodden, et al, there is a tendency for secondary schools to place students with disabilities in special classrooms where they may receive substandard secondary curricular content (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003; Stodden, Galloway, & Stodden, 2003). For instance, the highly prescriptive service system covered by IDEA, in which professionals and parents often make decisions, hinders the opportunity for students with disabilities to develop and practice their self-determination and self-advocacy skills (Izzo & Lamb 2002). As mentioned earlier, students are simply observers of the IEP and transition process, and do not gain knowledge about their disability. This problem is exacerbated by other institutional factors which include problems with disability identification in secondary institutions (Thurlow, 2001), poor use and application of promising technology (Burgstahler, 2002), poor coordination and management of supports and services (Whelley, Hart, & Zafft, 2002) and lack of clarity among professionals and families about the necessary supports and accommodations to provide (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003).

Furthermore, many academic and career counselors lack the necessary skills to provide guidance to students with disabilities. State-standard based curricula and assessment measures that are designed without input from special educators are likely to needlessly increase challenges to students with disabilities and their teachers (Stodden, Galloway, Stodden, 2003). Teacher concerns such as inadequate professional development, excessive paperwork, and attrition specifically resulting from these problems, are likely to negatively impact the achievement of students with disabilities (AYPF & CEP, 2002). Oftentimes, secondary school students are left with inadequate direction and counsel due to a lack of coordination among teachers and counseling staff. In addition, teachers, career counselors, administrators, family members and students themselves possess low expectations and a limited sense of opportunity (Stodden, Jones, & Chang, 2002), consequently leaving students with a sense of failure before they have even begun to explore their interests and aspirations.

When supports and services are available, too often such services are primarily focused on the students achieving a single academic outcome rather than a continuum of outcomes leading to a successful transition (Izzo & Lamb, 2002; Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003). Part of the problem is the lack of consensus on the definition of "successful outcomes." For example, if obtaining a GED or high school diploma is viewed as a successful outcome, then the preparation process may be viewed as stopping with the completion of high school. Most notably, many special education services offered in secondary school are not offered in postsecondary education institutions. Hence, the selective process of developing certain skills or goals is unlikely to ameliorate the ability of students with disabilities to face upcoming challenges in their transition to and participation in postsecondary education.

2. Issues in Transition to Postsecondary Education

The National Council on Disability, in its study on transition, stated that endeavors to promote a smooth transition from secondary to postsecondary education have not met the goals of federal laws and initiatives, such as IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Council attributes this to a number of factors, including the methods of transition planning, which does not involve the students themselves, as well as inadequate allocation of resources (NCD, 2000). Also, evidence shows that there is a failure of secondary and postsecondary schools to establish paths of communication and concert their efforts. Doubtlessly adding to the difficulty of the task, state and local education agencies across the United States are currently experiencing a shortage of qualified personnel to serve children and youth with disabilities (AYPF & CEP, 2002). According to the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, some 3000 more teachers are needed to teach special education in higher education. (www.c-c-d, September 3, 2003).

Further complicating current secondary school transition efforts is the lack of awareness among educators and parents regarding the policy contrast between IDEA at the secondary level and ADA and Section 504 at the postsecondary level. Many secondary schools lack a formal structure to assist students in planning to adjust to the highly discrepant laws governing secondary and postsecondary education (Stodden, Galloway & Stodden, 2003). They do not tailor the delivery of services and instruction toward strengthening the links between secondary and postsecondary education. The result is that students themselves, parents and other natural supports are often "caught unawares" when the level of service provision drops off and/or is not automatically extended following high school (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003). The lack of knowledge about differences in their rights, services, and funding has the effect of discouraging or possibly even barring students with disabilities from higher education.

As they endeavor to access postsecondary education, students may find that circumstances vary significantly from college to college, and from state to state. Each college provides differing levels of and types of support. Some institutions employ a single counselor to take responsibility for disability issues. In such institutions, staff members provide advice and letters to professors verifying that a student request for accommodations is justified. Little else may be provided. At other schools, multiple staff members coordinate services and accommodations for students with disabilities so that the educational environment provides supplementary support and additional staff is prepared to teach them about self-advocacy (Youth Advisory Committee NCD, 2003).

In conclusion, the challenge to locate and advocate for services and accommodations can be quite frustrating. The various systems feature limited resources, inconsistent terminology, disconnected agencies, inconsistent laws, and conflicting eligibility requirements. This is difficult to manage, even for the most self-determined student (Whelley, Hart, and Zafft, 2002). Ultimately, without a functioning, successful transition program from secondary to postsecondary education youth with disabilities find themselves burdened with additional disadvantages.

B. Issues of Student Progress in Postsecondary Education

The passage of IDEA and other laws, such as the Rehabilitation Act in 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, are largely responsible for the increase in postsecondary education enrollment among students with disabilities over the past three decades (HEATH, 1999). Statistic shows, however, that the retention rates in postsecondary education among students with disabilities have been considerably low (Stodden, 2001). Part of the overall reason for lack of retention is the limited attention given by academic institutions to the needs of people with disabilities during their participation in higher education. Critical to the success of these students are factors that influence their general aptitude. This section addresses issues in the performance, persistence and retention of people with disabilities in postsecondary education.

Full student participation is critical for the progress and achievement in postsecondary education. Inability to contribute and participate in the overall learning process is detrimental to the accumulation of knowledge. On the other hand, factors affecting persistence and retention are generally tantamount to students' vulnerability in their transition, failure, cessation, and early suspension in their attendance in higher education. Addressing issues of performance, persistence and retention is vital to the empowerment of students with disabilities in completing their postsecondary education. Currently, responsibility for the provision of assistance to students with disabilities at the postsecondary level is much less clear and unequivocally defined. For instance, the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA state that students must be accommodated "within reason" and that these accommodations should be at the expense of the institution (Rosenfeld, 2002; Thomas, 2000). Resources in higher educational institutions are often inadequate, leaving disability service units in the position of having to make decisions based upon budgetary considerations rather than upon proven effectiveness (NCSPES, 2000). Often times these concerns in providing assistance to youth with disabilities are treated as a low level priority among academic institutions (NCSPES, 2000). Moreover, there are no current mandates regarding what kinds of accommodations should be provided, where and by whom, and no minimum standards of support provision. As a consequence, institutional drawbacks have a major impact on the quality of performance in the progress and achievement of people with disabilities.

1. Participation

For most students, participation in postsecondary education is not limited to being physically present in a lecture hall. It is the possibility to ask questions, to discuss ideas with classmates, to have a critical conversation with professors about papers, to reflect upon readings, to explore the library, to have access to information in accessible formats at the same time as their non-disabled classmates, to work on a research project, to have coffee with friends, to participate at campus social and cultural events, and really take part in the college experience. A quality education is about coming away from each campus experience having gained knowledge about, and insight into, a wide variety of human experiences and disciplines. Most critically, it is about being able to do these things without the kind of hardship that exceeds that of the typical student during the postsecondary educational year.

For most students with disabilities, however, the concerns amplify as issues surrounding their probable lack of skills in self-advocacy and determination, social life needs, availability of educational assistance, differences in academic requirements, and limited preparation to postsecondary education become a primary pre-occupation (Burgstahler, Crawford, & Acosta, 2001). In many ways, these concerns become stumbling blocks to the pursuit of higher education. As one would expect, problems arise when there are institutional inadequacies in providing services that would accommodate people with disabilities. Background characteristics associated with their socio-economic status, financial factors, race, availability of supports, parental background, and distance from their school are often involved.

One factor affecting participation of people in postsecondary education is the limited availability of educational and related supports within academic institutions. As mentioned earlier, inadequate preparation in self-advocacy and self-determination plays a vital role in the success of all students in higher education. Once a student enters higher education, the lack of student input and selective emphases in servicing students may leave disabled students at a disadvantage in exercising self-advocacy skills. Most supports do not cater directly to the individualized needs of students with disabilities. For example, teacher-centered, instead of student-centered, curricula have been for years a dominant approach in teaching at the postsecondary level. In this case, the learning process defeats opportunities for students to further their practice of using knowledge amassed. Limited implementation of a student-centered approach thus becomes a critical issue in imparting knowledge that contributes to the survival of students with disabilities at the postsecondary level.

For students who disclose their disabilities and present appropriate documentation to support services offices, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates postsecondary institutions to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure full access to program offerings (Frank & Wade, 1993; West, Kregel, Getzel, Zhu, Ipsen, & Martin, 1993). However, postsecondary schools have no legal obligation to help students with disabilities transition into their institution. Educators and institutions typically define their role with students more clearly in preparing them to succeed in future education and employment settings (Seigel & Sleeter, 1991). Furthermore, disability service staff members are often caught between the need to protect the rights of the students and adhere to the needs of the postsecondary institution. Postsecondary administrations require consultation by staff members who also must adhere to particular state and federal guidelines. The lack of consensus on the nature of supports to be provided can be difficult for staff as well as for students who seek accurate and complete information to determine which institutions and organizations are best prepared to meet their needs.

Another factor affecting participation in postsecondary education is the absence of any minimum standards of disability support provision. Many of the challenges students with disabilities face are connected to necessary services and accommodations related to their specific disabilities. The lack of standardization of support services among academic institutions tends to result in differing levels and types of service and supports, and often students are left to manage complicated and unguided procedures. Some institutions have single academic or counseling service staff members who take on disability issues as a small portion of their job description, and they basically provide advice and a letter to professors verifying that a student's request for accommodation is justified. Meanwhile, in other schools, multiple staff people, coordinated services, and accommodations are in place for students with disabilities (NCD's Youth Advisory Committee, 2003).

2. Retention and Persistence

Another critical issue in the achievement of students with disabilities in postsecondary education depends on their ability to keep abreast of their classmates. Retention and persistence are discussed interchangeably in the literature. The concept of retention and persistence is based on continued student attendance in school and consistent progress in class hours, declaration of a major, and their progression toward desired goals. Although the ultimate goal for many students is to complete higher education, success becomes problematic when the basic infrastructure and services are limited or not available.

As discussed earlier, the lack of, or limited access to and availability of support is a major factor that eventually discourages or excludes many students with disabilities from continuing their schooling. For instance, a national survey developed and distributed to postsecondary students with disabilities by the National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports (NCSPES) found that while supports such as testing accommodations, note-takers, personal counseling, and advocacy assistance were requested and extended with some regularity, disability specific scholarships, assessments and evaluations, real time captioning, assistive technology, and study abroad opportunities were rarely offered to students with disabilities (Stodden, Whelley, Harding & Chang, 2001). Furthermore, this study found that 50 percent of the respondents indicated that their institutions did not offer accessible transportation on campus for students with disabilities and many campuses still featured architectural barriers (Stodden et al., 2001). The survey revealed that equal access and reasonable accommodations are still an issue for individuals with disabilities attempting to persist in higher education, and often the most basic needs pertaining to their activities of daily living, including physical access, are unmet.

Several studies confirmed these findings of institutional inadequacies and found that most postsecondary institutions are not at par in assisting youth with disabilities (Stodden, Conway, & Chang, 2003; Whelley, Hart, & Zafft, 2002). A major problem encountered is the insufficient quantity of staff members handling huge caseloads to accommodate disabled students. According to Gajar (1998), there are insufficient resources to serve the large numbers of youth with disabilities accessing postsecondary education that require case management assistance with their education and related support needs. Postsecondary educational institutions often do not provide per capita funding for disability support services, so as increased numbers of youth with disabilities enter the various institutions, budgetary and faculty resources for support become thin and impact decisions.

The understaffed conditions that exist in many academic institutions undermine the provision of appropriate support to people with disabilities. Educational supports and services are rarely individualized according to a student's needs, and more often supports are offered as a menu of programs, associated with disability type, rather than being student specific. The services and auxiliary aids offered range from sign language interpreters, assistive technological listening systems, captioning, readers, audio recordings, taped texts, brailled materials, adapted computer terminals, and more. Yet, evidence suggests that students with disabilities are unaware of the availability of services, and do not access them. In the case of technological supports, the lack of proximity or the individualized configurations and accommodations needed make utilization of the technology impractical or unfeasible. Furthermore, they also may be limited in number or availability, as are sign language interpreters. One respondent to a research inquiry said that her campus had three FM systems for student use in classrooms, and she was not permitted access to them because staff said the other students' hearing losses were more severe than hers (NCD's Youth Advisory Committee, 2003).

Another factor affecting persistence and retention is that faculty members and other academic personnel in postsecondary education settings are often unaware of disability needs and supports. The limited awareness of the needs of people with disabilities prevents staff members and other academic personnel from providing the most suitable approach to enhancing the access and ability of students to learn. Moreover, the lack of proper background in managing students with disabilities needs may invite further misunderstanding, conflict and eventually lead to students dropping out. One reason for this lack of knowledge is the absence of training on the part of the staff members, which will be discussed later in this paper. Finally, when universities or colleges do not provide accommodations and services, students with disabilities pursue postsecondary education at risk of failure. Consequently, their grades and scholarship access are reduced, or they may pay for the services themselves, thus increasing their cost of attendance in postsecondary education (the sum of which is the starting point for calculating student need for financial aid) (NCD's Youth Advisory Committee, 2003).

What is reflective of these institutional shortcomings is the negative effect on the self esteem of students with disabilities. A questionnaire disseminated by HEATH (1999) on self-efficacy - a belief in one's ability to obtain the desired ends - found that students with disabilities markedly "rate themselves lower in measures of self-esteem, emotional health, and academic or physical ability" (Izzo & Lamb, 2002; Martin and Huber-Marshall, 1995; Wehmeyer, 1998). When respondents were asked to assess their own talents, fewer students with disabilities as compared with other students ranked themselves above average or higher on a wide range of abilities (HEATH, 1999). If found to be indicative of a sizeable number of students with disabilities, this comparative lack of self worth might serve as both antecedent and outcome of the poor status in rates of access, retention, and completion of postsecondary education, as well as restricted participation in extra-curricular learning opportunities.

Career opportunities come more easily when one has an academic degree. But for students who have disabilities, completion in postsecondary education is a bigger challenge when their ability to participate and persist is impeded by varying issues and impediments in the system. Many educational programs require students to spend a period of time in an internship or practicum to obtain their baccalaureate. Without the proper accommodations, students with disabilities fail to participate in many internships and academic activities required for completion of their studies. However, because of the lack of integration and other issues mentioned above, students may decide not to pursue such courses of action. Likewise, their choice not to participate in any of these academic activities prevents them from building social networks in the community essential in achieving employment in the future.

C. Financial Aid Issues

During this difficult economic period of unavoidable budget cuts in federal programs, there is no doubt that education is an expensive proposition for any student involved in higher education. The cost of higher education in America is an increasingly expensive proposition and has in fact become too onerous for most students and their families to handle without the procurement of financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, or loans. This section discusses issues most affecting students with disabilities in the area of postsecondary education and finances, and concerns two main elements: cost and time.

1. Cost and Time Factors

Cost presents a major barrier to students with special needs in their quest to complete a postsecondary education. Time is a factor because the extended period necessary for some students with disabilities to complete their degree adversely affects the final cost of their education and delays the start of their wage-earning years. The ability of many highly qualified students with disabilities to access and pursue their studies hinges on their ability to finance themselves through the completion of a degree in a college or university. The cost of postsecondary education and various services and supports limit their access to advanced studies. Students with disabilities, who are faced with larger costs than the average student without disabilities to begin with, are at the most risk because of possible federal budget cuts and because they may not fit the criteria for many forms of financial aid.

According to recent University of Washington statistics, costs for four-year institutions for all students ranged from $9,744 per year for public institutions to $24,343 per year for private institutions. A four-year education could cost from $41,000 to $104,000 in 2001-2002 (, July 2, 2003). Fully two-thirds of all traditional undergraduate students graduate with some debt. Indeed, access to postsecondary education would be impossible for many, and likely most, students with or without disabilities in the absence of significant loans and aid packages. Budget cuts may affect students directly or indirectly through reductions in college services and financial aid, Vocational Rehabilitation programs, Medicaid, insurance, and various aids for disabilities. Uninsured services and supports affect out-of-pocket expenses and may further drain the resources of disabled students.

Time directly impacts and restricts their access to many federally funded scholarships, loans, work-study awards, and grants. Students with disabilities often need more time than typical students because full time schedules may be more than they can realistically tackle. Time also directly influences the cost and success of students with special needs in the postsecondary environment. Students with families of their own are also at risk because they may not be able to meet the added cost of raising their children along with educating themselves or completing their degrees within the traditional four year time frame.

Education for people with disabilities is more expensive than for students without disabilities and renders existing inequalities between the non-disabled and students with disabilities greater. An inverse relationship exists between the rising cost for students with disabilities in postsecondary education and the problematical lack of federal funding for which they qualify. Rigidly constructed guidelines in federal funding also directly impact the ability of students to access and complete a degree in higher education. According to a National Postsecondary Student Aid Study conducted by National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in 1995-1996, only 48 percent of students with disabilities received financial aid, as compared to 59 percent of students without disabilities. Because funding directly targeting students with disabilities is rare, this population is less likely to receive aid through traditional federal channels: i.e. grants, loans, and work-study (NCES, 1999,, July 2, 2003). Furthermore, of those students with disabilities who did manage to obtain aid, the sum was smaller ($5,100 versus $6,500)than it was for their counterparts without disabilities while their costs were much higher. In its report entitled Improving the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Making Schools Work for All of America's Children (1995) the National Council on Disability drew the following conclusion:

Many families and students perceive the cost of college to be an impossible obstacle. Family members testified that they had already spent large sums of money in acquiring a better education for their children in special education programs, indicating that they needed information concerning the types of postsecondary financial aid available to them. Testimony reflected that the level of financial aid awarded to students with disabilities at the university level was disproportionately low when compared to the rest of the student body. Increased information from postsecondary programs would provide more students with disabilities with opportunities to access financial aid. (NCD, 1995, p.140)

2. Social Security Issues

Most students with disabilities are eligible for Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Plan for Achieving Self Support (PASS) program, although financial aid officers may not be aware of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and SSA funding and their legal obligation to students (, July 2, 2003). SSI and SSDI have restrictive eligibility requirements which may hinge on any of the following criteria: medical disabilities as opposed to intellectual ones, severe disabilities, low employment earnings, and a two year waiting period for Medicare funding (Berry & Jones, 2000). For example, only individuals with severe medical disabilities are included, and these individuals must demonstrate that they are unable to earn more than $700 per month in gainful employment. Individuals receiving SSI and their family members are not permitted to save for college as most students and parents do, unless they are willing to accept losing their eligibility for SSI and related services. The individual state tax-free college savings plans (the 509 plans), from which funds may be withdrawn only for education related expenses, are considered resources under SSI and may cause students to lose SSI eligibility. In some states, people on SSI are allowed to have $2,000 in savings. If they establish an account, they can save an additional $2,000, but only if a VR counselor agrees that the account will enable them to achieve a specific employment goal. That means setting a low goal, because a total of $4,000 is not sufficient to pay for transportation, tuition, books, medical expenses, and living expenses. Students receiving SSI, Medicaid funding or state VR benefits may not be permitted to participate in college work-study without losing benefits. Some students, who would probably succeed in college, may not get VR benefits because VR usually serves those with the most severe disabilities first and there are insufficient funds for everyone. Mature students with families are no longer eligible for the Earned Income Exclusion (EIE) and may have difficulties surviving in postsecondary education in such conditions.

Insurance is yet another barrier. Students with disabilities may still be qualified for both SSI and SSDI, if, and only if, additional criteria are met (Berry & Jones, 2000). According to their study, medical insurance is "usually" available to qualified applicants. Researchers found that: "In most states, individuals receiving SSI benefits are also eligible for Medicaid health insurance" (Berry & Jones, 2000). There are no statistics regarding the percentage of students with disabilities who are adversely affected by the lack of medical insurance, but the disadvantages of the lack of insurance are obvious. Effectively, those students with disabilities who reside outside of these states where they would be eligible for coverage may not qualify for insurance and associated benefits (Berry & Jones, 2000). It would seem that insurance for these students would be an essential component of their financial aid, especially in the case of severe physical disabilities. Coupled with the rising costs of services and support, as well as medical costs, the inability to secure insurance and benefits may prove to be a disempowering factor for students with disabilities and may prevent them from pursuing a degree. The fact that not all federal and state programs of aid for people with disabilities are accessible at all institutions also may well affect some students adversely. Federal programs that support individuals with disabilities may also involve a long waiting period and/or intricate application procedures.

3. Issues Concerning Eligibility for, and Retention of, Federal Aid

All students are by law equally eligible for many funding opportunities including work-study, grants, loans, and scholarships, although some of these may prove to be unfeasible given the scope of disabilities and conflicting requirements. Students with disabilities may be eligible for disability related federal or state programs offering financial support. However, these often include prohibitive stipulations concerning the time taken to complete a degree, the possibility of saving money for college, and work. In many cases, students with disabilities do not qualify for traditional or typical financial packages. Firstly, disabled students may be ineligible for academic or National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarships because their disabilities prevent them from attaining high scores on the SAT or because they have difficulty writing essays, or cannot participate in a sport. If exempted from the SAT, the exemption exam could affect acceptance in chosen universities and majors.

Secondly, most financial aid awards and loan programs come with a minimum-credit stipulation and expire in four years (HEATH, 2003). This credit stipulation may significantly affect those students with intellectual or severe physical disabilities. Students with disabilities often find a full, 12-hour course load unfeasible due to lower levels of preparation and less rigorous, academically focused curricula in secondary school (HEATH, 2003). Full-time study may be impossible for bright, well-educated students who have low stamina, must spend many hours per day on self-care, and need extra time to read textbooks because of learning disabilities, or need to meet with professors for extra help or clarifications when information is not accessible. A lack of academic preparation is not necessarily the reason disabled individuals take a reduced course load of 6 or 9 hours, disability-related reasons are often the cause. Data shows that students with disabilities often take twice as long as students without disabilities to finish their degrees.

Likewise, some traditional forms of financial aid feature work-study components that disqualify students with disabilities for whom employment concurrent with academics is not possible. Work-study programs that require 10-20 hours of on-campus employment may be too time-consuming for students who have intellectual or severe physical disabilities (, July 2, 2003). Other students cannot participate in work-study or work off campus because they require extra time to study or access facilities because of learning disabilities, blindness, or deafness. In addition, campuses also may be unwilling or unable to make job accommodations that enable students with disabilities to participate in work-study or other forms of university or college employment. Students who are forced to turn down or are refused work-study must either take out student loans or reduce the credit hours they carry in order to lower expenses. Thus, they must increase their number of terms in college and their living expenses per credit completed. Some students with disabilities are extremely reluctant to take out student loans due to concerns about their ability to repay them because they may be physically unable to work. It is often impossible for them to defer loan repayment for disability related reasons and students with severe functional impairments or unpredictable illnesses do not take out many loans. Presently, there is scant data on the methods by which the students with disabilities who either do not qualify for financial aid, or do not receive sufficient packages, finance postsecondary education.

Those carrying reduced course loads may end up paying more tuition per credit than full-time non-disabled students pay. Certainly the necessity of taking limited courses will cause a major added expense to a four-year education. Some students must pay more per credit, particularly at four-year universities that refuse to lower the student tuition bill in accordance with their reduced credit hour loads. Federal scholarships and grants such as the Pell Grant are limited to four years and carry no provision for students who need an increased number of semesters to complete their work. The inflexibility of disseminating practices by institutions and federal regulations controlling the distribution of grants and loans present a barrier to students with special needs. Likewise, graduate school assistantships that provide tuition funds may not allow for students whose disability causes them to take medical leave and/or require additional semesters to complete their degree. Currently, no data is available on the added expense to students with disabilities who must work more slowly towards their degree.

4. Specific Financial Burdens Associated with Disabilities

Compounding the problem of accessing financial aid is the reality that students with disabilities are often encumbered by financial obligations associated with their disability. For instance, students and their families may be responsible for the acquisition and maintenance of special equipment, medical expenses not covered by insurance, transportation, and salaries for aides. Specialist physician visits, personal care attendants, medications, nutritional supplements, special diets, healthcare-related travel, rehabilitation services, academic readers, sign-language interpreters, tutors, captioning, FM radio systems, hearing aids, special housing needs, consultations with educational psychologists, and assistive technology expenses are examples of the added cost-barriers to the college experience.

5. Financial Aid and the Higher Education Act

Most people do not know that the Higher Education Act enables college financial aid officers to increase students' financial aid packages to match their out-of-pocket disability related expenses. The Department of Education allows for provisions that require extremely confusing calculations. There should be an option for students to disclose disability-related expenses on the Department of Education Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), so that colleges and universities can use this information when determining the amount of a Pell Grant, as is required in HEA, Title 4, Subpart 1. Section 401 of the HEA, Part 3a, states that if more than $2,700 is appropriated for a basic Pell Grant, the amount of a grant should equal $2,700 plus "[1/2 x (Maximum Basic Grant - $2,700)] plus the lesser of a) the remaining 1/2 of such excess, OR b) the sum of tuition, dependent care expenses, and disability expenses."

It is also important for the FAFSA to provide an opportunity to declare significant disability related expenses because of the mandate in Title 4, Part F, Section 471, which defines the Cost of Attendance. This section states that institutions should allow for reasonable disability related expenses that are not paid for by other assisting agencies when defining a student Cost of Attendance. According to the Youth Advisory Committee of the National Council on Disability (YAC), students are not presenting this legal information to college financial aid offices when asking for increased aid due to disability issues. College financial aid officers and students with disabilities may not be aware of this feature of the HEA, since so many schools state there is no special planning for disability related expenses when putting financial aid packages together.

Ultimately, it is the student's responsibility to find and coordinate resources with the help of the financial aid office of his or her university. Many financial aid offices do not make provisions for special cases. In addition, the general lack of knowledge about financial resources such as SSI and Vocational Rehabilitation funds is detrimental to the success of students with disabilities who could benefit from the funds.Differences in state policies (particularly state Vocational Rehabilitation policies) and the fact that not all universities and colleges participate in all funding opportunities, render the search for educational funding more challenging than it should be. Federal loan and grant programs usually require that the student be full-time, which is not always a possibility for young adults with disabilities. The same full-time requirement may mean that disabled students may not be eligible for scholarships or work study. In addition to the inaccessibility of supposedly available federal and state funds, there is a general paucity of financial aid programs specifically targeted to disabled students.

D. Issues of Interagency Coordination of Supports and Postsecondary Education

Significant progress in postsecondary education for people with disabilities has been accomplished through careful planning and collaborative efforts of students and service providers. However, many students still face the challenge of uncoordinated services as offered by varying agencies and different funding sources. Consumers are left confused, not knowing which supports will work for them or how to obtain them. The dropout rate at the postsecondary level reflects the frustration experienced by people with disabilities attempting to coordinate and access services or programs that would expedite their accommodation. This section of the paper presents issues affecting students with disabilities in the area of interagency coordination in postsecondary education. As noted earlier, the provision of educational and related services and supports necessary for people with disabilities in postsecondary education remain fragmentary, marked by inconsistencies across types of services from one provider to another, with each agency continuing to function independently, and often without knowledge of the mission and philosophy of other agencies.

1. Fragmentation and Inconsistencies in Service Provision

Despite federal and state efforts to improve the quality of postsecondary educational outcomes among students with disabilities, service systems remain fragmented across agencies and are difficult to access. At times, the array of programs offering services can be contradictory, restricting, and disempowering. Service decisions are often agency driven or dependent upon the availability of service slots, so that planning for smooth and consistent student participation and support provision in a program of study is impossible. Inconsistencies across agencies can be so complicated that it is difficult to prepare students to plan and advocate for their disability needs when the support environments they face vary significantly.

Compared to secondary education settings, students with disabilities often experience a reduced level of disability services and accommodation in postsecondary education. Students often have to initiate and coordinate their own support services on campus with the help of faculty, librarians, counselors, teaching assistants, and other staff members. The lack of and/or limited assistance in negotiating paperwork and eligibility requirements often lead to failure in accessing basic needed disability services. For students transferring from two-year to four-year postsecondary institutions, accessing services even becomes more difficult when the level of support services is not comparable or varies even further from that provided in secondary schools (Burgstahler, Crawford, & Acosta, 2001). Moreover, staff members in four-year colleges may lack disability specific information and often fail to communicate ways of assisting students with disabilities in transferring from two-year to four-year schools.

When educational supports and related services overlap or contradict one another, important and needed assistance becomes confusing and inaccessible to students. The lack of awareness of the many different existing services hinders postsecondary students with disabilities in finding appropriate assistance given their specific needs. As one study shows, only 8.3 percent of postsecondary students with disabilities participate in SSI and SSDI disability programs. In general, postsecondary students with disabilities, when compared to students without disabilities, receive less financial aid and are unable to participate in assistance programs due to lack of awareness about SSI or SSDI disability benefits, work incentive programs (Berry & Jones, 2000).

The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) system, despite its mission to provide assessment, counseling, guidance, job placement, employment support, and postsecondary educational supports to individuals with disabilities preparing for employment, is often difficult to access (US General Accounting Office, 2003). Over the years, the scope of the Vocational Rehabilitation mission has changed as the policies influencing the agency have evolved. VR services offered during postsecondary education now vary extensively from one state to another, and even from one counselor to another, while remaining in line with the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 (Spiers & Hammett, 1995). Some state VR programs limit funding to associate degrees while others pay for undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Some pay only a few hundred dollars per term towards tuition; others pay for the full cost of tuition and books. Some state VR programs are pushing students to obtain their SSA Tickets to Work while others do not participate. Some programs are able to provide consistent guidance from a single Vocational Rehabilitation counselor throughout postsecondary education; others have high staff turnover and students get conflicting advice from a succession of counselors. Thus, planning for the disability needs of students and the actual supports students obtain in making the transition to postsecondary education vary extensively depending on what state or community they live in and what college they attend (NCD's Youth Advisory Committee, 2003). The person with a disability, his/her family, and friends are primarily responsible for coordination of their educational and employment supports and are, consequently, often overburdened and unable to maintain an active postsecondary experience or course load (Acosta, 2003).

Expanding, improving, and coordinating educational services and related supports during transition periods for people with disabilities in postsecondary education could increase student progress toward the completion of certificates and degrees, leading to more successful adult life outcomes. Unfortunately, the effect of the lack of coordination within and across federal and state assistance programs is that there is no clear and definitive approach to ameliorate the condition and facilitate the eventual success of students with disabilities (Frank & Wade, 1993).

2. Differences in Service Emphases

Service provision begins and ends with providing a very specific accommodation in response to a very specific circumstance (Brinckerhoff, 1994; Izzo et al., 2001; Rosenfeld, 2002). However, many postsecondary educational institutions and service agencies are under no obligation whatsoever to identify or to assess students with disabilities. Most focus on meeting the letter of the law rather than upon what individuals with a disability indicate are their accommodation wants and needs. Educational supports and services offered are often not well integrated with instruction in the classroom and are structured to focus upon the postsecondary institutions' own particular goals, mission, priorities, and particular programmatic need areas (NCSPES, 2000).

The absence of coordination of educational and related services and supports sends conflicting information to students with disabilities. They are forced to fit their needs into an existing array of services across different agencies, thus often overlooking services essential to an individual student's needs. The sluggish rate of participation of people with disabilities in postsecondary education, in spite of the existence of Vocational Rehabilitation programs, is partly due to the lack of involvement of VR in preparatory planning for transition to postsecondary institutions. Further, a lack of coordination among postsecondary administrators, disabilities services personnel, and instructional faculty regarding accommodations, funding, and assistive technologies during postsecondary education is very common (Gilmore, Bose, & Hart, 2001). One of the resulting consequences is that individuals who receive postsecondary supports from VR are less likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and are less likely to need Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

E. Emerging Areas of Need

Within the major issues of access, participation, financial aid and interagency collaboration some common emerging needs are evident. Foremost among these is the critical need for personnel in all instructional and disability-related areas to be better prepared to provide support, services and accommodations at the postsecondary level, and at the preparation level leading to college or university. Also critical is the need for a comprehensive database regarding levels of access, persistence, and completion by people with disabilities in postsecondary education to better guide changes in policy and practice.

1. Issues of Personnel Preparation

Personnel instructing and providing services, supports and accommodations to students with disabilities and their families are often trained at colleges and universities. They prepare for their careers in the schools of education, sociology, psychology, medicine, law, and more. It is within these training programs that institutions of higher education need to make a systematic effort to equip future instructional and related support personnel to address the full spectrum of needs students with disabilities must have addressed in order to achieve quality adult lives. Professors of special education must be recruited and trained to serve some 48,000 students in higher education (, September 3, 2003).

Issues of access, such as preparation, transition and admission to college for students with disabilities need to be part of the knowledge base of those trained in all disability-related fields of study at colleges and universities. Current training programs for teachers and counselors for the high school level do not always provide adequate knowledge about how students' needs and supports in the secondary school environment link to their needs and supports in postsecondary and beyond. Rather, training tends to focus on the assistance students require only at the high school level, leaving many to assume that personnel trained at the postsecondary level will assist students as needed when they enter college. Personnel training at the postsecondary level needs to prepare educators, counselors and other support staff not only to think of the long range goals of their students, but it must prepare them in methods of collaboration so they can work with others who support students with disabilities. Students with disabilities should also be recruited to these programs, thus providing mentors and role models for young people with disabilities preparing for postsecondary education and professional careers.

Related to the issue of postsecondary training of personnel is the issue of the lack of higher education teachers and the insufficient teaching preparation college and university faculty receive (, September 3, 2003). In order for students with disabilities to fully participate in, persist in, and complete a postsecondary education, those who are poised to be most influential to their success - their instructors, advisors and tutors - must be better prepared to assist them. As do their counterparts at the secondary level, they frequently lack sufficient knowledge about proven instructional methods that better support diverse learning needs. Also, not all instructors are currently benefiting from adequate in-service training in information and assistive technologies that would enable them to render their curricula and classrooms more accessible to students with disabilities. Moreover, increasing awareness of the many financial, bureaucratic and personal barriers presented to students with disabilities as they pursue higher education would doubtlessly help faculty to offer appropriate accommodations and, ultimately, play a stronger role in the success of all their students.

Finally, self-determination has been discussed as a research-based strategy that students can benefit from at both the secondary and postsecondary levels so that they are better prepared to assist themselves through college or university and employment. However, this can only happen if instructors at all levels are educated about self-determination, and shown how to integrate it into their curricula, where it is likely to have the most impact (Yuen, 2003).

2. Gaps in the Knowledge Base

The overall importance and value of postsecondary education for people with disabilities is not currently supported by sufficient quantitative research. Little data is available about how successful preparation practices can be implemented across the nation. Interagency collaboration strategies to assist students as they transition to college and persist towards degree completion have not been studied to such an extent that the evidence-based practices which will serve all institutions of higher education well can be identified. Information about the accommodations college students with disabilities receive, who funds them, or how students with disabilities from diverse communities manage to succeed in college and to pay for the services they need is still not readily available.

Conspicuously lacking is the voice of students with disabilities in the research base. Not enough information is gathered directly from students. Student input and data are needed to learn about the services and accommodations that postsecondary students with disabilities desire and receive; the ways student education, accommodations, medical and other services are financed; and the differences in services provided, costs to students, and success rates from state-to-state. Studies that focus upon specific factors and circumstances that lead to successful outcomes for students with disabilities are also needed. For example, the manner in which the activities of daily living impact the lives of postsecondary students should be examined in regard to added costs and constraints on their time. Diversity issues which affect students with disabilities as they pursue degrees or diplomas including socio-economic factors such as acculturation, language, family obligations, and dynamics are not adequately documented.

Additionally, studies of the successful practices of other countries have not been undertaken to discover ways in which U.S. systems could avoid "reinventing the wheel." The way in which some countries are able to offer better levels of service, and strategies that could be utilized in American systems indicates a potential fertile ground for further research and ultimate improvements to our current policies and practices.

IV. Recommendations for Policy Makers

Much important work to address the needs of individuals with disabilities to access, persist, and complete postsecondary education has already been done. We know a great deal about the progress youth with disabilities have been making. Young people with disabilities represent a significant portion of the population and have proven they have greater capabilities than ever expected. When public education systems made it possible for them to participate, youth with disabilities did just that. They engaged in general education classes, took standards-based achievement tests, graduated high school, enrolled in college, and sought employment. In short, when presented the opportunity, people with disabilities responded so whole-heartedly that the system that hoped to serve them often found it under-prepared to do so.

We also know which efforts have supported the progress students with disabilities have been making. When offered meaningful and coherent transition services, this population excels. Those who have been fortunate enough to participate in transition support programs have readily done so, and shown great promise of long-term success as a result. Similarly, those who have been served well by vocational rehabilitation programs have demonstrated better achievement. Students with disabilities outside the U.S. have also shown that adequate financial support goes a long way to ensuring successful adult outcomes for diverse populations.

Clearly, we know much about the barriers that hinder the achievement of students with disabilities. We know that high schools do not adequately prepare students for higher education and professional employment. We know students and families cannot prepare themselves to succeed in systems about which there is inadequate information and inconsistency of support offerings. We know that such systems, as diverse as they are, operate independently of one another and with limited accountability, cannot hope to efficiently address the growing demand for support. We know, too, that gaps remain in the research base needed to carefully guide further progress in this area.

In short, we know enough to target the areas where gaps remain in our knowledge, our practices and our policies, and to build on the progress already made. Moreover, we know that Congress, through reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, has the power to attend to these gaps, and create a seamless system to improve the educational outcomes for all students with disabilities. The following recommendations are designed to help policy makers achieve this goal.

A. Addressing Access Issues through the Formation of a Federal Commission

A major access hurdle to postsecondary education for students with disabilities lies in the transition and coordination of their supports and services as they seek to apply to postsecondary education and pursue degrees and/or diplomas. The establishment of a Commission on Access to Postsecondary Education for People with Disabilities is required to further investigate the interagency barriers that are encountered as people with disabilities seek access to postsecondary education. The proposed Commission should be crafted to be included under the new Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the Department of Education, in a manner similar to the proposal for the Commission on Universal Design and the Accessibility of Curriculum and Instructional Materials found in Senate bill 1248 (IDEA reauthorization). The Commission could investigate and resolve the discrepancies and issues found across the different agencies and accompanying policy that affect people with disabilities as they transition across the secondary and postsecondary education years. It is proposed that the Commission function for a two-year period with the task of undertaking a comprehensive study of the status of people with disabilities in preparation for, access to, and persistence and completion of postsecondary education. This study should reveal the basis of interagency barriers and issues experienced by people with disabilities seeking access to postsecondary education. The activities of such a Commission would seek to resolve a number of interagency coordination issues so that students leaving secondary school would not have to manage their educational supports, related health, employment, transportation and housing needs without expert guidance.

Another barrier to be addressed by the Commission would be the use of consistent language across federal legislation supporting people with disabilities in postsecondary education. The policies surrounding the provision of supports in federal legislation such as IDEA, HEA, the Rehabilitation Act, the Workforce Investment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act must be re-examined for inconsistencies in language, responsibilities, and requirements. At the time of reauthorization of these laws, such inconsistencies should be analyzed with the purpose of streamlining and improving the provision of supports to individuals with disabilities as they traverse secondary, postsecondary and employment environments.

B. Addressing Access Issues by Providing Information on Postsecondary Educational Supports

Students with disabilities and their families are often not well informed about the needs that will later arise as they transition from high school to college, or how to address these needs. Specifically, they are not aware of their own support needs to succeed in postsecondary education or of the supports and services provided by specific postsecondary education programs. This mismatch of disability needs and supports provided is a major contributor to failure and lack of persistence by people with disabilities in postsecondary education. In order to better prepare families and students with disabilities for postsecondary education, comprehensive and accessible information is essential. Specifically, a National Web-based Assessment Center and Register of organized data and information on disability supports and services as provided at different institutions of higher education is recommended. Such a service has long been requested by parents and youth with disabilities seeking to choose a postsecondary education program that can best meet their disability support needs. Information that is critical for consumers involved in selecting an institution that provides supports that match their disability related needs would then be available to them.

Because of the tremendous inconsistencies in the provision of supports and services and the lack of a minimum standard of support provision across postsecondary education programs, it is vital that people with disabilities have a mechanism to find programs that provide appropriate services and that they be informed about the technological aids. Such a register would provide information to assist students with disabilities and families in making most of the important decisions when they select a postsecondary education program. Currently, HEATH, an information and technical assistance program funded under IDEA, does not provide such a service to parents or youth with disabilities. The Higher Education Act can be amended to support this in Section 303 (c), Sections 741, 742, 743, 744, and 745.

C. Addressing Participation and Persistence Issues through the Formation of a National Technical Assistance Network

Many students do not continue in their postsecondary studies because they lack support to address and manage their disability needs. As previously discussed, the range and type of services, supports, and accommodations (including technology) provided to people with disabilities at postsecondary education settings, varies extensively across different types of programs across all states. There is a critical need to work toward a minimum standard of quality support provision for all people with disabilities across all postsecondary education programs. Specifically, it is recommended this critical need be addressed through the development and funding of a national network of Technical Assistance Centers, one in each state to work with the postsecondary institutions in that state.

Given the current wide variation in the range and type of educational and related supports made available to people with disabilities, this technical assistance network would support the development of a minimum national standard of support provision. The network would seek to build a national standard of educational support provision across all higher education institutions and could address the inconsistencies in instructor preparation in postsecondary education. Minimum standards of information and training for all instructional and support personnel could be established. A specific goal of these centers would be to work collaboratively with faculty development and disability support programs in postsecondary education settings, and to provide effective practice models, training of faculty and support personnel, technical assistance to programs and people with disabilities, and information. The centers could also help bridge the gap between secondary schools and postsecondary schools by enabling college personnel to collaborate more closely with those teachers, counselors and other professionals who support student preparation for entry into postsecondary education.

The centers could be modeled after the current University Centers for Excellence, funded in each state through the Administration on Developmental Disabilities within the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). A clause could be drafted into the re-authorized Higher Education Act, Sections 303 and 762, which would award a grant to an institution of higher education in each state. This institution would take on the task of collaborating with all existing postsecondary education programs in the state to upgrade the provision of services, supports, and accommodations provided to people with disabilities. The authorization of this national network could be addressed through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) with complementary legislation added to the Higher Education Act in Section 741.

D. Addressing Financial Aid Issues through Flexibility

It is crucial that the Higher Education Act reflect that there are increased costs when students have a disability and that they need additional flexibility and opportunity to acquire loans and generate income. The Act should seek to remove barriers to financial aid, such as student loans, work-study, and other income opportunities so that students have a better opportunity to support themselves while in college. It should also earmark research, demonstration, and training funds to study financial issues such as flexible admissions policies, financial aid eligibility, and eligibility for receiving services, assistive technology, and benefits counseling in four-year college settings. However, measures and standards of achievement should be met and kept by students receiving such aid so that the system of grants and aids cannot be manipulated by students who drop classes but continue to collect aid without completing courses with a passing grade.

The selective use of financial incentives by public and private colleges for enrolling, supporting, and graduating students with disabilities could be a highly effective strategy if addressed through amendment of the Higher Education Act. The NCD Youth Advisory Committee recommends funding demonstration projects to ensure students with disabilities receive a quality higher education. Extending these grants to improve the college teaching of people with disabilities should also include the dissemination of the projects' findings and outcomes to reach the broader educational community. Specific sections of the Higher Education Act which can be amended to support these kinds of efforts are: Title IV, Sections 401, 402, 403, 404A, 404B, 404C, 404D, 404E, 404F, 404G, 404H, 406A, 406B, 406C, 406D, 406E, 415E, 408, and 419(N).

E. Addressing Emerging Needs through Targeted Personnel Preparation and Research

The area of training and preparation of personnel involved in teaching and supporting students with disabilities in secondary and postsecondary education has been shown by research to be one of concern. As part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Title II of the HEA has been reauthorized and provides grants for the improvement of teacher quality. The goals of Title II are to enable states to provide highly qualified teachers, reduce class size, improve flexibility, and provide incentives, with federal funding meted out on the basis of the child population of each particular state. It provides for national contests, recruiting of teachers, furnishes grants for technology, and training of former members of the military as teachers, among other areas. The reauthorized HEA could go one step further to establish guidelines and performance standards that would have national ramifications in the area of training.

1. Training of Personnel

Instructors, counselors, financial aid advisors, and other agency and institutional support staff are in need of better training and support to address the needs of students with disabilities before and during their postsecondary education years. Postsecondary institutional accountability in the HEA under Title II would be one way to ensure this. Specifically, Section 202, Section 203, and Section 204 could allow for funds to address the need to train various support personnel. Professional development could also integrate interagency, multi-level personnel to gain expertise in assistive technology and information technologies and methods to incorporate such training into their support role for people with disabilities (US General Accounting Office, 2003).

As for teacher preparation, institutions which offer teacher training programs should require that all future teachers be trained in evidence-based curricula, including differentiated teaching methods which have successfully addressed the needs of students with disabilities. Title II of the HEA should further expand accountability measures to ensure that teacher preparation programs and other support personnel training programs prepare all general educators and administrators to be proficient in working with students with disabilities. The NCD's Youth Advisory Committee suggested that new language should be added to the HEA to support professional development in special education. This language could be linked to individual State Teacher Quality Enhancement and Improvement Grants. Moreover, an emphasis on recruiting, educating, and providing accommodations to public school teachers with disabilities should be included in the Teacher Recruitment Grants, which provide funds to states for the development of partnerships consisting of scholarship programs, special services to teacher trainees, and further supports during the first three years of teaching.

In order to attract good teachers to special education, the NCD Youth Advisory Committee and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities recommend that loans be forgiven for those professionals committed to working with underserved populations (, September 3, 2003). Legislative action has already been taken to include loan forgiveness for public service employees, including specialists working with infants and toddlers with disabilities, and others who work in public service in a profession that is experiencing a critical lack of qualified personnel and serves a low-income or needy community (Rep. George Miller's bill: HR 1306, Miller Bill, March 18, 2003). Language supporting these recommendations for assisting in the preparation of special education teachers could well fit into this category within the HEA, Section 204, Section 753, and Section 754.

2. Further Research

The study of people with disabilities and their transition to and status in postsecondary education is a fairly recent area of investigation; thus, large gaps in the knowledge base exist. A National Longitudinal Transitional Study is needed to gather data on and directly from people with disabilities as they: prepare for higher education; access and transition to higher education; participate and persist at the college and university level; and complete postsecondary education in preparation for professional employment. Such a study must be comprehensive and focus upon critical gaps in the knowledge base. Both primary and secondary analysis of data collected should take place to fully inform all stakeholders and direct future evidence-based practices.

Over the past five years, the National Center for the Study of Postsecondary Educational Supports (NCSPES) at the University of Hawaii has generated a significant amount of information in the following key areas: (1) how youth with disabilities are prepared and transition from secondary school to postsecondary settings; (2) how people with disabilities are supported and progress within higher education; and (3) what issues and needs they have as they seek to advance into subsequent employment. Using this information, it has been possible to ascertain the status of the field and to focus on gaps in the knowledge base, as well as to begin the work toward eliminating some of the barriers that continue to hinder and frustrate people with disabilities in postsecondary environments. At this point in time, however, the knowledge base remains incipient and inadequate as a foundation for meaningful progress.

It is recommended that Congress commission and fund a national longitudinal study to be used as a basis to establish a comprehensive, user-friendly, and continuously maintained online clearinghouse. This clearinghouse would be used for the procurement and dissemination of information regarding access, retention, and postsecondary completion issues as well as the transition to professional employment. The proposed study should address factors contributing to the success of people with disabilities as well as evidence-based solutions to barriers and complicating issues that persist. The reauthorized Higher Education Act should authorize and include funding for such a study to complement the National Longitudinal Transition Study (authorized and funded within IDEA) in order to collect data on and from people with disabilities in postsecondary education and employment.

The proposed study should: (1) document the value of postsecondary education for people with disabilities; (2) determine the current status of people with disabilities as they transition to, access, and complete postsecondary education and progress into subsequent employment; (3) assess factors which contribute to the success or failure of students with disabilities in postsecondary studies, including the impact of factors such as race, poverty or socio-economic status, diverse cultural status, and other intervening variables; (4) provide data on current "knowledge gap" areas, such as: availability of financial aid; provision and coordination of related supports; and integration of people with disabilities into generic services and supports on postsecondary education campuses. Specifically, this national study could be addressed under Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), or in the Higher Education Act in Section 741, and could be implemented in collaboration with the new Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

3. Further Study in Financial Aid

Additional research is also needed to learn about the ways differing sources of funding work together or create barriers. Studies are needed to investigate: Vocational Rehabilitation and SSI regulations preventing students from participating in work-study and paid internships; SSI and Medicaid resource limitations preventing them from saving for school; the impact of financial aid packages from school on SSI income; and Vocational Rehabilitation agencies pushing students to set low goals by stating they will only fund the first two years of college. Compatible funding sources which exist in some states need to be examined to inform other states of their successful strategies.

Also necessary is an increased study of the expenses students with disabilities face, and the best ways to document them for financial aid officers, to assist colleges in complying with the disability provisions of the Higher Education Act. This could lead to expanding the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to allow students the option of disclosing out-of-pocket disability-related expenses. Studies are needed to evaluate college financial aid officer preparation for working with students with disabilities; for example, the extent of financial aid officers' familiarity with disability issues, the funding sources available to students with disabilities, and the colleges' legal obligations under the Higher Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act could be ascertained.

More financial aid opportunities specifically targeted to students with disabilities, as well as increased information concerning all financial aid is needed. Additional information regarding the ways in which financial aide eligibility requirements become an obstacle for students with disabilities may be a first step towards providing equal access for all students to scholarships, grants, and loan programs.

Finally, part of this research should include a comparative study of those students with disabilities who are challenged by their socioeconomic status, their race, or their familial obligations and how this impacts their ability to meet the financial requirements of higher education. These needs for further research could be addressed in section 762(b) (2) (B) of the Higher Education Act.

4. Further Support for Disability Demonstration Efforts in Postsecondary Education

Over the last four years, a number of demonstration projects authorized under Title VII of the Higher Education Act have focused upon improving the disability awareness of faculty and other support personnel within higher education. Currently these projects are a token effort to improve the attitudes and knowledge of higher education faculty, thus improving the access and persistence of people with disabilities in postsecondary education. It is recommended that the current disability demonstration projects be continued and expanded so that a larger number of institutions are able to benefit from the program. Further, it is recommended that those evidence-based practices that have been developed as a part of the funded projects be disseminated widely to similar programs that were not able to participate in the demonstration activities.

Currently, a number of disability and diversity demonstration and capacity building projects are funded under the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) as authorized within the Higher Education Act. It is recommended that priority be placed upon the funding of projects under FIPSE which are focused upon students with the greatest need, including those students with disabilities, who may be in poverty and/or of diverse cultures seeking to access postsecondary education.

V. Conclusion

What will it mean to Congress to support the proposed changes to the Higher Education Act recommended in this paper? Congress has the power to greatly enhance the "human capital" represented by people with disabilities across this nation. Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act to better address the needs of youth with disabilities will mean economic reform for adults who are unemployed, under-educated and under-represented at all levels of society. Implementing the strategies above will allow Congress to lead the way in improving the quality of life, augmenting the workforce, increasing the earning and production potential of individuals with disabilities, and advancing the ideals of democracy and equal opportunity for all citizens.


The National Council on Disability wishes to express its appreciation to Robert A. Stodden, Ph.D., of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Center on Disability Studies, for the drafting of this document.


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