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Disability Resources for Family

Welcome to Disability Resources for Families

The University is an unfamiliar world for many families, and when a son or daughter has a disability, additional questions and concerns arise. This page answers some parent FAQs and help you explore differences between disability accommodations/services in a post-secondary environment and those in the K-12 school system.

What college students really need

The best gift parents can give their college-age daughters and sons is self-determination. By this, we mean teaching young adults to understand their disability, develop self-advocacy skills, and make thoughtful choices as they learn to manage their lives. These skills are of enormous value as students transition from high school to college to the workplace. A college student with a disability should be able to:

  • Describe their disability and its impact in academic settings
  • Schedule and keep appointments
  • Take any needed medications at prescribed times
  • Work with others to request and arrange their accommodations

Jane Jarrow, a nationally known disability specialist, who sent her own daughter (who has a disability) to college for the first time, wrote it this way:

If you are worried that your child with a disability will have a difficult time making a successful transition to college without your involvement… then you are probably right to be worried. Very few children with disabilities can succeed at the college level. On the other hand, students with disabilities survive and thrive on college campuses across the country. If you still think of your son or daughter as your "child," and they still are comfortable in accepting that role, it is time to take a careful look at where you have come from and what lies before you. As parents, it is time for us to step back and allow/encourage/gently nudge our SWD's (Students With Disabilities) to assume significant independent responsibility for their own lives, both academically and personally.

For the full text see:

Top 8 Parent Questions

  1. What is the major difference in disability law between high school and college?
  2. What documentation is required?
  3. Why aren't students automatically registered with Disability Resources?
  4. What accommodations are available?
  5. How do students get accommodations?
  6. Who will manage my son or daughter's education?
  7. What is meant by "self-advocacy"? How will my son or daughter learn to self-advocate?
  8. My son or daughter wants nothing to do with Disability Resources!

And the answers are…

  1. What is the major difference in disability law between high school and college?

    The laws that protect college students with disabilities are civil rights laws. These laws ensure that all admitted students, including those with disabilities, have access to the University's courses and programs. Denying access is considered discrimination. The role of a disability support office in college is to help students get the accommodations and other services they need to access the University. In contrast, the K-12 system, by setting individual, attainable goals and sometimes individual instruction to ensure success for each student in the program.

  2. What documentation is required?

  3. Why aren't students automatically registered with Disability Resources?

    As civil rights laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, and mandate accommodations only indirectly. Students must let the University (specifically, to Disability Resources) know they are here and request any accommodation needed for full access to classes and other activities or events. The law considers college students to be adults, and expects them to take charge of their education and be responsible for their success.

    Colleges do not determine or provide accommodation without student involvement, nor do they force a student to request accommodation. If a student doesn't request (or refuses) an accommodation, the consequences of that action belong to the student. Colleges have no liability to provide accommodations until the student self-identifies and requests accommodations. Nor can accommodations be made retroactively.

    New students with disabilities are encouraged to talk to a Disability Resources specialist whether or not they plan to use accommodations. Often students who didn't need accommodations in high school will need them in college. Knowing where and how to request accommodations is invaluable if needed later in the semester.

  4. Students should make their appointments with their Disability Resources specialist during the first week of school even though the appointment might not happen until the following week(s).
  5. What accommodations are available?

  6. How do students get accommodations?

  7. Who will manage my son or daughter's education?

    All college students, including those with disabilities, are responsible for managing their own education. But they are not on their own; UMD offers an array of resources to help students understand and comply with University expectations.

    In addition to Disability Resources, students with disabilities have access to academic advisors, faculty, teaching assistants, the Tutoring Center, the Writing Center, Health Services and Counseling, and the First Year Experience office to name a few.

    All students must maintain University academic and conduct standards, with or without accommodations. As legal adults, only they can decide whether or not to use accommodations.

  8. What is meant by "self-advocacy"? How will my son or daughter learn to self-advocate?

    Successful students have the beliefs, knowledge, and skills for goal-directed, self-regulated behavior. All are critical because it is the student, not Disability Resources, who will approach instructors to discuss their accommodations. When students leave the University, they will need these skills to move successfully into their chosen careers.

    As students meet with a Disability Specialist each term, they are coached in explaining their disability-related barriers in a way that is comfortable for them. Meeting with faculty each term to discuss their Letters of Accommodation provides additional practice explaining their disability-related barriers and how these can be effectively accommodated.

    Understanding that their accommodations do not give them an advantage, but rather remove disability-related barriers is a fundamental concept needed to conceive and shape their future.

  9. My son or daughter wants nothing to do with Disability Resources!

    Every year we meet a number of new students and their parents during Advisement and Registration. We discuss the disability accommodations the student needs and how to get them. The student may even fill out a request form. Sometimes this is the last we see of them until they are on academic probation or are in danger of being dismissed. Other students, who choose to "do it on my own" do graduate, but with a lower GPA than they are capable of. If this describes your son or daughter, perhaps sharing some of these ideas with them may help.

    Disability is often devalued in our culture, and unfortunately, the good intentions of professionals and other adults may reinforce this devaluation. When students with disabilities internalize this perceived devaluation they become embarrassed or ashamed of the disability. To feel better about themselves, they shun everything that reminds them of their disability. They just want to be like everyone else: no more "help", "lowered expectations", or "advantages". College is a new beginning!

    Those "good intentions of professionals" are based on the out-dated medical model of disability. (See "A new perspective of disability".) In contrast, Disability Resources is structured on the interactional model.

    The interactional model understands that disability is a normal part of life and diversity. We neither try to "fix" students, nor give them "extra help", nor provide an "unfair advantage" over their peers. * We expect no less of students with disabilities than we do of all other students.* Our goal is to work with the student and the University to accommodate the student's academic interactions - to modify how certain academic tasks get accomplished. All we try to "fix" are negative attitudes.

    Some ideas to share with reluctant students…

    • Disability is a normal part of life, thus there is no shame in having a disability.
    • Students accepted by UMD have every right to be here.
    • All disability-related information about students is confidential.
    • Disability Resources records are separate from other University records.
    • Academic accommodations are merely a way of removing barriers. They are not "help" or "unfair advantages", and never, ever reduce academic standards or expectations.
    • Students are in charge of their own education. Disability Resources will never "make" them do anything.
    • Checking out Disability Resources does not commit students to using accommodations - but it's smart for them to know what they are refusing.
    • Each year a few students come to Disability Resources when it's too late to selvage a failed class, or worse, a failed term. When this happens, we will do what we can to help the student turn things around; however, accommodations cannot be made retroactively.

Useful Information

Kirby Student Center


For more information, contact:

  1. Disability Resources

  2. 258 Kirby Student Center
  3. (218) 726-6130
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Last modified on 05/04/15 09:43 AM
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