A New Model of Disability
Some college students are embarrassed about having a disability.
They want to
forget about special education.
They are tired of being labeled, or being
seen as "different".
They want to make a fresh start.
to be "normal"!
If this describes you, it's time to think about disability in a whole new way: the Social Model of Disability. In the Social Model of Disability, disability
is a facet of diversity and is very normal.
The old, out-dated Medical Model
In the past many folks, including K-12 Special Education professionals, saw disability as a medical problem. Having a disability was seen as a "deficiency" that needs to be "fixed". Thankfully, this view is out-dated!
The new, inclusive Social Model
At UMD, we subscribe to the Social Model of disability. The Social Model:
- Sees disability as one of multiple human differences.
- Believes that disability can be a barrier when interacting with the environment or society.
- Understands that accommodations remove these barriers, thus providing access to University classes and programs.
- Recognizes that all of us - students, faculty, and staff - are responsible for lowering/removing barriers.
The Social Model
empowers disabled students with independence and dignity. Accommodations remove the barriers- they are not "advantages" or "extra help". Students with disabilities must maintain the same standards as all students, with or without accommodations.
In DR, we strive to make the accommodation process easy and normal as possible, but we can't accommodate a student until we know the student is here and what they need. The student is always in the driver's seat. Only you can make it happen!
Legal Differences between High School and College
One of the differences between high school and college is the disability legislation that protects students. The biggest difference is that the
K-12 laws are entitlement laws that guarantee free and appropriate education
for all children. K-12 laws guarantee the
The laws that protect students with disabilities in college mandate access to the University. Accommodations that remove barriers provide access to courses and programs. Because the laws are civil rights laws, denial of accommodations is considered discrimination. To use accommodations, college students must disclose their disabilities and request accommodations.
The table below summarizes the main points of difference between K-12 and Post-secondary laws. If you would like to learn more about disability law, some helpful legal resources are linked to this page.
|What laws apply?
||IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)
||Sec. 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973;
ADA (Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990);
ADAAA (ADA Amendments Act of 2008)
|What is the intent
of the laws?
|Free, appropriate education for all students with disabilities in the
least restrictive environment
||Protects otherwise qualified persons from discrimination in
federally funded programs
|Who is covered?
||All infants, children and youth requiring special education until age
21 or graduation from high school
||All persons who meet entry criteria of the University and can
document a disability as defined by ADA/ADAAA
|How is a disability defined?
||IDEA provides a list of disabilities
||Any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more
major life activities
|Who is responsible for identifying eligible students?
||School districts are responsible for identifying, evaluating and documenting students.
||Students are responsible for self-identifying to the college and
providing documentation of their disability.
|Who is responsible for initiating accommodations?
||School districts are responsible for providing special instruction,
individualized instruction plans, and/or accommodations.
||Students are responsible for requesting disability services and/or
|Are other services mandated?
||School districts must provide rehabilitation counseling, medical services,
personal aides, social work and other services as needed in the school day.
||College provide physical, academic, and program access. Related services
of a personal nature are the responsibility of the individual or family.
||The parent or guardian is the primary advocate. Students should participate in planning by age 14.
||Students are expected to be their own advocates.
|Who enforces the laws?
||IDEA is basically a funding statute, enforced by the Office of
Special Education and Rehabilitation Services in the
U.S. Department of Education.
||ADA/504 are civil right statutes, enforced by the Office for
Civil Rights (OCR), the Department of Justice, and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Adapted from: Kay McVey, Faculty Development Specialist, PROJECT CONNECT,
Henderson State University; Arkadelphia, Arkansas
If a student believes reasonable accommodations have not been provided in an effective or timely way, or if they believe they have been discriminated against on the basis of their disability, the following steps should be taken.
1. Discuss the situation with their disability specialist
2. If the situation is not resolved, the DR Director will be brought into the discussion.
3. If still not resolved, the student may consult with the ADA Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity.
Americans with disabilities have been legally protected from discrimination
since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 of this act and the ADA/ADAAA guide all college disability support offices, including the Office of Disability
Resources at UMD.
Other Legal Resources