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Helping Students With Disabilities Make A Smooth Transition to College

Students at Mohawk Valley Community College walk outside with student in wheelchair.

To provide access to higher education to all students means more than just a variety of degree programs. It also means providing access and support to the disabled among us who seek to earn a degree and make themselves successful contributors to business and community. When you imagine accommodations for students with disabilities, don’t just think of designated parking or wheelchair-accessible ramps. Disabilities come in many forms, and accommodations for students can range from separate testing rooms, to advocacy and counseling, to accessible campus housing, to service animals, and much more.

The college environment at SUNY is a place where all students can succeed, including those with disabilities. SUNY schools provide services and accommodations for students with disabilities to ensure all students have equal access to academic success. But for them to be successful, it’s important for these students to know how to access these accommodations.

That’s why many SUNY campuses have developed Transition Programs to help arm students with disabilities with the tools they need to thrive at college. Read on to find out how several SUNY campuses make the transition to college smooth sailing for students with disabilities.

SUNY Delhi

At SUNY Delhi, the Summer Transition Conference “It’s All In the Planning!” brings accepted students with disabilities and their families together to learn about the support services and technology offered through SUNY Delhi’s Office of Access and Equity. This conference is an interactive two-day program focused on preparing students with disabilities and their families for the transition to college.

The conference is typically offered three weeks before the start of the fall semester to allow students time to prepare for a successful transition. Topics include how to request and receive services in college, how a student’s disability impacts their education, and how the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities change at the college level. Students also actively begin developing their personal toolbox, by experimenting with reading, writing, studying and time management assistive technology tools.

SUNY Delhi’s students come from diverse high schools, some that have adaptive technology and many that don’t. Therefore the transition program is meant to provide tools for independence that many have not previously had, to ensure a meaningful college transition and career.

Columbia-Greene Community College

Similarly to SUNY Delhi, Columbia-Greene Community College holds an “It’s All In the Planning!” conference. They hold this conference on college planning for students with disabilities in collaboration with SUNY Delhi and Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR). College-bound students with disabilities, parents, teachers and staff from local high schools were all invited to attend the one-day conference on navigating changes in the educational setting from high school to college.

The purpose of the transition conference is to educate the secondary community on how the educational landscape changes from high school to college for a student with a disability. The conference teaches students to manage their environment to make all college programs and activities accessible to them.

At CGCC, “It’s All In the Planning!” sessions educate students on how to request services from, and what is needed to register with, the Disability Support Services Office on any college campus. Students also learn how time management skills play a part in managing a semester-by-semester calendar and receive instruction on how to use assistive technology to meet their academic needs. ACCES-VR conducts a session to educate high school students on supports available through them in furtherance of gaining employment after high school.

Buffalo State College

One of the biggest focuses for the Buffalo State Disability Services Office is to encourage self-advocacy. Buffalo State staff work with high school students and parents to make sure they have the skills to advocate for themselves before they actually make the big transition to college. The office arms students with legal literacy and helps them understand the way the relationship between the parent, school, and student will change from high school to college. Once they have information about how to access disability services, students can then become the primary advocate for their disability accommodations.

A new program put forth by Buffalo State’s Disability Services Office, called Access BSC, will strengthen the college’s commitment to the transition between high school and college.  This new summer bridge program, which will commence summer 2017, will provide pre-collegiate students with disabilities an introduction to the tools and skills they will need to make a seamless transition to college. Students will learn about assistive technology options and study and note-taking skills, as well as discuss self-advocacy.

Binghamton University

The Services for Students with Disabilities Transition Program at Binghamton University is designed to provide newly registered students with critical information and training prior to the beginning of classes—positioning them for success. While independence is thrust upon all students entering college, it is of particular significance for students with disabilities.

Students who participate in the program will learn about their roles and responsibilities as a registered student; learn how to effectively communicate with professors regarding their accommodations, and how to use various assistive technologies; learn useful time management and organizational strategies; and will be given in-depth tours of the Glen Bartle and Science Libraries, the Decker Health Center and the Counseling Center.

You can learn more about disability services at every SUNY campus by browsing SUNY’s directory of Disability Services Offices.

Taras Kufel

Written by Taras Kufel

Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.

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