Developing Inclusive Programs

This section outlines some main steps for creating inclusive postsecondary education (PSE) programs for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). For programs already in existence, this section also provides ideas for how to become more "inclusive" in order to be eligible for federal funding. Additionally, this section highlights steps for developing inclusive programs through vignettes written by people involved in Illinois.

Be a Champion
Individuals who coordinate inclusive programs report that their program started because of the vision and dedication of a "champion". Sometimes, champions are students with disabilities that have a dream of going to college with their friends from high school. Other programs develop when champions rise up to address the needs of students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) who have already been present on campuses for decades. Other times, complaints about the "segregation" of students with disabilities gives way to champions for inclusion who are reacting to community dissatisfaction in the regular course of their jobs.

Whatever the stories of the champions involved, the point is to become a champion or identify someone who already is and offer them your support. This is often the first step in creating inclusive opportunities for people with disabilities, and is an intuitive place to start when considering the creation of more inclusive postsecondary education opportunities for students with I/DD in Illinois.
Being a Champion: A Personal Story
By Nancy Cheeseman, former coordinator of the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA) at Elmhurst College

"Reconstruct the world by reconstructing your mind." Unknown
"The above quote relates to an idea I had seven years ago. Then again it was many more years than that. My son Casey, now 29 years old, did reconstruct the world in his own way. He was the first student to be included into his neighborhood school in 2nd grade, after spending the first years in a segregated system. He is the one who announced to me, one day as the big yellow bus pulled up to our street. "Where go bus?" I replied to a school called Briargate. His reply, "when I am eight I go Briargate". As I watched the neighborhood kids board their yellow bus, and then my son board his small, short bus to go to a school an hour and a half away-his comment rang in my head. This began another adventure for me as well as my son and our family. INCLUSION! YES!"
"Fast forward to the year 2000, Casey's graduation from high school and yet another dream - College. For my son this would also present many challenges. Entrance criteria, ACT/SAT exams, essays, applications etc. all very overwhelming especially for a guy with intellectual/developmental disabilities. This was his next dream, to go away to college like his peers. So, where do we find a college which would accept him? We went to Florida and Wisconsin, I searched online in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, out West to California, Arizona - still no luck. This was proving to be very disappointing to my son and at times heartbreaking for me. Until we found a school in Minnesota, not a college campus but a life college. We visited, he loved it, and he moved up there in 2001, and remains in Minnesota today, happy, with a job, friends and independent living."
"So how does this reflect on reconstruction? My thought was why did Illinois not have something to provide this same experience to our students? Finally, my thoughts turned to action. I challenged the appropriate people at Elmhurst College: what if Elmhurst had a program to serve this population of students? The idea became a proposal to present to the President and Board of Trustees, then back to the people who supported me, then back again for another presentation, and then more behind the scenes discussions. Finally, at Christmas time 2004 the concept of the Elmhurst Life Skills Academy (ELSA) became a reality. In fall of 2005, ELSA had become a reality for 12 young people, who were looking for exactly what my son had wanted: a college-like experience on a college campus."
"Fast, fast forward to 2011, I have left Elmhurst College and the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (new name), with mixed emotions. I am proud of what began as a dream and the present reality of three graduating classes, wonderful, talented faculty and staff, excellent support from administration of all levels, and most of all MY WONDERFUL, DEDICATED AND ENERGETIC STUDENTS ---- ALL. You are the ones who reconstructed the thinking for those who had doubts of what could be for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities, the opportunity to attend college like their peers. You have changed higher education in Illinois. I leave this program and state knowing CASEY'S and his mother's DREAM became A REALITY. Continue to restructure your mind and the world."
Be "Inclusive"
"Inclusion" has become a buzz word in disability communities, and it has many definitions. By "inclusion" the national Think College center means maximizing contact between students with and without intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). From a federal funding standpoint, according to the Higher Education Opportunities Act of 2008, "inclusion" in postsecondary education (PSE) requires students with I/DD to, "have at least one-half of their participation in the program...focus on academic components" alongside students without I/DD.
In developing inclusive programs, it is important that institutions consider definitions of inclusion such as the ones from the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Act and the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) below:
Developmental Disabilities (DD) Act of 1984 (P.L.98-527)
"the acceptance and encouragement of the presence and participation of individuals with developmental disabilities, by individuals without disabilities, in social, educational, work, and community activities, that enables individuals with developmental disabilities to-
  1. have friendships and relationships with individuals and families of their own choice;
  2. live in homes close to community resources, with regular contact with individuals without disabilities in their communities;
  3. enjoy full access to and active participation in the same community activities and types of employment as individuals without disabilities; and
  4. take full advantage of their integration into the same community resources as individuals without disabilities, living, learning, working, and enjoying life in regular contact with individuals without disabilities."
Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)
"The comprehensive transition and postsecondary program requires students with intellectual disabilities to have at least one-half of their participation in the program, as determined by the institution, focus on academic components through one or more of the following activities:
  1. Taking credit-bearing courses with students without disabilities.
  2. Auditing or otherwise participating in courses with students without disabilities for which the student does not receive regular academic credit.
  3. Taking non-credit-bearing, nondegree courses with students without disabilities.
  4. Participating in internships or work-based training in settings with individuals without disabilities..."
Do Person Centered Planning (PCP)
For meaningful inclusion of students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in postsecondary education (PSE), programs should do Person Centered Planning (PCP). Person Centered Planning is a process used to help people with disabilities plan for their future. PCP is usually a team effort made up of professionals, case workers, family, friends or whomever the individual with I/DD wants to include. This group works together to identify ways that the person with I/DD can develop personal relationships, participate in their community, increase control over their own lives, identity their dreams and plans for the future, and develop the skills and abilities needed to achieve these goals.
A key focus of Person Centered Planning (PCP) is increasing self-determination and developing self-advocacy skills. Self-determination is when people with disabilities are the primary decision-makers in their own lives, with the supports from other people of their own choosing. Self-advocacy is when people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) speak up and advocate for themselves and others about their rights, goals, dreams etc. PCP also helps participants of the planning team to look at individuals with I/DD as whole people, not just the sum of their labels.
Person Centered Planning could be viewed as a series of approaches that have shared characteristics. These shared characteristics include:
  • seeing people first rather than relating to diagnostic labels;
  • using ordinary language and images rather than professional jargon;
  • actively searching for a person's gifts and capacities in the context of community life;
  • and strengthening the voice of the individual and those who know the person best in accounting for their history and defining desirable changes in their lives.

For more resources about Person Centered Planning, self-determination, and self-advocacy, refer to the "Resources" section of this website.

Get Funded
Finding funding for inclusive programs and individual students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is a unique and complex process, and there are few steps that will apply to everyone in the same order. The national Think College initiative has identified the following funding possibilities as a place to start:
  • Family funds
  • IDEA funds i.e. dual-enrollment with local school districts
  • Cost sharing across institutes of higher education (IHEs)
  • Adult service agencies
  • Vocational rehabilitation
  • Other rehabilitation organizations e.g. state's developmental disabilities divisions
  • Scholarships
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (the corporation that administers the AmeriCorps programs)
  • State and federal grants
  • Federal financial aid: the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 allows programs to apply for the federal Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTPP) designation so that students can be eligible for financial aid.
  • Plans for Achieving Self-Support (PASS Plans) developed by the Social Security Administration

In Illinois, the Council on Developmental Disabilities (ICDD) has identified inclusive postsecondary education opportunities as a priority in their 2011-2016 five year plan. For more ideas about funding refer to the book by Meg Grigal and Debra Hart, "Think College! Postsecondary Education Options for Students with Intellectual Disabilities" (Brookes Publishing).
Funding Vignettes
Tuition Based Funding: Lewis and Clark Community College
Lewis and Clark Community College has been providing services to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are not typically served at a community college for over 20 years. Currently, Lewis and Clark has two program options for students with I/DD: Supported College Transition (SCT), and College for Life (CFL). SCT was designed for students with little mainstreaming experience in high school, but who can be successful in small college sections of developmental courses with the additional support of a transition class. SCT students take courses for college credit which are eligible for federal and state financial aid. The College for Life (CFL) program offers continuing education instruction in self advocacy, basic skills, personal enrichment and leisure, which also provide opportunities for social growth. CFL courses are non credit courses and are therefore not Pell Grant eligible.The funding for Supported College Transition (SCT) and College for Life (CFL) students at Lewis and Clark Community College comes from various sources, including:
  • Program Funding: Student tuition and fees generate enough income to pay instructor and materials cost and the Program Coordinator's salary and benefits. Other support staff are funded by the College because the Supported College Transition and College for Life programs are a part of the general Lewis and Clark disability services.
  • Family funds: Most students in the non-credit College for Life pay with family funds. The majority of students are receiving social security and some have part time jobs.
  • Federal and state financial aid: Students the for-credit Supported College Transition Program are eligible to receive Pell and Map grants.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds: We have a few students each semester (5 or so out the 60 enrolled) who are still connected with their local high school (i.e. "dual-enrollment") and are attending Lewis and Clark Community College as part of their transition plan. The high schools typically pay the tuition (or a portion of it), and continue any related services the student is still eligible to receive, sometimes also providing transportation. Students in Madison County where there is public transportation available are encouraged to use it.
  • Department of Human Services (DHS) funds: The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) has declined to pay tuition for College for Life students since its inception. Students in Supported College Transition can sometimes receive DRS funding after they begin a vocational program at Lewis and Clark, which is typically in semester three.
  • Scholarships: We have a small scholarship fund managed by the program director. Students in College for Life with financial need are offered a scholarship for one class if they can pay for another one during the first semester. Occasionally, a continuing student is offered a scholarship - we had a student who had a house fire and his family lost everything. We gave him a scholarship for the next semester. Sometimes churches or other interested individuals offer to pay student tuition, and we have them donate to the scholarship fund and treat it as such if the individual wants a tax deduction. The College has other scholarships available to students with disabilities in for-credit courses, and a number of private foundations also offer scholarships. We make sure our students are aware of any scholarships for which they might be eligible.
School District Collaboration and Congressional Relationships: Education and Career Pathways Program
The Education and Career Pathways Program is a collaborative effort between McHenry County College (MCC) and the Special Education District of McHenry County (SEDOM), and is a fee based program. Each class that is offered has an MCC course identification number and fee attached to it. These classes are run through the Continuing Education (CE) Department at MCC and there is no college credit attached to them. From the college's standpoint, the classes are set up like any other CE program. Fees are paid either by the students school district (if they haven't taken their high school diploma and are still under their school's umbrella) or by the student themselves. If the high school is responsible for the payment, they are invoiced by SEDOM and pay the fee directly to MCC. The Program was also the recipient of a $100,000 grant from Representative Don Manzullo for expansion of the Pathways Program to include support for a Social Communication Pathway for students on the Autism Spectrum.
Federal Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs (CTPP) Designation
Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO)
The Heartland Academy for Learning Opportunities (HALO) Program at Heartland Community College had been in existence about 2 years before deciding to seek Title IV approval as a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTPP). Seeking approval as a CTPP would require significant modifications to the current structure of HALO, which, up to this point, had operated using a substantially separate model with students only participating in classes with other students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). Therefore, in order to meet the definition of a CTPP, we would have to do away with this model and transition to more of a mixed model with at least half of our student's time in the academic component of the program being in inclusive settings like credit courses, internships, and audited courses. It also meant we had to create an advising structure for students in the program. We were able to redesign the academic and advising components of our program to fit with the definition of a CTPP and in doing this, we created more options for HALO students to participate in inclusive settings. Another criterion for seeking approval was developing a satisfactory academic progress (SAP) policy, which we were able to collaborate with our financial aid office to complete. Once the definitional elements of a CTPP were in place and the SAP policy was developed, we were able to draft the program description and submit our application. Most of the application was submitted via an electronic application but the program description was emailed and the entire process took about 10 minutes to complete. At this point (fall of 2011), we are still waiting to hear back on the status of our application which, according to a staff person at the federal student aid office, could take up to 3 months to approve. The road to submitting our application was a little rocky with trying to meet all of the pieces of the CTPP definition but we were able to overcome these challenges. In the end, it will be worth it if we can help a deserving student have access to higher education and continued learning.
Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy
Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA), is in its seventh year of operation. We began investigating the Title IV Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTPP) approval process soon after the regulations were published. Our Financial Aid Director at the College, having the most experience with federal aid processes, took the lead. She attended multiple workshops and information sessions regarding the procedures and requirements, helping us identify information to include in the application, asking questions and acting as the primary contact for ELSA with the federal officers. This past fall (Fall 2010), we presented the application to the faculty at Elmhurst College, explaining the requirements for CTPP approval (ELSA meets requirements as a mixed/hybrid program), and received faculty approval and support. The Financial Aid Director then submitted the application and throughout this past year has worked with her federal contact to identify any lacking components, as well as summarize several of the previously submitted materials for easier access and in a format much more similar to other documents submitted by Elmhurst College. She continued to follow through, asking for updates on our application. In fall 2011, ELSA became one of 10 programs ( nation-wide to successfully complete the application for the CTPP designation. This means that ELSA students will now be eligible for federal financial aid, a great support to students and their families.
Collaborate with Stakeholders
Collaboration of many different stakeholders is essential for inclusive postsecondary education (PSE). For the sake of organization, this section is divided up into the categories of "internal" and "external" stakeholders. Internal stakeholders are typically students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), their families and other "natural supports", college and university faculty, staff and administration, disability support service (DSS) offices, and members of the general PSE environment involved in inclusion, like student mentors. External stakeholders are people, services, organizations etc. outside of the PSE environment, such as K-12 schools, state vocational rehabilitation (VR) providers, local offices of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs), and centers for independent living (CILs), among others. Formal agreements outlining the responsibilities of key stakeholders should be clearly written out for various aspects of program development, implementation, progress monitoring, and continued improvement.
Internal Stakeholders
Students with Disabilities, Families and "Natural Supports"
The goals of students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) should be identified through Person Centered Planning (PCP), and should guide all collaboration between stakeholders. According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Amendments, students transitioning from high school to postsecondary education (PSE) settings should be encouraged to participate in their Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings, which can be an empowering practice in self-determination. Family members, including parents, and other individuals who support the student informally should also participate in the transition process, for example, friends, neighbors, regular transportation providers, former program students or graduates, guardians, student mentors, educational coaches etc. Often, these informal or "natural supports" help to address gaps in service or support needs that are unique to individual students.

Faculty and Staff
In postsecondary education (PSE) settings, representatives from many different academic fields have been responsible for the development of inclusive programs, including faculty and staff from the fields of disability studies, psychology, rehabilitation counseling, education, special education, occupational therapy, and physical medicine and rehabilitation, to name a few. Representatives from academic or student affairs have also been critical in getting administrative buy-in, for example, from chief academic officers, provosts, and presidents.

Disability Support Services
Representatives from disability support service (DSS) offices have often been responsible for creating and supporting inclusive postsecondary education (PSE) programs. However, many DSS offices lack the human and economic resources to meet the needs of all students with disabilities who could potentially benefit from their services. While some DSS offices may be more ready and willing than others to support students with intellectual disabilities (ID), it is still important to reach out to the DSS office on campus, regardless of whether they will be directly involved with providing services and/or housing a specialized program.

Other Students
Students without intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) may serve as mentors or provide educational or social supports for students with I/DD as part of for-credit service learning experiences. Students with and without I/DD can support each other in accessing all aspects of college and university life such as the recreation and fitness centers, gaming and entertainment rooms, and career services. Also, students with I/DD can access student programs and organizations for support, such as faith-based organizations and Greek life, much as students without I/DD do.
External Stakeholders
K-12 Schools
External K-12 stakeholders includes teachers, school staff and administrators. Transition coordinators or specialists developing partnerships and overseeing transition services for youth with disabilities can also be external stakeholders. K-12 school representatives can provide valuable information about the interests and support needs of their students. In dual enrollment programs, local education agencies (LEAs) may provide education coaches to support students with their college coursework. They are probably already collaborating with representatives of vocational rehabilitation (VR), community rehabilitation providers, and developmental disability services, so they are also valuable resources for identifying additional stakeholders. Many K-12 LEAs have already established formal agreements detailing efforts for collaborative service delivery that could be used to support students in college. For example, the active participation by VR counselors who participate in high school individualized education program (IEP) meetings and shared funding of transition services.

Vocational Rehabilitation Providers
Effective collaboration between education, rehabilitation, and disability support providers in improving the transition experiences for young adults with disabilities is well documented. The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Act requires agencies to share in the responsibility of coordinating and providing transition-related services. It also mandates the establishment of formal interagency agreements between the state vocational rehabilitation agencies and state education agencies. Also, VR agencies are to work with institutions of higher education in supporting services related to postsecondary education for youth with disabilities. This might include providing tuition waivers, and funding for educational coaches to supplement those provided by the college or university's disability student services (DSS) office.

Division of Developmental Disabilities
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) contracts with Independent Service Coordination (ISC) Agencies across Illinois for service delivery in supporting individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in community integration, independent living, employment, and overall improved quality of life. In some states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Oregon, DDD also coordinates and provides financial supports for non-employment related services, like education and recreation. The state office of developmental disabilities can provide flexible funding or grants for students to use toward college tuition or supports.

Interagency Teams
Many postsecondary education (PSE) programs have developed interagency stakeholder teams to guide program development, implementation, progress monitoring, and improvement. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), program graduates, and parents should have a central voice on interagency teams. These interagency teams also consist of representatives from education (secondary and postsecondary education, for example, the state University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities-UCEDDs), disability service agencies like Centers for Independent Living (CILs), local community organizations, and businesses, among others. The use of interagency teams is an effective practice, whether the program is operated by a specific college or university or managed externally by an educational or disability service provider.
Find Qualified Staff
Qualified staff in inclusive programs have a variety of backgrounds. A common credential is a bachelor's and/or a master's degree in education, special education or another disability related field like rehabilitation, occupational therapy, disability studies, psychology, or social work. Qualified staff often have practical experience working with people with disabilities in teaching, direct services, and in their personal lives as well. Arguably, the most important characteristic of qualified staff is a passion for working for and with students who have intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Qualified staff also have rich life experiences and skills such as:
  • Working with people of diverse racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, orientations, religions, ages etc. in addition to people with various disabilities.
  • Practical knowledge of the Person Centered Planning (PCP) process and transition issues.
  • A broad range of life experiences that foster tolerance, openmindedness and creative problem solving.
  • Confidence, skill, enthusiasm and dedication for teaching.
  • Familiarity with disability identities, history, culture, art, and research.
  • Ability to recognize and capitalize on individual strengths.
  • The imagination and practical skills to creatively accommodate the impairments of individuals while simultaneously challenging socio-cultural, attitudinal, political, environmental, and bureaucratic/institutional barriers of disability.
  • The ability to balance personal and work life.
  • Honest, courageous and effective interpersonal communication skills across relationships.
  • Persistence in follow through, with flexibility along the way.
  • The ability to exercise leadership with humility.
Research and Emerging Promising Practices
While more research is still required in order to establish "best practices" of inclusion in postsecondary education (PSE), promising practices have begun to emerge. For example, the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) project's Program Evaluation Tool and doctoral research like that of Dedra Hafner's on the Cutting-Edge program at Edgewood College in Wisconsin. There is also an "Emerging Scholars" program through the national Think College initiative, to support emerging research professionals in the field of inclusive PSE. It is important for all inclusive programs to collect and organize data about student and program outcomes, so that we can continue building up research to support policy, systems change, and funding for inclusion. In fact, program evaluation and data collection about student outcomes are considered quality standards for inclusive programs according to Think College and the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA). Here is a bulleted list of emerging promising practices for inclusive programs, compiled by an inclusive program founder and champion here in Illinois.
Student Outcomes
  • Gainful employment.
  • Self-determination, self-advocacy and communication skills.
  • Access to individualized supports and services based on Person Centered Planning (PCP).
  • Ability to access socialization and recreational opportunities in order to develop ongoing friendships, partnerships and skills.
  • Demonstrate the ability to make choices in where, how, and with whom one wants to live.
  • Ability to access health service providers, legal services, and other disability organizations and/or agencies of choice.
Policies and Practices
  • Campus understanding and acceptance of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (note: Philosophy changing on campus is the biggest challenge at times).
  • Access to advising process and choice in selection of courses (credit/non-credit) including an academic schedule.
  • Person Centered Planning (PCP) begins with the advising process and is integrated into courses- PCP will be used as data for accomplishing individual goals as set by the student and their choice of others to include (e.g. family members, advocates, service providers, agencies etc.).
  • Students adhere to campus guidelines and code of conduct as set forth by the institution. Additional guidelines may be added as needed in relation to specific courses or social objectives.
  • Evaluation component to measure data relating to effectiveness of policy, practice and outcomes.
  • Trans disciplinary approach to courses across campus with peer mentoring opportunities to promote success in academic selection.
  • Collaboration and access to student health and wellness departments as well as Disability Support Services/Learning Centers.
  • Orientation events and access with peers.
  • Access to social and recreational opportunities to enhance the overall college experience.
  • Design and implement a mentoring and coaching program for peers in order to facilitate natural supports.
  • Families need to be provided with information about how to "coach" their adult children with disabilities, and the reversion of rights to the young adult through the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). For more information about the changing roles of parents in supporting their children with disabilities in postsecondary education, refer to the document, "Opening Doors to Post-Secondary Education and Training: Planning for Life After High School" in the "Resources" section of this website, under the subsection "For Students and Parents".
Think About Transportation
Transportation is often a major barrier to inclusion for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in postsecondary education (PSE) settings. Tackling the challenges of transportation is also one of the quality standards for inclusive programs according to Think College and the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA). Like funding and housing, there are few solutions to transportation barriers that will apply to everyone. As a place to start thinking about transportation, here are a couple of vignettes about how two Illinois students have tackled their transportation barriers.
Transportation Vignettes
  • Family and School District Collaboration
    By Sue Walter, Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)
    After four years of high school, Jennifer had completed academic requirements and planned to march in the high school graduation ceremony but she wasn't yet ready to successfully transition to her post-school goals. Jennifer is a young woman who has a disability and significant support needs; she was one of the first student's with a significant disability to be included in her community high school. Jennifer's Individual Education Program (IEP) team, including Jennifer and her mom, worked on a 5th year plan that included taking courses through a supported school to work program at a local community college. One of the barriers in making this plan work was transportation- the community college was a 50 minute drive from her home community and the district, while willing to provide transition-focused activities, was concerned about the added financial burden of busing. Likewise, Jennifer and her family wanted to move her toward life after the short yellow bus! In a true team effort and attempt to continue stepping toward the day when secondary school would no longer be part of the support system, Jennifer's family committed their wheel-chair van as Jennifer's transportation. The school district found there was no policy that prevented her personal aide, hired by the district, to drive the van and the aide agreed to do the driving. Jennifer was very successful at the community college and this "one-foot-at-a time" transition plan provided a successful path to life after high school. Today, the wheelchair accessible van has been replaced with a new one, but remains Jennifer's main transportation with a personal care assistant who drives. Jennifer has even offered rides to other students at the community college!
  • Ride Sharing
    By Vicki Niswander, Illinois Association of Microboards and Cooperatives
    One young woman with Down Syndrome is auditing classes at a local community college. There is no public transportation in her small suburban community. Her family worked with an instructor to connect with other students registered for the same course and made arrangements for the student with a disability to ride to and from class with other students in exchange for a contribution for gas. The individual with a disability has also hired a young man with autism who has a driver's license to provide transportation as a personal support worker through her home-based support services funding.
Think About Housing
Being able to live in housing with roommates, especially other students, is a typical college experience that can be as enriching a learning experience for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) as it is for students without. Providing students with I/DD housing opportunities as part of their PSE experience is also one of the quality indicators for inclusive programs according to Think College and the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA). Therefore, developing housing options for students with I/DD in PSE is also a way to align your program with emerging promising practices of inclusion and to position students in your program to be eligible for federal financial aid.
Providing housing options for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) in postsecondary education, like funding and transportation, often requires resourcefulness and creativity. Some students with I/DD have chosen independent apartments or homes with the support of a "community builder". A community builder is an individual or family who lives in the same home or apartment complex with several individuals with disabilities needing supports during evenings and weekends. In exchange for providing that support, the community builders live rent-free. The arrangement allows for the community builders to hold other jobs during the daytime hours. Some students with disabilities share living space with non-disabled college students in exchange for personal assistance. Such an arrangement could also be made with an elderly person or with other people with disabilities requiring supports that the student with I/DD is able to provide in exchange for sharing a living space. Here are some additional Illinois housing resources:

Offer Accommodations
Students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) are already accessing postsecondary education (PSE) opportunities in open enrollment institutions and through specialized programs. The process of requesting and receiving accommodations should operate in the same manner as for other students with disabilities. Generally the process includes:
  • An interview with the student (sometimes including parents or guardians).
  • Submission and review of documentation (medical, psychological and vocational assessments).
  • Determination of accommodations chosen to address the known impact of a specific disability or disabilities and the demands of the learning environment.
  • Implementation of the accommodations and periodic review based upon request by the student and/or changing patterns of enrollment/involvement on campus (to meet the demands of specific course requirements).
Students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) may need additional types of support or services to fully participate in postsecondary education (PSE). Sometimes the desired supports/services go beyond legal mandates of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. College services that are free should be available and accessible to all students with disabilities. Specialized programs and services set their own eligibility requirements and fees.
Accommodation Examples
Examples of common accommodations and modifications for students with a variety of disabilities include:
  • Rescheduling classes to an accessible location.
  • Early enrollment options for students with disabilities to allow time to arrange accommodations.
  • Modifying enrollment policies.
  • Specialized supports like student mentors and educational coaches.
  • In-class note takers.
  • Substitution of specific courses required for completion of degree requirements.
  • Allowing service animals in the classroom.
  • Providing students a syllabus prior to the beginning of class.
  • Clearly communicating course requirements, assignments, due dates, and grading criteria both orally and in writing.
  • Modifying assessment policies e.g. using pass/fail assessments.
  • Utilizing sign-language interpreters.
  • Providing written outlines or summaries of class lectures, or integrating this information into comments at the beginning and end of class.
  • Allowing students to use note takers or tape record lectures.
  • Making digital copies of reading materials that can be accessed by screen readers.
  • Having personal attendants present.
  • More time on exams.
For more information about accommodations for students with various disabilities, refer to the Pacer Center: ADA Q and A: Section 504 and Postsecondary Education and the Think College website.
Accommodation Vignettes
  • Jose: Specialized Supports, In-class Note-taker, Personal Attendant
    Jose is a 22 year old student at a community college who is participating in a program for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) and taking two college course (Introduction to Design and Art). Jose has an intellectual disability (ID) and uses a wheelchair. He receives specialized supports e.g. coaching, and tutoring and placement assistance from his program for students with I/DD. He has an in-class notetaker for the lecture portions of his Art class, which is provided by the Disability Resources Center. He also has a personal attendant whom his family has hired to accompany and assist him with his daily living needs. This example illustrates that various types of support may be provided by and paid for by more than one entity. Coordination of educational services would probably be handled by Jose's specialized program staff.
  • Sarah: Case manager, Curriculum and Testing Modification, Disability Services Accommodations
    Sarah is a 24 year-old student in a full inclusion program at a four-year university. She has a case manager, provided by a specialized program (which charges fees above the tuition cost) who coordinates all her supports. Sarah is involved in three college courses and participates in many other activities on campus, including living in a dorm. One of her courses is American History and the curriculum and assessments have been modified for her by mutual agreement between the instructor and her program. She has requested a note-taker for this lecture based class from the Disability Resource Center and is provided one. Her exams are proctored and are modified. They are administered in the College's Testing Center, where she is allowed to have double time. This process has been approved by Disability Resources and the instructor. She will receive an audit grade (pass/fail) for her participation in this course. She is also taking Introduction to Psychology. The curriculum and assessments are also modified in this course for her. She has requested that her text be made available in digital format so she can listen to it as an accommodation and Disability Resources is preparing the text for her. Her grade in this course will also be an audit grade (pass/fail). This example illustrates that this student's inclusion program coordinates most support for her but that other college offices are involved in some service delivery. This reinforces the importance of interdepartmental collaboration and a campus having a memorandum of agreement about who does what and how services can be coordinated.
  • Tanisha: Reduced Course Load, Accessing Regular Student Services
    Tanisha is a 25 year old student at a community college taking a variety of courses including a developmental reading course, Algebra I and Early Childhood Education on a reduced course load accommodation, issued by the Disability Resource Center. She has a mild intellectual disability (ID) and a learning disability (LD). She is not participating in a specialized program for students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), but is mainstreamed. She has an Accommodation Plan which includes digital textbook access, note-takers and extended time for test taking. She sees a Disability Specialist regularly for monitoring her courses and assignments and goes to the Tutoring Center for assistance with Algebra and her Early Childhood Education class. She is hoping to earn a certificate or a degree from the college. This example illustrates what has been happening on many open admission campuses for years where a student with an intellectual disability is pursuing the same college courses and options as students with other disabilities and without disabilities. Her primary support comes from the Disability Services Center, in addition to those from student services available to everyone. Tanisha's situation could be more complicated if her college abilities were only marginal and she could not pass most classes she attempted. In that case, college policies and procedures should catch her as a student in academic trouble and interventions should follow (irrespective of whether such a student has a disability), such as academic probation, limitation on continued enrollment in courses previously failed, etc.
Comparing Admissions, Enrollment, and Accommodations
Community Colleges-Open Admission Selective Colleges and Universities Colleges with Specialized Admissions - Programs for Students with I/DD
Admission Process Enrollment is open to all with the exception of limited enrollment programs, i.e. Nursing. Most colleges request high school transcripts or GED, ACT/SAT. Adult programs, continuing education and business programs are also common. Colleges have admission standards which can include: GPA, SAT/ACT scores, high school standing, letters of recommendation/essay.Some may have alternative admission standards for underprepared students - enter on probation. Colleges have a separate process for those who enter as non-matriculated students. These programs will have their own admission process which usually includes an interview, an evaluation of some kind and a determination of eligibility for the specific program.
Placement Requirements Most community colleges have students complete a battery of placement exams in English, math and reading. This may result in completing developmental courses, prior to taking college courses. Four year colleges may not require additional placement exams, as the admission process already screens who is accepted. Specific degree programs may have additional requirements of their own. Assessments of fit with the program's intent are usually a part of the enrollment/admission process. Ability to function independently and other adaptive skills may be assessed.
Students with Disabilities Once self-identified to the Disability Resource Center, this is followed by an interview, and submission of documentation about one's disability. The process for colleges and universities is essentially the same as for community colleges. Some universities have more stringent requirements about acceptable documentation. Qualifications and processes for students with I/DD will be program specific, but will usually include an interview, determination of "program fit" and creation of a support/education plan.
Accommodations The process usually involves: a review of the documentation and course schedule, creation of an Accommodation Plan/Letter and review/monitoring for changes. The process for colleges and universities is essentially the same as for community colleges. Accommodations for field work, internships, etc. require review. The process will be the same with a possible exception for courses with adapted curricula/ assessments. These courses may include additional supports.
Specialized Supports/Services These supports in both community and four year universities can consist of free services such as tutoring, writing centers and use of technology resources. Colleges may also offer specialized programs with additional services for a fee. These cannot legally include accommodations that are required under Section 504 or the ADA. These supports in both community and four year universities can consist of free services such as tutoring, writing centers and use of technology resources. Colleges may also offer specialized programs with additional services for a fee. These cannot legally include accommodations that are required under Section 504 or the ADA. Students with I/DD can take advantage of all free college services. Specialized programs for student with I/DD may offer other services for a fee or free including: personal aides, academic or job coaches, transportation assistance, independent living training and specialized job placement. Third party agencies may provide financial support for these fees, if an individual student qualifies for their services.
Financial Aid Students can apply for and receive financial aid (federal/state grants and loans, etc.) and qualify based upon income standards set up by each entity. Students can apply for and receive financial aid (federal/state grants and loans, etc.) and qualify based upon income standards set up by each entity. Students with I/DD participating in a specialized program cannot qualify for financial aid unless the college's program has received the Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program (CTPP) designation.

Five students with developmental disabilities at their graduation ceremony from the inclusive 4 year program at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy in Illinois.

Five students with developmental disabilities at their graduation ceremony from the Elmhurst Learning and Success Academy (ELSA), an inclusive 4 year program at Elmhurst College, in Illinois.