Students with I/DD in Postsecondary Education

Historically, postsecondary education (PSE) institutions have sought to foster creativity and innovation, and to inspire new ways of thinking and problem solving for both individuals and societies. However, PSE has not been immune to the exclusion and discrimination often reflected in societies at large. The exclusion and discrimination against people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is prevalent outside of PSE settings as well, such as in:

  • adult education classes
  • local community programs e.g. community recreation centers classes
  • personal learning clinics e.g. at animal shelters, home improvement retailers, craft stores
  • personal development workshops e.g. at wellness centers
It is socially just to include students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in postsecondary education (PSE). In other words: inclusion is the right thing to do. Participating in inclusive PSE is a way for people with I/DD to gain access to the community during and after high school, and to strengthen their roles as active citizens. It is also a way to increase the employability and earning power of people with and without disabilities alike.
Ableism is discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities. Here are some examples of ableist attitudes:
  • People with disabilities deserve pity, not respect.
  • People with disabilities are like heroes when they get out of the house to do everyday activities like running errands.
  • People with disabilities can't go to school, have healthy families and relationships, attend college and classes in the community, or get jobs.
Postsecondary education (PSE) settings are venues for strengthening communities, empowering individuals, and developing elite research, policy and skills; they are not a place for ableism. PSE institutions have not only the opportunity, but the ethical obligation to reach out and create inroads to the inclusion of all people in their surrounding communities, including people with disabilities. This issue is illustrated in a film produced by Think College, "Think College: A Documentary". Pay particular attention to the question raised in this documentary, "Who should go to college?"
Dual-Enrollment and Transition
Dual-enrollment is when students with disabilities enrolled in high school and receiving special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) take classes in a postsecondary education (PSE) setting at the same time. Dual-enrollment is a chance to introduce students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to college campuses while maintaining supports from their high school teachers and counselors.
For many people with and without I/DD, college is a time of transition between youth and adulthood. For students with I/DD, "transition" is also an actual process that involves structured planning and coordinated service delivery so that students can work towards their postsecondary (PSE) goals. The Illinois State Performance Plan (SPP) Indicatory 13 requires that post-school outcomes guide the development of the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students age 14 and a half and older. Examples of transition settings include:
  • Postsecondary education i.e. community college, university
  • Vocational education
  • Integrated employment
  • Independent living
There is more information about dual-enrollment and transition in the "Resources" section of this website, under "For Students and Parents".
Increasing Employment
Students with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) who receive some kind of postsecondary education (PSE) in addition to vocational rehabilitation (VR) services earn more than those who received VR services alone (Migliore & Butterworth, 2009). In other words, inclusive PSE:
  • is likely to increase the earning power of individuals with and without I/DD.
  • is a means to alleviate poverty
  • creates possibilities for people with I/DD as citizens that have traditionally been excluded from and exploited by labor markets.

Picture of a young European American man with an intellectual disability in a college library.

Why college? Well, I have a lot of career ideas. Plus, I love to read and I like seeing people I know from the community." -Brian