B.1 Introduction

Do you know what is in store for students with disabilities who graduate from your school and head off to postsecondary education?

Do you have the information you need to advise them on what to expect in postsecondary education?

For students with disabilities, a big factor in their successful transition from high school to postsecondary education is accurate knowledge about their civil rights. The purpose of this guide is to provide high school educators with answers to questions students with disabilities may have as they get ready to move to the postsecondary education environment. 

This guide was developed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR has enforcement responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as amended, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, (Title II), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Every school district and nearly every college and university in the United States is subject to one or both of these laws, which have similar requirements. Private postsecondary institutions that do not receive federal financial assistance are not subject to Section 504 or Title II. They are, however, subject to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by private entities that are not private clubs or religious entities.

This guide also makes reference to Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides funds to states to assist in making a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to eligible children with disabilities. IDEA requirements apply to state education agencies, school districts and other public agencies that serve IDEA-eligible children. Institutions of postsecondary education have no legal obligations under the IDEA.

Similarly, this guide references the state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services Program, authorized by the Rehabilitation Act, which provides funds to state VR agencies to assist eligible individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment. State VR agencies provide a wide range of employment-related services, including services designed to facilitate the transition of eligible students with disabilities from school to post-school activities.

In preparing this guide, we have highlighted the significant differences between the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities in the high school setting and the rights and responsibilities these students will have once they are in the postsecondary education setting. Following a set of frequently asked questions, we have provided some practical suggestions that high school educators can share with students to facilitate their successful transition to postsecondary education.