At Lake Forest College, we believe that all of our students are entitled to an equal opportunity to access and benefit from our programs and services. The Learning and Teaching Center (LTC) and the Health and Wellness Center collaborate to coordinate services for students with disabilities to help make this belief a reality.
If you have an IEP or 504 plan and/or if you have been diagnosed with a disability or medical condition that affects you as a student, it’s not too early to start thinking about what accommodations you may need or to start asking how the process works at Lake Forest College. The earlier you start this process, the better informed you will be.
If you received services in elementary or high school, you know that your school did a lot of work to help you be successful. To be successful in college, however, you will need to build your self-advocacy skills by requesting services for yourself. By providing documentation and requesting accommodations, you’ll be part of an interactive process that involves you talking with the Learning and Teaching Center and other people on campus, like your professors, Health and Wellness staff, or maybe Residence Life staff, depending on what your particular needs are. We can’t guarantee every student will be successful, but we can ensure every student who makes a request and documents the need has equal access to programs and services.
What is a disability?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination and mandate the availability of accommodations to ameliorate the impact of the disability to afford equal access to education.
Students must meet the statutory definition of disability under federal law. In order to determine whether an individual is entitled to these protections, the Health and Wellness Center and the Learning and Teaching Center require objective evidence (documentation) that verifies that the individual’s condition fits the definition of “disability.”
The ADA defines disability as:
- a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual,
- a record of having such an impairment, or
- being regarded as having such an impairment.
A condition is considered a disability if it prevents or substantially limits the ability to perform a major life activity or significantly restricts the condition, manner, or duration in performing the major life activity as compared to the average person. The analysis of “substantially limits” is a comparative term to the average person in severity, impact, and duration. Generally, a condition must be substantially limiting for more than several months. A condition is not a disability if it results in mild limitations.
Disability documentation serves two primary purposes:
To establish the right to protection from discrimination.
Non-discrimination is an assurance that individuals with disabilities will not be excluded or provided lesser access to programs and activities based on assumptions rooted in stereotype or perception of ability that are not based in fact. Non-discrimination also provides freedom from harassment based on perceptions of disability.
Documentation needed for protection from discrimination based on disability without a request for accommodation can be quite brief. A diagnostic statement from an appropriate professional or a past history or recognition as a person with a disability could suffice as the basis for protection from discrimination.
To determine the accommodations to which the individual may be entitled.
Reasonable accommodations include modifications to policy, procedure, or practice and/or the provision of auxiliary aids and services that are designed to provide equal access to programs and services for qualified individuals with disabilities. Accommodations are reasonable when they do not fundamentally alter the nature of a program or service and do not represent an undue financial or administrative burden.
Laws and regulations that apply to K-12 education are designed to promote the success of students with disabilities. It’s important to note that the ADA and Section 504, which apply to college students, are designed instead to provide equal access to programs and services; success is not guaranteed.