Are 504 Plans Used in College? People typically use something other than the actual title of the 504 Plan in colleges and universities. If you currently have one and are in secondary education, then you go to college, your 504 plan and those accommodations will not transfer over. However, having a 504 plan with those accommodations is still beneficial to know what’s working for you in the educational environment, especially if it’s taking exams or instruction. If you’re an adult, it’s worth noting that these benefits can extend beyond education and into the workplace.
Now, that doesn’t mean to say that a college student is without protection because that’s not true. At the college or university level, though, typically, they’ll have many different names for these accommodation plans. But if a student does have a disability that’s substantially impacting them and their ability to learn, they are federally mandated to provide accommodations. So, it is basically like a 504 plan. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) website provides further information on this.
They’re just going to have different names. And, of course, a university setting is much different from going to one location for all your educational services during elementary and secondary education. So yes, you can have accommodations in a university or college setting. I am still determining what the title of that will be. As I said, it will not be called a 504 plan, but you will get accommodations. If you have had a 504 plan in the past, it’s essential to provide that to the university.
That’s an excellent starting point for them. Accommodations at the university level will be very similar to those you had in elementary or secondary. Again, if there’s a physical disability where you sit in the classroom and need special seating, a typical desk isn’t working for you if the student has a wheelchair and needs a clear path in and out of the room. If you have a service dog, they need room to sit next to you.
Now, you won’t have accommodations for pullouts for different types of therapy like OT or PT. You can schedule your classes because of how colleges and universities are set up. And so, if you need those types of therapies, they can happen throughout the day, giving you more flexibility with your schedule. That is likely not to be written in your accommodation plan. However, if you need specific tools, like laptops, special keyboards, sensory tools, or recording devices, that’s a big one in the university setting.
Many professors want to be kept from being recorded. But if you have some audio processing disorder, you can record the class. Visually as well, it just depends. As I said, every university is different. But if these are your needs, you want to ensure you’re speaking up at the beginning to get a plan in place. Understood.org can be a helpful resource for understanding these needs and how to address them.
Another one that’s one of the most common and famous, and could be for physical and mental impairment, is having a note-taker in the class. Someone in the class will take written notes, type them up, and then send them to you so that you can work on focusing or processing what the professor says while writing notes is difficult. So someone could do that for you. The most popular accommodation is having a note-taker or being able to record the professor’s lectures.
Also, the significant accommodations are during exams. You can have it in your accommodation plan to get more time when taking exams or in a secluded area. It’s rare that someone will read the exams to you or that you’ll have a type of aide or a person sitting in with you at the university level, but it’s possible. You would have to show that that’s a needed accommodation for you to have a free and appropriate education.
Again, to summarize, a 504 plan doesn’t exist in the college or university setting. However, federal law protects people with disabilities from discrimination in college and university settings. Therefore, your college must provide accommodations. There’s just no mandated title for what the form looks like. Again, if you already have a 504 plan or an IEP, you must be proactive in the university setting to get those accommodations early.
I will also say, back to accommodations: if there’s any depression or anxiety, these things written into a university’s or college’s accommodations may look slightly different. However, I always recommend giving some indication to the professor without being called out or singled out—a signal or note indicating that you need to leave the classroom.
Maybe you feel like an anxiety attack is pending, or you would like not to be called on. Sometimes, professors use things called Socratic methods. So they can call on students anytime, and you must be ready. If you have social anxiety, it would be difficult for you, and it could substantially impair you due to that.
So, you would want accommodations where someone wouldn’t randomly call you on. If you have to give oral reports, it is also something you can have an accommodation written out. You can either have yours pre-recorded or know when you will provide it. Or you could have extra written aides to help you in case anxiety prohibits you from giving that type of presentation.
These are only the basics but remember, it won’t be called a 504 plan accommodation in the university or college setting. It will likely be called an accommodation plan. However, federal mandates protect individuals from discrimination who have disabilities. And are very similar to accommodations in the 504 plan that you had and the elementary or secondary education.
Jennifer Hanson is a dedicated and seasoned writer specializing in the field of special education. With a passion for advocating for the rights and needs of children with diverse learning abilities, Jennifer uses her pen to educate, inspire, and empower both educators and parents alike.