Disclosing a Disability/Requesting Accommodations

Postsecondary education is much different than primary and secondary education. This is especially true for students with disabilities. Under IDEA, elementary and secondary students are entitled to a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Special education, accommodations or modifications and any necessary related services must be provided in a manner that meets the unique needs of students and facilitates the attainment of their postsecondary goals in education, training, employment and, where appropriate, independent living. In other words, the intent of IDEA is to ensure that students with disabilities succeed in school.

Colleges, universities and other postsecondary education providers, on the other hand, must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADA) of 2008 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The intent of the ADA Amendments Act and Section 504 is to prohibit discrimination based on disability and to ensure equal access to college services and activities for people with disabilities. It is up to students to disclose their disabilities if they so desire; to request accommodations and services related to their disabilities; to provide the necessary documentation of their disabilities as required by the institution. It is also up to students to advocate for themselves, including discussing accommodation needs with faculty and instructors and filing complaints through the postsecondary institution’s grievance or equal opportunity process if they feel they have been discriminated against.

When disclosing a disability and requesting an accommodation, consider the following for postsecondary education:

  • If and when to disclose a disability are important, personal choices, sometimes involving complex factors, for which students should be adequately prepared.
  • Students must advocate for themselves by requesting accommodations through the Disability Support Services office, if there is one, or through the student services office of the institution.
  • Students who disclose must provide the necessary documentation if requested.
  • Postsecondary institutions and employers must provide reasonable accommodations, so some accommodation requests may be denied or alternative accommodations may be proposed.
  • Modifications that change or reduce the content or other characteristics of the curriculum are generally not allowed.
  • Students may need to educate professors and instructors about their accommodations.

For more information, see Disability Disclosure and Reasonable Accommodations in our A-Z Library.


This page contains resources for students, educators and families on disclosing disabilities and requesting accommodations from an employer. If and when to disclose a disability are important, personal choices, sometimes involving complex factors, for which students should be adequately prepared.

Internal Resources

Project 10 - Summary of Performance
The Summary of Performance for students exiting high school contains specific information about a student (performance levels, essential accommodations, modifications, assistive technology, recommendations for enhancing employment and other post-high school environments and disability documentation) that can be helpful if he or she has decided to disclose a disability and/or request accommodations.

External Resources

The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities
Contains discussions and activities on advantages and disadvantages of disclosing; legal rights and responsibilities; accommodations; and disclosing in a postsecondary setting, on the job and in social and community settings.

The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Families, Educators, Youth Service Professionals and Adult Allies Who Care About Youth with Disabilities
This workbook from the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth helps caring adults make informed decisions about 1) teaching a young person about his or her rights and responsibilities in disclosing a disability and 2) supporting a young person in becoming more independent and self-sufficient.

Cyber Disclosure for Youth with Disabilities
This supplement to The 411 on Disability Disclosure: A Workbook for Youth with Disabilities provides suggestions for making informed decisions about disclosing disabilities on-line and for managing disclosure online.

Dear Colleague Letter/Office for Civil Rights
This letter from the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, briefly describes the legal rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities before and after they are admitted to institutions of postsecondary education.

Disclosing a Disability in a Job Interview
Article on when to disclose a disability, determining the essential functions of a job for accommodation purposes and interview tips.

Guide to Disability Rights Laws
Provides "an overview of ten Federal civil rights laws that ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities.

Job Accommodations Network
Provides free consulting services and information for job seekers and employees on disability-related employment questions and rights, accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act, state and local resources and more.

National Association of the Deaf (NAD): Tips and Information for Finding Jobs
Getting a job that you want involves a lot of searching, and the search is easier with preparation. To be prepared means having the following: creating a great resume and cover letter; getting strong recommendation letters; preparing for your interview; networking with people who can help you get jobs; and employment assistance options.

Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology in Post-Secondary Education (QIAT-PS) 
QIAT-PS is a resource for implementing assistive technology in postsecondary education. Its website contains information and resources for both institutions of higher education and postsecondary students with the goals of increasing technology self-advocacy skills successful integration of assistive technology in postsecondary settings. 

Self-Determination for Postsecondary Students
Explores how self-determination—the combined skills of self-awareness, self-advocacy, self-efficacy, decision-making, independent performance, self-evaluation and adjustment—can contribute to an individual’s ability to establish and achieve his or her own goals during and after higher education.

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
Explains the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities who are preparing to attend postsecondary schools. It also explains the obligations of a postsecondary school to provide academic adjustments, including auxiliary aids and services, to ensure the school does not discriminate on the basis of disability. From the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U. S. Department of Education.

ThinkCollege! Summary of High School/College Differences
This table highlights some of the important differences between high school and college. These may pose some challenges as students move into college. However, there are strategies that are being used across the country to assist students with intellectual disabilities to negotiate and overcome these potential issues. Those strategies are also listed.

Transition of Students with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for High School Educators
Provides information on the civil rights of students with disabilities regarding the admissions process, disability documentation and disability support services. Also identifies eight keys to success such as understanding your disability, accepting responsibility for your success, learning time management and computer skills and getting involved on campus.

U.S. Department of Justice Home Page for the Americans with Disabilities Act (pdf)
Contains legal information on disability rights law and employment as well as other technical assistance resources.

Contains resources for youth, job seekers, parents and professionals on disclosure, accommodations, self-determination, self-advocacy and more.

Youth, Disclosure and the Workplace
Web page from the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the U.S. Department of Labor with information on why, when, how, what and to whom to disclose a disability.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) web stie promoting equal opportunity for youth by teaching real world rights and responsibilities in the work place.