College is not out of the question for students with disabilities

Programs, like the one at NHTI, help students with disabilities pursue higher education

For people with disabilities who struggled through high school, college may not seem like an option. 

But you can get help at the college level in the form of a Reasonable Accommodation Plan (RAP). 

Several college campuses — including Concord’s Community College, NHTI — have a learning center or Academic Center for Excellence equipped with a Disabilities Services program.

The difference between an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a high-schooler and a Reasonable Accommodation Plan is that the student has more choices and responsibilities. In high school, the services are automatically provided, whereas in college — once the student provides documentation that services are needed — it is their responsibility to request these services.

At NHTI, the Academic Center for Excellence not only provides Disabilities Services, but also has a Math Lab where students can receive tutoring and a Writing Center where help is provided for any writing assignment including research papers and essays. This help is available to all students, with or without disabilities. 

The Disabilities Services program can provide separate testing accommodations and occasionally extend test times when needed. They are also able to generate audiobooks from chapters of the student’s textbooks and offer options to help a student study, as well as become more organized and focused. This addresses the fact that some students take longer to process things into their long-term memory. 

Students with a Reasonable Accommodation Plan meet with a disabilities specialist for a minimum of one hour each week to review progress and to determine if any changes are needed.

Beverly Boggess, the coordinator of the Disabilities Services at NHTI, said with the help of the Reasonable Accommodation Plan, a student with disabilities can have the same opportunities as anyone else.  She has seen many students move on to bachelor’s degree programs or make career connections on their own. The General Studies degree program, which is available to all students, can be useful for those that are unsure of what direction they are going in.  This program allows students to shift gears to find the right fit that matches their skills and talents as well as their interests.

Boggess said she knew a non-traditional student who had difficulty reading as well as a learning and attention deficit. After testing and establishing their RAP, the student enrolled in an English class. With the help of audiobooks — provided by Disabilities Services — the student gained confidence in their ability to handle reading assignments and the different technologies available to enable students to help themselves. Funds were applied for to develop text-to-voice software and other supports, which allowed the student go on to a bachelor’s degree program. 

Jesse D. Estes is a General Studies student at NHTI and worked on Stepping Stones as part of his internship with the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities. Estes lives in Concord.

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