A great resource for information about online post-secondary education opportunities (including those for students with autism or other special needs) recently came to our attention, and we want to pass it along. AccreditedOnlineColleges.org (AoC.org), an easy to use, credible source for information about accredited online colleges, is a one-stop clearinghouse of information that students could not quickly access on the internet prior to the website’s release in 2013.
According to AoC.org website, “There are now nearly 1000 accredited colleges offering online programs. We live in a day and age where going to college online is a real alternative. Many times, it’s even more affordable and convenient, and at the end of the day, you’ll still receive the same education as your campus peers.” The organization focused on creating intuitive and useful school directories, like their Nursing Degree page or Online Colleges in Texas writeup.
One of the core functions of AoC.org is to allow students to search for the perfect online program using filter like: by subject, degree level, or school type. The guides they created utilized legitimate research sources for all content. Sources included: Ed.gov, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator, ED Data Inventory, and actual college websites. Research that couldn’t be sourced back to a real, authoritative source, was not used.
Online College Resources for Students with Disabilities
AccreditedOnlineColleges.org recently published the 2016 College Resources for Students with Disabilities. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in the late 90’s, many social barriers have been removed or reduced, yet there is still a ways to go. In the course of their research, AoC found that most student with disabilities were not fully aware of educational rights, grants, and education resources that were available for them.
To fill the gap in available information, they created a user-friendly guide that explores legal provisions as well as a comprehensive listing of scholarships and grants designed specifically to support the higher education pursuits of autistic and other special needs children. Their goal was to publish a guide that would not only answer common questions, but would also allow those living with disabilities the opportunity to leverage educational benefits and feel empowered to continue to lead fulfilling lives.
The new guide has been recognized as a viable resource by the State of Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council and Resources for Independent Living, which are already using and referencing the guide.
Features of the Guide for Online Colleges & Disabilities
The Guide for Online Colleges & Disabilities includes information about:
- Your Rights Under the Law – while most schools long ago enacted their own non-discrimination policies, meant to protect the rights of people of all colors and creeds, they historically did less to actually accommodate those who need special considerations. Where those policies fell short, the federal government passed two key laws to ensure that students with physical and cognitive disabilities are afforded the same opportunities as their fellow classmates, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA.) The Guide goes nto extensive details about these laws, and your rights and protections provided by them.
- Choosing the Right Program – although all schools are required by law to accommodate those with special needs, their ability to effectively do so may vary. According to the U.S. Department of Education, a post-secondary institution “does not have to make adjustments that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program, or activity, or that would result in an undue financial or administrative burden.” Likewise, smaller, less-well-funded schools might not have the financial means to provide the assisted services or adaptive equipment needed.
- Defining and Documenting Disabilities – the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (and its enforcing agencies) defined what a disability is in regards to the law, as well as established guidelines for documenting them in order to be protected under its provisions. Most colleges and universities follow these same documentation standards when complying with the ADA on their campuses and in their programs.
- Reasonable Accommodations – under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools must provide reasonable accommodations as not to discriminate against any student with a disability from participating in their programs. Those accommodations can vary greatly depending on the student’s impairment, as well as the facility, program needs, and available technologies. However, all schools are prepared to assist their disabled students and have a number of programs and measures in place.
- Distance Education – eliminates many of the challenges faced by disabled students when attending college. Often, in a home-based setting, the reasonable accommodations are already built into the delivery of the program. As with any coursework, there will still be obstacles, but students may find online programs to be a more attractive option than campus-based classes, depending on their goals.
- Disability Office Directory – in keeping with their mission to provide the best resources to prospective students, AoC has compiled an extensive directory of school disability offices, by state, to aid in your search.
- Scholarship Opportunities – a list of as many as 250 scholarships available to disabled students which can be used to offset the costs of tuition, fees, and supplies.
The entire guide can be accessed at www.accreditedonlinecolleges.org/resources/accredited-online-colleges-and-disability-education/.