In today’s economy, the opportunity to attend college or get a job is more important than ever. But there are big challenges for individuals with learning and attention issues, including those with disabilities. Young adults with learning disabilities (LD) have fallen behind. They have lower rates of both college attendance and employment.
To make the promise of college and career a reality, something needs to change. Colleges must welcome and support all students. Employers must hire more workers with disabilities. They must give them the tools to succeed. And individuals must feel empowered to talk openly about their challenges and needs.
“Every individual with learning and attention issues must have the opportunity to obtain postsecondary education or enter the workforce.”
Fewer Legal Protections Exist After High School
It’s important to recognize that there are fewer legal protections for students with disabilities after high school. Our nation’s special education law is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA gives eligible students with disabilities the right to special education services. But IDEA only applies until graduation. After a student leaves high school, IDEA doesn’t offer any services.
For adults with disabilities, there are two protective laws—the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Together these laws protect people with disabilities from discrimination and give them the right to reasonable accommodations at work and school.
Stigma and a Lack of Information Hold Back Many
The stigma of having a disability is a widespread problem. As a result, many young adults don’t take advantage of the protections they’re entitled to. According to our report, The State of Learning Disabilities 2014:
- Only 17 percent of young adults with LD receive accommodations in college, compared to 94 percent in high school.
- Only 19 percent of young adults with LD said their employers knew of their disability.
- Only 5 percent of young adults with LD received accommodations in the workplace.
Lack of information about rights and services holds back many. Studies have shown the following:
- Students with learning and attention issues are less likely to receive guidance from teachers and counselors about how to prepare for college.
- Two-thirds of adults with LD had either never heard of the ADA or weren’t confident enough to use it to get accommodations.
NCLD Supports Expanded College and Career Opportunities
As a society, we must expand college and career opportunities for individuals with learning and attention issues. Here are the policies we advocate for:
- Central Information for College Disability Services
Students should have a center for information about college disability services. This center should also provide training and professional development to college educators on the best ways to serve diverse learners. Federal funding should support this center.
- Expanded College Services and Support
Colleges should expand services and support for students with learning and attention issues. Specific services should be available for students with disabilities such as dyslexia and ADHD. No student should drop out of college because of a lack of services.
- Accommodations in the Workplace
Under the ADA, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. The law must be enforced. The government should work with employers to find the best ways to hire and support more workers with disabilities.
- Job Training for Workers With Disabilities
Both federal and state governments have programs for job training and career education. These programs should be designed to ensure they serve workers with disabilities.
- Programs and Incentives to Reduce Stigma
At every level, colleges and employers should encourage people to exercise their rights. We need specific programs and incentives to reduce the stigma of having a learning or attention issue, or a disability.