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Postsecondary Education for Young Adults with Disabilities: What Families Can Do

By Kelly D. Roberts and Robert A. Stodden

Postsecondary education is becoming more and more important to obtaining meaningful employment for individuals with disabilities. The most recent data indicate that only 15.6% of persons with disabilities with less than a high school diploma participate in the labor force. However, participation doubles to 30.2% for those who have completed high school, triples to 45.1% for those with some postsecondary education, and climbs to 50.3% for those with at least four years of college (Yelin & Katz, 1994).

For parents of teens and young adults with disabilities it’s necessary to start planning during high school – the earlier the better – for postsecondary education. While postsecondary education may seem a long time away, that time will go quickly. In order to start planning, we recommend families address the following considerations:

Parents should be aware that when their children are ready to exit high school and their eligibility for special education services is ending under IDEA 2004, a summary of their academic achievement and functional performance, including recommendations on how to assist them in meeting postsecondary goals, should be prepared. It’s also important to know that postsecondary education institutions are not like high school; disability service personnel make decisions based on the “reasonable accommodations” requirement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, section 504. Even if a request is made, it does not have to be provided unless it is deemed reasonable. So, start gathering information, exploring options, and planning for postsecondary success now!


Yelin, E. & Katz, P. (1994). Labor force trends of persons with and without disabilities. Monthly Labor Review, 117, 36-42.

Kelly D. Roberts is Assistant Professor, and Robert A. Stodden is Director, both with the Center on Disability Studies, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu. They can be reached at 808/956-9199 or and


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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Gaylord, V., Agosta, J., Barclay, J., Melda, K. & Stenhjem, P. (Eds.). (2006). Impact: Feature Issue on Parenting Teens and Young Adults with Disabilities 19(2). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration.]

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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