Letter to Parents: From the Director
Letter to Parents
From Josef Mogharreban, Director of DAC and Deputy ADA Coordinator
Congratulations to both you and your college student for reaching this milestone! Students with disabilities are thriving on campuses across the country, and we look forward to successfully partnering with your student here at WWU!
College is a formative time in most students’ lives. It is a time when students develop skills, make new friendships, are introduced to new ideas, and grow into their unique selves. For parents, though, launching a college student is as anxiety-producing as it is wonderful. This is especially true for the parents of disabled students.
For students with disabilities, it can feel like the chips are stacked against them, and this feeling is well-founded. For example, decades of research demonstrate clear differences in completion rates and educational attainment of disabled students compared to non-disabled peers. While attainment gaps for students with disabilities continue to narrow year after year, we still have much to do nationally to create academic environments that are truly built for everyone. At WWU we are committed to just that.
"Our goal is that all students become successful, self-aware adults and strong advocates for their own learning needs. We listen, we care, and work hard to develop partnerships with students navigating their academic careers. It is our belief that this will serve students well while at WWU and beyond."
K-12 versus Higher Education
As disabled students and their parents navigate the college experience, the accommodations process will look quite different than it did during the K-12 years. This change is partly due to the fact that the laws protecting your child in higher education vary from those laws protecting K-12 students.
- For example, in the K-12 setting, school personnel must engage parents and receive parental permission before moving forward on plans regarding their child’s education and accommodations by law.
- In contrast, in the college setting, disabled students are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Sect 504”) and Title III of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and its 2008 Amendments (ADA/AA). Importantly, under these laws, colleges and universities are not obligated to continue the same services provided in high school or adhere to the recommendations of an outside diagnostician.
- Universities also do not have a legal responsibility to seek parental permission or approval for providing reasonable accommodations determined through the interactive process between the student and the Disability Access Center.
While DAC strongly encourages open communication between students and parents, we understand that independent decision-making is critical in empowering students to learn about WWU and seek out the caring students, staff and faculty that await them. Although your advocacy for your student may look different in higher education, you can still support your student in meaningful and important ways. Because college represents a time of increasing independence, personal responsibility, decision-making, and control over many facets of one’s life, this is a time for parents to step in behind their student (not in front of them).
Tips for Parents
Parents should encourage their student in positive ways as these young adults pursue the services and supports needed to reach their academic goals. We hope the following tips will help you and your student navigate these new roles and responsibilities:
- Do not be offended if we speak directly to your student and follow your student’s lead in deciding if and when to invite you to join the conversation. Rest assured, you will be given the opportunity to add or clarify information.
- Help your college student realize that they are the authority on their own disability.
- Given your insider information, discuss with your student in advance what is most salient in their experience with disability in an educational setting. Formulating a list of questions or concerns ahead of time will help ensure your student’s agency in identifying questions of importance to them and also help ensure your broader questions are addressed.
- Again, self-advocacy is an important step and a learned skill in our journey toward independence! Our meeting is a wonderful and safe space to practice and hone these skills.
The Disability Access Center aims to foster holistic student development and center positive disability-identity formation. We advocate for access and work tirelessly to level the playing field of higher education for disabled students, including yours.
We look forward to meeting and working with your college student, and to welcome you in whatever capacity works best for your student. Again, congratulations to your college student, on their accomplishment, and to you for your support in assisting them to reach this point in their academic journey!