Information for Parents

Students who have been served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) while in elementary or secondary school often harbor some misconceptions about a university's responsibilities to persons with disabilities and the range of services a post-secondary institution is required to provide. Though post-secondary institutions such as MSU do have a legal responsibility (under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act) to make their programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities, the broad mandated responsibilities that elementary and secondary schools incur under the IDEA don't apply to post-secondary institutions.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is an "entitlement" law intended to guarantee persons with disabilities a free and appropriate primary and secondary education that allows for achievement. Within this educational framework, funding is mandated to identify children with significant problems and provide them with appropriate services that facilitate successful learning. Aggressive measures, including the substantial alteration of academic course requirements, are often used to assure the success of students in special education programs.

In contrast, section 504 and the ADA are "non-discrimination" statutes that are based on a civil rights model. They aren't entitlement laws, and they don't guarantee successful learning or mandate the creation of special programs for persons with disabilities. Instead, section 504 and the ADA guarantee that the simple presence of a disability cannot be used as the basis for denying an otherwise qualified student equal "access" to the same programs, services and facilities available to others. Simply stated, the goal of section 504 and the ADA is to remove barriers and to guarantee reasonable accommodations so that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to participate at the level enjoyed by the average person.

The parent (or legal guardian) of a primary or secondary school pupil with a disability is an essential participant in school decisions about that child's disability-related needs. When that child enters the university, however, the parent no longer participates directly in the institution's decision-making process. The parent may continue to offer the student (or prospective student) advice and support, but the student becomes solely responsible for communicating with university personnel about disability-related matters.

Access Services (AS) staff are aware of the difficulty of this role change and welcome the opportunity to offer advice and general policy information to the parents of students with disabilities; however, the parent is not recognized by AS as a surrogate for the student in matters related to the student's disability accommodations and services. In accordance with this perspective, AS has established the following limits on parental involvement.

  • Make sure your student is knowledgeable about all of the crucial information of his/her disability.
  • Take time prepping your student in advance on the issues that you think need to be discussed.
  • Make a list of topics you would discuss if you were with the student during their accommodation meeting.
  • Understand and acknowledge your student is solely responsible for all communications with AS.
  • Understand AS cannot discuss anything with you pertaining to your student without the students written approval.