Every year for the past 17 years, PILR has been proud to host Disability Mentoring Day. It’s a day for local youth with disabilities and employers to get together and learn from each other. It shows the employers how much the youth have to offer and shows the youth how many wonderful jobs are open to them. Some of these employment opportunities require college education, which sparks an interest in the student to think about what they want to do after they graduate from high school.

Recently, there was an article on Disability scoop.com covering higher education such as college for youth with disabilities. It stated that “For the first time, students attending postsecondary programs spent more than half of their time in inclusive college classes during the 2017-2018 academic year. And among those who exited programs that year, 44 percent had paid employment within 90 days, up 4 percent over the previous year.” This was very exciting. The findings come from a report produced by the Think College National Coordinating Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

I decided to take a closer look. What is available in our area? What opportunities are given to our children that have disabilities? The results are encouraging and exciting!

I first looked into Hutchinson Community College. Their website shows they have many options for people with disabilities. They have an “Accessibility Services Policies” on their website and state “Hutchinson Community College encourages students to be as independent as possible on campus and to use those services which help maximize learning.” The Accessibility Services Office (ASO) is set up to help those with disabilities with testing, procedures, housing and support or service animals. HCC also has inclusive dorms for all students. HCC has an upfront inclusive approach to their rules and guidelines for all students.

Branching out from Hutchinson I looked at Dodge City Community College. Happily, they have many options as well. I was encouraged by how easy it was to find the section that related to students with disabilities. They have an inclusive stance for students stating “Dodge City Community College is dedicated to the belief that students with disabilities should have equal opportunity to develop and extend their skills and knowledge.  We strive to maintain a least-restrictive environment and provide appropriate support services necessary to ensure access to all of our educational programs.  We encourage you to communicate your needs and utilize all available resources.” They have the Student Achievement Recourse Center or SARC that is available for testing help, finding an appropriate interpreter, housing help and class assistance.

Pratt Community College has a Student Success Center that is available to help students with disabilities. PCC takes their information directly from the Department of Education. The SSS is available to help with testing and accommodation letters. PCC is a major supporter of PILR’s Advocacy day. This event is held annually. Youth with disabilities learn about their options as they transition out of high school into post-secondary education or the world of work.

In addition, I looked into a four year college. I started with Bethel College in North Newton. Although Bethel’s admission section for those with disabilities was smaller and harder to find, they do have one. The fact that they also state upfront that they are willing to look at and make changes to their policies for any student with disabilities is a big plus. Bethel states: “Bethel’s Center for Academic Development (CAD) provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with physical or learning disabilities (upon request) such as: designing appropriate accommodations, liaison with faculty, liaison with the registrar to reassign a classroom, help in getting proper identification for national services, and proctors or scribes for tests”.

I reached out to another 4 year college in the area, but I was unable to find any resource information for students with disabilities on their website and email requests for information were not returned. However four out of five colleges in our area show great forward thinking and advancement when it comes to integrated student life. That is an encouraging thing for Kansas parents and a marvelous achievement for Kansas students. Now achieving their dreams for a successful future is well within reach for children and young adults with and without disabilities alike.