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Pathway 2: Postsecondary Students and Young Adults

Congratulations, you started college. If you have not previously, now is the time to get serious about picking your goals and planning to get there. Your education and the expansion of your network will be two of the strongest tools that you ever have to support your dream.

Disability Support Services

Even if you did not receive support for your disability in high school, you may end up seeking support in college because your needs have changed or because of the new environment and new reality.

While you are in school, doing well in your classes is pretty much your job. Unless you set up special situations and do a lot of paperwork, your parents or guardians will not have access to your grades, assignments, health or other information. You will want to share what will help you to move forward but need to understand that you are much more independent now. Thus, to ensure you succeed and earn your degree or your certificate, you personally need to make sure you are receiving the support you need to thrive in and out of the classroom.

Most universities have a disability support office whose purpose is to help with a student’s academic success. Some of them also may offer help with employment searches targeted specifically for students with disabilities. They will be able to help you get what you need, but as a university student, you need to start your support process yourself.

Whether in person or taking an online course, reach out to the university’s disability support office. Professors are not required to provide accommodations to students with disabilities unless they receive an accommodation request letter. If you are having trouble finding information about your university’s disability support office, contact the school’s student services office. Many universities have integrated some of their disability support services into their academic support offices, particularly for students with learning disabilities. As such, it is often a good idea to reach out to these offices. If you are attending a school in the California State University (CSU) system, this website can connect you directly to your school’s disability services office: www2.calstate.edu/attend/student-services/Pages/service-for-students-with-disabilities.aspx.

Once you have the accommodations needed for classes, reach out to your university’s career center. Career centers can provide help with resume writing, career counseling, mock interviews, and job search resources, such as job fairs and networking events. The CSU system maintains a comprehensive website that will connect you directly with your school’s career counseling services office: www2.calstate.edu/attend/student-services/career-services.

Hopefully, your accommodation process with your university will be collaborative, with everyone coming together for your success. If, however, you find you need help advocating for your needs at your university, you might consider contacting:

  • California Council of the Blind: The council exists to advance the interests and protect the independence of blind and low-vision Californians. This membership-based organization has local branches in Glendale/Burbank, Greater Lakewood, Greater Long Beach, Greater Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, and San Gabriel Valley. Please see Appendix C for contact information for each of these chapters.
  • Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC): Since the 1970s, DRLC has been an advocacy nonprofit focused on advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities and addressing other legal barriers impacting the disability community. By working on both individual and class action court cases, DRLC challenges discrimination and advances change.
  • Learning Rights Law Center: With a special focus on protecting equal access to education, Learning Rights Law Center supports students with disabilities, their families and their communities. They also provide free or low-cost legal representation when needed to ensure educational equity and help underserved families in Los Angeles.
  • National Center for College Students with Disabilities: Started with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education, this national center provides key technical assistance on higher education and disability issues as well as maintaining a resource clearinghouse.
  • Public Counsel: Part of the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, Public Counsel’s Children’s Rights Project supports and protects low-income children, older youth and their families across a wide range of legal matters. Practice Areas include specialized training for attorneys, supporting foster care youth, defending education rights, managing guardianship clinics, and advocacy for children with developmental disabilities.
  • Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK): TASK is a nonprofit organization that supports children with disabilities up to age 21 and their families. TASK supports include special education support, assistive technology services and direct support for parents of students with disabilities. TASK operates a PTI that directly supports families in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and Ventura counties. TASK provides support and advocacy for parents in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

California Department of Rehabilitation

If you did not connect with DOR in high school, now is the time to do so. DOR will ask you to set a job goal and provide services to help you get there. This could include help with accommodations, paying for a college education, creating a career development plan, job exploration, skills and self-advocacy training, and opportunities for job experience.

To be eligible for these services as a student, you must be enrolled in a school, between the ages of 16–21 and:

  1. Have a 504 plan or an IEP or be eligible for one.
  2. Have a disability.
  3. Be regarded by others as having a disability.

If you think this fits for you, complete a Student Service Plan Request (dor.ca.gov/Content/DorIncludes/documents/Forms/DR203-DOR-Student-Services-Request.pdf) and forward it to your local DOR Office. You can locate that office at www.dor.ca.gov/ Home/FindAnOffice by inputting your ZIP Code or looking at our list of DOR offices in Appendix A. Per COVID-19 guidance, the first step is to contact your local office by phone.

Assistive Technology

DOR is a good place to begin if you need assistive technology accommodations for a class or job. There are other organizations that can help you obtain accommodations as well. Below is a list of some of them. Additional resources are available in Appendix I, including captioning services and ASL interpreters.

  • Braille Institute of America: A nonprofit organization dedicated to meeting the unique needs of people with vision loss, the Braille Institute provides a range of free programs, services and learning experiences to thousands of students. The Institute has served more than 37,000 people and has locations throughout Southern California. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Braille Institute has switched to an all online service model. More information is available on their website: brailleinstitute.org/coronavirus.
  • California Council of the Blind: The council exists to advance the interests and protect the independence of blind and low-vision Californians. This membership-based organization has local branches in Glendale/Burbank, Greater Lakewood, Greater Long Beach, Greater Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, and San Gabriel Valley. Please see Appendix C for contact information for each of these chapters.
  • Center for Applied Rehabilitation Technology (CART) Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center: CART advances independent living for youth and adults with physical disabilities by connecting them with assistive technology, which can be a game changer to help people with disabilities better integrated into their communities and enter the workforce. Priority areas for CART include seating and mobility devices, AAC systems, software or hardware adaptations, EADLs, worksite evaluations as well as model homes that integrate assistive technology solutions. Services are eligible for individuals with physical disabilities as well as for people with multiple disabilities.
  • Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP): DDTP, operated by the California Public Utilities Commission, ensures that Californians who are deaf or hard of hearing can have access to telecommunications technologies. DDTP is composed of CRS, which provides telephone relay support, and CTAP, which provides accessories for qualified individuals. Relay services are available in both English and Spanish. You can learn more about CRS on their website: https://ddtp.cpuc.ca.gov/default1.aspx?id=1482. To learn more about CTAP or apply for services, please visit: https://californiaphones.org/apply-now.
  • The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center: Based out of the University of Washington-Seattle, DO-IT is a global program looking at the intersection of education, technology and disability. The Center works to increase the success of college students with disabilities, advance universal design principles, distribute information virtually and distribute a wide range of K-12 educational resources.
  • EmpowerTech: EmpowerTech is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that helps people with physical and developmental disabilities use assistive technology to live their lives, integrate into their communities and succeed at their jobs. EmpowerTech matches individual needs to state-of-the-art software and the latest hardware solutions.
  • Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT): Funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), PEAT builds collaboration and cooperation around ensuring the full accessibility of emerging technologies. These technologies help employers full embrace and capitalize on the knowledge, skills and insights of employees with disabilities. PEAT offers employer tools, resources on apprenticeship and working on key issues around the future of work.
  • Team of Advocates for Special Kids (TASK): TASK is a nonprofit organization that supports children with disabilities up to age 21 and their families. TASK supports include special education support, assistive technology services and direct support for parents of students with disabilities. TASK operates a PTI that directly supports families in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and Ventura counties. TASK provides support and advocacy for parents in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

American Job Centers of California

AJCC can provide services in support of your goal, including skills assessments, job placement assistance, workshops on resume development, interview skills, and networking, job fairs, and recruitment events. It is important to create a good first impression with potential employers.

Thus, if you do not have a circle of help already, it is very important to start working with DOR and AJCC to make sure your resume and cover letters, as well as your LinkedIn profile and other job applications, are as good as possible before you start sending around your materials. Find your local AJCC by inputting your ZIP Code at www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp /AmericanJobCenters/find-american-job-centers.aspx. There are a fair number of documents required to successfully access an AJCC, and we have gathered them together in Appendix E.

Note: AJCCs are subject to Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which outlines the nondiscrimination requirements of AJCCs. If you need additional resources or your question cannot be answered locally, please seek further information from the Civil Rights Center at the U.S. Department of Labor(CivilRightsCenter@dol.gov / (202) 693-6500).

Additional Resources for Veterans

If you are entering college as a veteran who has acquired a disability over the course of service, a grateful nation offers you our thanks. Additional resources are available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), nonprofit groups, and others.

The VA runs the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) system, which helps veterans with service-connected disabilities find employment. There are five different tracks offered by the VA, depending upon the outcome that you are looking for:

  1. The Re-Employment Track helps you to regain a job you had before you enlisted in the military.
  2. The Rapid Access to Employment Track provides job search support and counseling to veterans.
  3. The Self-Employment Track helps you to establish your own business.
  4. The Employment Through Long-Term Services Track provides skills retraining for a new career.
  5. The Independent Living Track helps you to obtain services that you need for daily living assistance.

To learn more about each of these tracks, please visit the VA website: www.va.gov/careers-employment/vocational-rehabilitaemtion/programs.

In addition, certain campuses also have VetSuccess on Campus offices, where counselors help to connect you to veteran’s benefits, including VR&E. Below are the VetSuccess on Campus offices in Los Angeles County:

Certain nonprofits also provide services that cater specifically to the needs of veterans, including:

Please remember that while these resources specifically target veterans, almost every disability service organization is happy to assist those who served our country.

Internship and Mentorship Programs

Local businesses and nonprofits sometimes offer internship and mentorship programs targeted at college-aged people with disabilities. These are invaluable ways to gain experience, skills, and mentors who will guide you. Below is a list of local and national organizations offering those programs:

You may find additional advice on career development as a college student with a disability at Learn How to Become and postings from other organizations on Idealist and LinkedIn.

Independent Living Centers

If you have access to the services of an independent living center, they also can provide help for you in terms of direct job-hunting services or advocacy for your needs. Reach out to the Independent Living Centers of Southern California (ILCSC) to learn what assistance you might be able to receive.

Learning More About Navigating Your Own Disability

You also may find as you go through this process that you want to meet folks with similar disabilities to your own, for mentorship, strategies, resources, and friendship. Appendix D provides a great list of disability-specific organizations.

For additional resources that may be relevant, check 211 for government resources provided in Los Angeles County.

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