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Center wins grant to help college students with disabilities

Thursday, October 09, 2014

LAWRENCE — The Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTC/IL) at the University of Kansas received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to help community college students with disabilities request the Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations they need to succeed in their postsecondary experiences.

Glen W. White, director of RTC/IL, and Jean Ann Summers, research director, will lead the Access to Success project, which focuses on students with sensory, physical and learning disabilities who are first-time enrollees at four community colleges in Kansas.

“There is a strong need to increase success for students with disabilities in postsecondary education,” Summers said.

Research indicates that for people with disabilities, completing postsecondary education increases the likelihood that they will be employed. However, while 31 percent of students with disabilities enroll in some post-secondary education (two years or less), only 12.5 percent complete a degree.

Access to Success will involve one urban institution, Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, and three community colleges in the southeast region of the state, including Allen County, Neosho County and Fort Scott.

The new study will build on the recently completed Accommodations Training Technology (ATT) project that White and Summers conducted at three universities, including KU, Kansas State University and Haskell Indian Nations University.  Pilot testing of the ATT, which included an online course, showed that its components can be used to teach students with disabilities self-advocacy skills to request ADA accommodations, such as extended test times and the use of note-takers.

“Community colleges can provide an ideal partnership for this research because they have higher rates of students with disabilities and limited resources available to support those students,” White said. “We intend to investigate whether acquisition of these skills results in more successful long-term outcomes, including higher academic scores and completion of coursework.”

The RTC/IL was established in 1980 to increase the independence of people with disabilities. It is one of 14 centers and more than 150 programs at KU’s Life Span Institute. 

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