Members show support for college-bound students with disabilities with new legislation

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), as well as U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Todd Young (R-IN), would offer support services to students with disabilities who are transitioning from high school to college.

“As a parent of a child with a learning disability, I understand firsthand the challenges of ensuring they receive quality education,” Rep. Bucshon said. “We must work to eliminate the roadblocks preventing students with disabilities from pursuing higher education, especially as we continue to deal with the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“Everyone, no matter their ability, should have access to higher education and the opportunity for a better life,” added Rep. McMorris Rodgers. “But far too often, people with disabilities struggle to access the services and accommodations they need to succeed in college.”

The lawmakers on July 29 signed on as original cosponsors of the Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower (RISE) Act, H.R. 4786/S. 2550, with bill sponsors U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). The legislation would allow college students to use existing documentation, such as a 504 plan or an individualized education program, when seeking accommodations on a college campus, according to a bill summary provided by the members.

“Learning disabilities like dyslexia are lifelong conditions. It makes no sense to require families to reprove something that is a permanent part of someone’s neurobiology,” Sen. Cassidy said. “This bill removes barriers to ensure college students access the resources they need to learn and thrive.”

If enacted, the legislation also would authorize an increase in funding for the National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities, a technical assistance center that disseminates information to students and families about the process for receiving accommodations in higher education, and provides college and university faculty with best practices for supporting students with disabilities.

“All Hoosiers deserve opportunities to access higher education. Now more than ever, we should be removing barriers and allowing individuals to attain skills necessary to enter the workforce,” said Sen. Young. “This bill is a smart step to streamline the college enrollment process for people with disabilities, which will help equip students to advance their careers.”

The measure is supported by numerous organizations, including the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, among many others.