Rethinking college for students with intellectual disabilities

Jan. 10, 2015

This week, more than 40 members from the UCF Downtown committees discussed how a new program could make college fully accessible for students with intellectual disabilities.

Such a program is a cornerstone of UCF Downtown – but likely would start with a pilot program on the main campus in the coming academic year.

Thursday’s workshops were led by the Inclusive Education Committee (formerly the Students With Intellectual Disabilities Committee), which is looking at how UCF with its partners from Valencia College and Orange County Public Schools, along with parent advocates and community agencies, can create a first-of-its-kind program in Orlando for students with intellectual disabilities to attend college courses, live in university housing and immerse themselves in college life through student organizations and other social activities.

The committee is working with renowned advocates like Debra Hart (in the photo below), who leads Think College, a national organization dedicated to developing, expanding and improving inclusive higher education options for people with intellectual disability.

DebraHart_1

“You can’t go if you don’t know,” Hart told the UCF committee members Thursday. Creating an inclusive college program for students with intellectual disabilities provides these students, who are typically excluded from higher education, and their parents the choice to attend college and create a pathway to employment.

What’s incredible, Hart added, is how successful these students are when they can attend one of the 200-plus college programs around the nation for students with intellectual disabilities. More than 30 percent of these students held jobs, and nearly 90 percent were paid at or above minimum wage.

You can read more about UCF creating a new program in the Orlando Sentinel’s coverage of one of Thursday’s workshop.

And, you can watch a film that Think College put together that explores the growing movement to include students with intellectual disabilities in higher education.