KU Center for Research on Learning

KU Center for Research on Learning



Individual Accommodations Model


About the Project


Participation in postsecondary education is one of the contributors to a person’s quality of life (USDE/NCES, 1997). Adults with disabilities confront significant difficulties in attaining and maintaining their desired quality of life (Halpern, 1993). Despite legislation requiring postsecondary settings to accommodate persons with disabilities, longitudinal and follow-up studies consistently show that disproportionately fewer students with disabilities receive postsecondary experiences than students without disabilities. Access is not the only problem. Research also consistently shows that students with disabilities are less likely to matriculate or attain suitable employment with a degree or vocational certificate.

Significant advancements have been made in our understanding and use of accommodations for students with disabilities. Dunn, Brown, McClain and Westman (1994) have provided theoretical, research-based models that can help postsecondary staff match the diversity of learners’ needs with appropriate accommodations. The Individual Accommodations Model (IAM) was developed from their models and has demonstrated its effectiveness as a programmatic, learner-based approach to address barriers associated with the recruitment, enrollment, advisement, and instruction of students. A uniqueness of these approaches is that accommodations are matched to learners’ needs, strengths, and goals, not to the disability.

Staff and students from community college and vocational-technical school settings in California, Kansas and Minnesota were directly participating in the project activities. The four years of project activities were organized into five phases: 1) develop collaborative relationships with stakeholders, 1) development of IAM involving nine colleges, 3) field test in development sites, 4) revision and replication with nine new sites, and 5) dissemination. Postsecondary staff, consultants, and learners were involved in each phase to ensure that Individual Accommodations Model fit with the needs of learners and staff and can be replicated in other settings (e.g., four year colleges and universities, adult education programs, and literacy programs). These products were included in the IAM: a) a policy handbook for staff regarding legal rights and responsibilities of both students and the institution; b) a staff handbook on procedures, materials, and resources that will guide the accommodation of students; c) a student handbook on their rights, responsibilities, and on using accommodations to reach their goals; and d) staff development materials and resources that supported replication of the Individual Accommodations Model in other postsecondary settings.