Going to College: Expanding Opportunities for People With Disabilities, edited by Elizabeth Evans Getzel and Paul Wehman. Baltimore: Brookes, 2005
This book is a comprehensive guide for students, parents, faculty, and disability services providers on the issues facing individuals with disabilities as they prepare for, transition to, enroll in, and graduate from a college or university. The book is an edited work, with sections on college planning and admission, creating a welcoming environment through design and implementation, applications for students with disabilities, and creating opportunities for employment.
The great strength of Going to College is in the comprehensive attention to detail on the part of the authors and editors. The book could be used as an introductory textbook for disability service providers as the authors discuss all the major topics in the field of disability services: legal issues, transition to college, reasonable accommodation, universal design, faculty development, and transition to employment. The comprehensive aspect of the book means that the sense of audience for the work as a whole is not clear. There are chapters that are clearly for students and parents, others that would be of interest to faculty, and others to disability service providers. This makes the book better for those who will keep it for reference or read selections than for those who want a cover-to-cover read.
One outstanding chapter is Colleen A. Thoma and Michael L. Wehmeyer's “Self Determination and the Transition to Postsecondary Education,” which is targeted at students and those who assist them with the college transition process—parents, teachers, and other interested adults. These authors provide a detailed discussion of the skills a student needs to be self-determined and how he or she might gain those skills. The discussion of working with professors acknowledges the student's possible reluctance to disclose their disability and what techniques the student could use to make that disclosure easier. Thoma and Wehmeyer use a case study of a student thinking through his college transition to illustrate the process and facilitate the readers' understanding through concrete examples. The information provided is accessible because it is clearly written and comprehensive and would serve as an excellent resource for those involved in the transition process.
Intellectual disabilities are often overlooked in discussions of disability in general and, more specifically, in conversations about people with disabilities going to college. In their chapter “Dual Enrollment as a Postsecondary Education Option for Students With Intellectual Disabilities,” Debra Hart, Karen Zimbrich, and David R. Parker discuss the different college options for students with intellectual disabilities. Although they mention programs that are fully separate from the main university program, they detail and advocate for a model of support for students with intellectual disabilities as they participate in academic classes and co-curricular activities side-by-side with their peers without disabilities. The authors' attitude that all students can benefit from the college curriculum is refreshing and an asset to the overall discussion of disability in higher education.
Although the discussion of intellectual disability is excellent, the broad diversity of disabilities are not adequately discussed. There are three chapters dedicated to the needs of individuals with a specific disability label: psychiatric, learning, and intellectual disabilities. Otherwise, the chapters are nonspecific, although the authors often select one type of disability for a case study. This haphazard handling of disability labels leaves readers wondering where the diversity of disabilities is and why the disability specific chapters were not inclusive of visible disabilities.
The detailed descriptions of the regulatory environment and common practices of disability services offices are useful to those who want to understand the details, such as new disability services staff and higher level university administrators. These chapters represent disability services as they commonly are on campus, a highly structured and legally compliant system that seeks to provide accommodations for students. These chapters in which authors report on the status quo are nicely balanced by the chapters on universal design and technology that push readers to think beyond a compliance mindset about disability in higher education. Sally S. Scott and Joan M. McGuire's “Implementing Universal Design for Instruction to Promote Inclusive College Teaching” and Sheryl Burgsahler's “The Role of Technology in Preparing for College and Careers” provide excellent resources for faculty and faculty development departments to think through ways that courses and technology environments can be created to be fundamentally accessible to all students, creating a minimal need for add-on accommodations.
One of the difficulties of working in the field of disability support in higher education is that there is no codified body of literature to point to and guide both theory and practice. Going to College is a good start towards building literature in this field. The heavy emphasis on legal, formal documentation of disability, and following established procedures for obtaining accommodations, is reflective of the field that has grown primarily in response to federal mandates, rather than from a civil rights commitment. The inclusion of chapters that push the normative assumptions about disability on campus, through the discussions of universal design and access to higher education for people labeled with developmental disabilities are an excellent addition to the book, and their inclusion both enhance the book's ability to stand through time as these ideas gain mainstream legitimacy and contribute to the gaining of such legitimacy for the ideas. Because most of the other books that exist on access to education for students with disabilities are written almost solely for the students, this book stands out in its broad potential audience. Going to College has the potential to stand as a significant contribution to the understanding of how people with disabilities can and do access higher education.