A HISPANIC HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION EXPERIENCE: INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FOR THE TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO UNIVERSITY
Because of the transition requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004), for the past decades the number of students with special educational needs entering institutions of higher education has steadily increased. While this means that the path for societal inclusion is widened, it also means that universities and colleges need to ensure that they are well prepared to meet the challenges related to teaching diverse groups. Although most higher education institutions are aware of their responsibilities related to providing accommodations, it is left to the individual to deal with the rigors of their professional preparatory programs once the accommodation is provided.
Students with special needs transitioning or admitted to institutions of higher education encounter many situations that may impede the successful completion of their academic goals. For many years reasonable accommodation has been the tool used to level the ground to ensure their participation in the university context. Nonetheless, the term participation may signify in some instances, a very limited interaction of these students in the classroom, even when all accommodations have been provided. In addition to the IDEA federal (USA) regulations, in 2012 Puerto Rico passed Law # 250 titled Postsecondary Passport of Reasonable Accommodation. The purpose of this law is to establish a mechanism to facilitate students with special needs access to institutions of higher education in a manner that is equitable and responsive to their specific needs. This has forced academic authorities to give a refreshed look at how universities are dealing with accommodations and what additional considerations may need to be taken to ensure students with special needs have fair opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills that are necessary to enter the very competitive workforce of the 21st Century.
More than providing reasonable accommodation, universities need to show how individuals with a myriad of special educational needs can perform the tasks that are related to each professional development program. This presentation summarizes an ongoing action research at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus geared towards developing demonstrative modules for different preparatory programs to be used as part of their established curriculum to accommodate students with special needs. Central to this project, is the convergence of assistive technologies and job related digital technologies as a means for individuals with diverse capacities to perform non-traditional tasks related to these academic programs.