Massachusetts students with Autism can now attend college, thanks to a new law that provides support and accommodations. The newly signed law by Governor Baker, passed unanimously late last month, requires all public & private colleges & universities in Massachusetts to allow access and accommodation for students with Autism and significant intellectual disabilities.
The law will support autistic students in Massachusetts, who have long been denied access to higher education due to their inability to pass college entrance exams. Students with disabilities are often not given the proper support and accommodations in high school and, as a result, struggle to pass the state MCAS exam or gain college admission.
Some of these students wind up in adult special education programs, while others drop out of school entirely and are left without any prospects for further education or employment.
This new law will ensure that autistic students in Massachusetts have the same opportunities as their peers to attend college and pursue their dreams. It is a much-needed step in the right direction and one that other states should follow. It will provide great opportunities to those with intellectual disabilities who want to pursue their education and career goals.
According to Julia Landau, director of the Disability Education Justice Initiative at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, the new law is a “joyous and historic milestone” because it will tear down the barriers that have long prevented people with intellectual disabilities from pursuing higher education.
She says that the milestone is not just for those with intellectual disabilities but also for their families and caregivers who have long advocated for their right to an education.
With expanded access to higher education, people with intellectual disabilities can transition into higher education with flexible options for meeting their college admission requirements. Additionally, each campus is allowed to have its acceptance criteria which should not involve any additional fees for these students. As for the funds to support these students with disabilities, the legislation has set aside $4000,000 for colleges to create or enhance programs and services, including hiring special education staff, providing specialized training, and ensuring accessibility to learning materials.
Previously, It had been estimated that there are over 3,000 students in Massachusetts with serious intellectual disabilities and Autism. Out of these, less than 10 percent go to college. But with this new law, that number is expected to rise significantly in the coming years. This will provide greater opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to pursue their goals and dreams and lead more independent and fulfilling lives. One of the law’s key aims is to increase college attendance rates for students with intellectual disabilities to at least 20 percent by 2025.
The new law is a welcome development and will undoubtedly go a long way in improving access to higher education for autistic students in Massachusetts. It is also a hopeful sign for other states, which should follow suit and pass similar legislation to provide support and accommodations for their students with intellectual disabilities.
What do you think of this new law? Do you think it will make a difference for autistic students in Massachusetts?