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Students with learning disabilities

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Know your rights

Particularly if you are an adult returner to education, it can seem very daunting to enlist your subject tutor's support in what you may still perceive as an embarrassing problem. However, some higher education institutions have a specific facility for learning support and tutors are there not to pass on information, but specifically to help you learn how to learn.

Remember also that depending on the legislative position of your country, the institution may be legally bound to provide help for students with disabilities.

In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990) guarantees the civil rights of the disabled, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) requires educational institutions to provide reasonable modifications in the form of accommodations and auxiliary aids. These might include more time to complete examinations, the use of note takers, etc. There is no requirement to design special programmes (as with schools) and accommodations need to be made on an individual basis. It is also the responsibility of the student to "self-identify" and provide the necessary documentation proving the disability, for example a testing report and copy of the Individualized Education Program and Individualized Transition Plan.

In the UK, dyslexia is covered by the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, which came into force for schools and colleges in September 2002, requiring institutions to make "reasonable adjustments" to accommodate students with disabilities.