One State's Initiative to Increase Access to Higher Education for People With Intellectual Disabilities


Correspondence: Martha Mock, University of Rochester, School of Education, P.O. Box 270425, Rochester, NY 14627-0425, USA. Tel: +1 585 766 7374; Fax: +1 585 473 7598; E-mail:


This article focuses on a state-based initiative to engage youth with intellectual disabilities (ID), their families, universities, schools, agencies, and funders in improving access to inclusive postsecondary education (PSE). As opportunities in higher education for students with ID continue to increase across United States, there are differing interpretations of federal and local policies that guide PSE initiatives. Regional interpretations of vocational and educational policies affect the services and supports students receive. During four regionally based summits in one U.S. state, stakeholders participated in a qualitative study to explore statewide policies, practices, and beliefs about access to higher education for students with ID. Participants discussed how to increase opportunities throughout the state—particularly how to address existing service, support, and attitudinal barriers, and determine options that currently exist for students. Using a qualitative approach, common themes among stakeholders were identified, such as improving access to information for families, enhancing collaborations with agencies and schools, and advocating for access to college courses and appropriate academic supports. Results indicate that throughout the state, tension exists between local and state level policy implementation. Inconsistent interpretation and implementation have led to more restrictive, less inclusive college-based options.