Procedures For New SAR Students

New STudent Information

IEP/504 Plan students

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 Plans are the common use of accommodation and goal setting plans in primary and secondary educational settings under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Under these provisions, K-12 schools settings set up accommodations for students with disabilities with an Placement/Planning/Action Teams made up of school teachers, counselors and parents. Students are rarely involved in the planning of their accommodations and accommodations are automatic from year to year until graduation.

However, in the postsecondary institutional setting such as college, the planning and advocacy becomes your role and accommodations must be requested each semester. Postsecondary institutions follow Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as well as Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended in 2008 (ADAAA) as guidance for access and inclusion. 

Self-Identification is important as you enter college, otherwise you risk not receiving the support needed for academic success while in school. If you are on an IEP/504 Plan you should self-identify to the Student Accessibility Resources office to discuss your disability and accommodations that will remove barriers on the campus and in the classroom. Our department recommends that you begin the process directly after being admitted to the College to ensure that accommodations are in place for the upcoming semester.


Legal Differences

High School College
Services provided under IDEA or Section 504. Services provided under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and The Americans with Disabilities Act.
School district responsible for identifying and evaluating disability at no cost to student or family.

Student must self-identify and provide documentation of disability.

Student must pay costs of evaluation.

College is responsible for costs involved in providing accommodations and/or essential auxiliary aids; student needs based on documentation of disability.


Academic Environment

High School College

Special education teacher is liaison and buffer between student, other teachers, administrators and parents.

The decision to receive accommodations is made by educators and parents. Students have little or no choice

Student is responsible for self-advocacy. Student can choose not to seek services and accommodations and can choose to function independently.

Student must self-identify disability and request services from college.

Student is required to provide recent documentation (less than 3 years old) of disability. Documentation must clearly support requested accommodations.

Help is readily available.

Student must independently seek help using effective communication skills.

Services must be requested well in advance (for example, you cannot wait until the day of a test to ask for accommodations).

Student is labeled as special education student. Student is NOT labeled or serviced separately from other students.
Student is possibly served separately from other students.

Other students and faculty members will not know about the student’s disability.

Faculty members are only notified of required accommodations.

Personnel talk freely with parent about student progress and planning.

Personnel cannot discuss student without student’s written permission.

how to apply for services

Services and support are free to GCSC students and are used to remove barriers at our institution. You should apply for services after receiving notification of acceptance to the College. To apply, you'll need to follow these steps:

  1. Apply and receive confirmation of acceptance to Gulf Coast State College.
  2. Contact Student Accessibility Resources at (850) 747-3243 or to set up an appointment for new accommodations.
  3. Meet with a Student Accessibility Resources staff member during scheduled appointment time to go over accommodation request and fill out preliminary paperwork. You should bring any and all documentation/paperwork related to your disability to this appointment.
  4. Schedule a follow-up appointment to go over accommodation plan; sign and agree to all terms of accommodation plan. You should allow approximately two weeks for accommodations to be in place after request.
  5. Bring a copy of your Faculty Notification Letter to each professor and set up a time to speak with them about your needs. You may also email the letter to your professors if your classes are online.
  6. Schedule an appointment each semester to re-enroll in Student Accessibility Resources.

For more information on services for students with disabilities, documentation guidelines and resources, please see the SAR Student Handbook or our Forms page.


Talk to Your Professors

Although there are more students with disabilities in postsecondary education today than ever before, it is very possible that there are situations in which College instructors have had little experience with students with disabilities. Also, you could have difficulty advocating for yourself to express your needs.

SAR recommends the following strategies to use when talking to your professors for the first time about your disability and need for accommodations:

  • Be prepared! Practice what you are going to say and be open about your needs.
  • Don't procrastinate! Make an appointment to talk with your instructor(s) as soon as you realize that you may need accommodations. Adjustments and accommodations need to be planned as early as possible, especially when it involves testing.
  • Take it with you! Bring your Faculty Notification Letter from SAR. Remember the Faculty Notification Letter verifies your need for accommodations and your registration with SAR. You must request these letters in order to receive accommodations.
  • Problems? When problems arise, contact the Assistant Coordinator or Coordinator of SAR as soon as possible. In most situations, you and the instructor will work out the provision of accommodations in a way that is agreeable to all parties involved. If you have difficulties working this out, contact SAR.

10 Tips for Self-Advocacy

  1. Know and understand your rights and responsibilities.
  2. Ask questions whenever you need clarification.
  3. Repeat a question until it is satisfactorily answered.
  4. Keep a "paper trail" of all written communication regarding your education. It is appropriate to request copies of all records and documentation.
  5. Remember that you are an equal partner in your education.
  6. Let people know that you intend to work to resolve issues.
  7. Learn all you can about your disability including your needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  8. Know what resources are available and use them.
  9. Know who the key people are. Find the right person with whom to talk, and try all avenues.
  10. Praise and thank people when appropriate.  


General Rule

The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates disclosure of disability documentation and records maintained by SAR. SAR requires prior written consent by the student before SAR may release disability documentation or records to any third party.

Exception to the Rule

Under FERPA, SAR is permitted to release information to any school official who has a "legitimate educational interest."

What Does this Mean?

Professors or other school officials, such as tutors, may request information about the impact of your disability on your ability to learn. SAR will only share information with other school officials when appropriate and will carefully balance a your request for confidentiality and the request for additional, relevant information. SAR seeks to preserve your wish to keep their disability information and status confidential.

Other Students’ Rights under FERPA

FERPA also allows students to inspect and review their files maintained by SAR. Students have the right to challenge any information contained in the files that is incorrect or misleading and request an amendment to this misinformation.