Work-Based Learning

Work-based learning experiences can help students make career decisions, select courses of study, develop job skills, and network with potential employers. For students with disabilities, work-based learning experiences provide a unique opportunity to explore different, job-related accommodations, and to practice disclosing their disabilities and requesting accommodations from employers.

Educational institutions must make reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in any work-based learning opportunities they offer, including internships, cooperative education, job shadowing, service learning, and independent studies. Specific accommodations will vary according to a student's needs, the job site, and the job requirements.

Some students with disabilities use the same accommodations at work that they use in school (e.g., a student in a wheelchair will need an accessible workstation). For other students, new responsibilities and environments will create new challenges that require new accommodations. For example, students with learning disabilities may need to replace the note takers and outlines they use in school with requests for written memos or recorded instructions at work.

Steps to Facilitate Work-Based Learning Experiences for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities interested in work-based learning experiences need to

  • register with work-based learning programs;
  • participate in available orientations, seminars, workshops, and individual counseling sessions to enhance job search skills;
  • work with staff and disabled student services counselors to determine necessary accommodations.

Employers need to

  • update position announcements and notify work-based learning coordinators of new positions;
  • work in partnership with work-based learning centers to proactively develop strategies to encourage students with disabilities to participate;
  • educate their staff about disability-related issues.

Instructors need to

  • encourage students with disabilities to gain work experiences;
  • encourage employers to recruit students with disabilities for work opportunities.

Disabled student services or special education staff need to

  • encourage students to register and participate in work-based learning programs;
  • let students know how accommodations are provided in the workplace;
  • help work-based learning programs recruit and accommodate students with disabilities.

Related Links

Access to the Future: Preparing College Students with Disabilities for Careers (brochure)
It's Your Career: Work-based Learning Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (brochure)
Learn and Earn: Supporting Teens (brochure)
Learn and Earn: Tips for Teens (brochure)
Returning From Service: College and Careers for Veterans With Disabilities (brochure)
Returning from Service: College and Careers for Veterans with Disabilities (video)

Consult the AccessComputing Knowledge Base

The AccessComputing Knowledge Base contains Q&As, Case Studies, and Promising Practices.

Disability: