After High School Options

For all young adults, the transition from high school to the adult world of employment, postsecondary education, and more independent living is full of uncertainty and challenges. For young adults with disabilities, there are often many additional questions and challenges. On this page we offer information concerning some of the questions you may be facing, including:
  • What is the difference between entitlement and eligibility?
  • How will college work for me?
  • What can I do if I don't go to college?

Entitlement vs. Eligibility

It is important for parents and young adults to understand the difference between "eligibility" and "entitlement" programs. The law (IDEA) requires that students identified as needing special education services must be provided a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), as defined in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students receiving special education services are entitled to receive these services until the year they exit high school. Once students are no longer receiving FAPE, they are no longer entitled to these services. See more on the Special Education pages.
When young people with disabilities leave public school, their entitlement to special education and related services ends, and access to adult services depends on eligibility. When an individual with a disability applies for services or funding from an adult service agency, he will need to prove he meets the eligibility requirements by providing documentation of his disability. These services might include continued education, employment training, employment, independent living services, transportation, home health aides, and sometimes recreation. These programs operate under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law requires that applicants meet criteria in order to be eligible for adult services. If the individual meets the requirements for an adult program or service, he is then eligible or qualified for the services, but not entitled them. Unfortunately, being eligible doesn’t always mean that services will be available. A person may be eligible for the program, but not receive the service because of staffing, capacity, or funding shortfalls.

Post High School Options

There are so many post-high school options for young adults with disabilities to explore, including college, vocational rehabilitation, postsecondary educational training, and employment.
College offers an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to continue their education and earn tangible evidence of education such as a certificate or degree. If you’re applying to colleges, you may find it helpful to contact the center for disability services at the schools you’re considering. To read more about it and find helpful resources, see the To College page.
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a nationwide federal-state program that assists eligible people with disabilities to define suitable employment, set employment goals, and become employed. VR programs offer career counseling, and can help you assess your abilities, skills, and employment interests. They can also help you find appropriate internships or training programs. There are many postsecondary educational and training options available to young adults with disabilities. The best option for you will depend in large part on the nature and severity of your disability, and on your particular vocational interests.
Training examples include:
  • On the job training
  • Internships and apprenticeships
  • Adult education / vocational courses
  • Trade and technical schools


There are great opportunities for employment for adults with disabilities. Here are some options to consider:
  • Competitive Employment: a worker with a disability performs her job in an integrated work environment and is paid at a rate equal to workers without a disability.
  • Supported Employment: assistance and/or accommodations are provided in the workplace so that a worker with a disability can perform his job in an integrated environment. Among other things, support might include job coaching or training, individual supervision, transportation, or adaptive technology.
  • Sheltered Employment: workers with disabilities are not integrated with other workers, but perform their tasks in a separate work space.
  • Self-employment
  • Temporary work
  • Part-time work
  • Job-sharing: two workers split one position and their pay is divided accordingly
To read more about these post high school options, see Education and Employment/Daytime Activities


Information & Support

For Parents and Patients
Good site for students preparing for college—search for what’s happening in your state and how to apply.

Job Accomodation Network
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues.

Youth Leadership Toolkit
Good video site for youth and young adults to learn about employment and related topics in an easy access online format. Developed by Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) in collaboration with the Center for Persons with Disabilities and the Becoming Leaders for Tomorrow Project.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2013; last update/revision: April 2016
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Tina Persels
Reviewer: Gina Pola-Money