After High School Options

For all young adults, the transition from high school to the adult world of work, school, and living on your own can be full of uncertainty and challenges. For young adults with disabilities, there are often many added questions and challenges. On this page we offer information about some of the questions you may be facing, such as:
  • What is the difference between entitlement and eligibility for services?
  • How will college work for me?
  • What can I do if I don't go to college?

Entitlement vs. Eligibility

It is of great value 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 with 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 leave 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 a person 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.
Adult services might include:
  • continued education
  • employment training
  • employment
  • independent living services
  • transportation
  • home health aides
  • recreation
These programs operate under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law requires that applicants meet requirements in order to be eligible for adult services. If the person meets the requirements for an adult program or service, he is then eligible or qualified for the services, but not entitled to 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 limited funding.

Post High School Options

There are many post-high school options for young adults with disabilities to look at, including college, vocational rehabilitation, postsecondary educational training, and employment.
College offers an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to continue their education and earn a certificate or degree. If you’re applying to colleges, you may find it helpful to call the center for disability services at the schools you like. To read more about it and find helpful resources, see the To College page.
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a nationwide federal-state program that helps eligible people with disabilities to look at employment that fits their interests and needs, 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 choice for you will depend 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 inclusive 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 inclusive environment. Among other things, support might include job coaching or training, individual supervision, transportation, or adaptive technology.
  • Sheltered Employment: workers with disabilities do not work alongside non-disabled co-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
This parent-friendly site provides information, a discussion board, a listserv, resources, student stories, and links to colleges and programs that support youth with intellectual disabilities. Good site for young people with disabilities who are looking into college—search for what’s happening in your state and how to apply.

Job Accomodation Network
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) provides free consulting services for all employees, regardless of the condition. Services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of job accommodations, including the accommodation process, accommodation ideas, product vendors, referral to other resources, and ADA compliance assistance

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: September 2013; last update/revision: February 2020
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Tina Persels
Reviewer: Gina Pola-Money
Authoring history
2013: first version: Tina PerselsA
AAuthor; CAContributing Author; SASenior Author; RReviewer