Colleges are adjusting to fit the needs of all students, including those with learning and/or physical disabilities. It’s not whether or not you can find a college; it’s whether or not you can choose the right college for you.
Although legislative mandates require colleges and universities to accommodate all disabilities, some excel in that area whereas others only meet the minimum requirements. It is up to you to find out which ones do accommodate.
Here are some suggestions about what to do and what to think about when you chose the right college for your disability.
• First, you should know that when you go to college you will be covered by the American Disabilities Act. You should read this Act and find out what your rights and responsibilities are. This will give you a head start.
• Visit the campuses. That is the only way you can really tell how well the college will fit your needs. It is recommended you stay overnight and that you spend at least some time with a student with the same or a similar disability to assess how well the campus accommodates.
• Always make an appointment with the campus’ Office of Disability Services. You should be in the office to tell how friendly they are and also to ask what their level of service is.
• Look for services such as adaptive technology, tutors, test-taking accommodations, note takers, even the college illness policy (attendance requirements).
• Consider housing. Ask if there are separate housing sections for students with disabilities so you can be among like students. If you prefer to be with all students, make sure there is a resident assistant who is trained to help you with your transition into regular dorm life.
• Consider how you will get around on campus. Is it small enough to navigate with a wheel chair, are the pathways wide enough for easy movement, is there handicapped parking, and are there handicapped buses available?
• Look at the buildings. Are there elevators, does every building have a handicapped restroom, is there more than one handicapped accessible doorway in case of emergencies?
In addition to these extra considerations, don’t forget the typical match factors for students choosing a college: look at the academics, the campus size, the location, the cost, and the availability of extracurricular activities.
Also, don’t forget, as you make out your application, to promote your diversity. Colleges give diverse students an edge in acceptance because they want a population of students who are not all the same. As a disabled student, you have a lot to offer your peers.
Do the work, do not choose the college to fit you too quickly, make sure you will be comfortable on the campus you attend. To give you a head start, here is a website that offers some of the best colleges for disabled students.