The Path to Higher Education When Disabled

The world of higher education is daunting enough on its own. For those with a disability, everything about college – from applications to moving into the dorm, to completing work on time – requires an extra hurdle to overcome. What can a special-needs student do to make this process easier? No matter your disability, here are some tips to help. 

Do Your Research

Before setting foot onto any campus, a student should know they’ve chosen the right place to attend for their disability. Look into campus layout, handicapped accessibility, learning aids, and class resources to determine which institution will best help you achieve your goals. 

Many resources for financial help to boost your academic career are available at the click of a button. You may even find methods that cater to your particular needs – for example, scholarships available specifically for students with cerebral palsy. 

Choose a Friendly Campus

Each college layout will vary from the next. If your disability is a physical one, make sure you are familiar with your routes to and from class. Can you easily travel to and from each building? How far away is your dorm or apartment residence? Will you need to incorporate public transit into your routine? Learning your surroundings will eliminate unnecessary stress and help you focus on your studies.

Also, a smart step would be to seek out various communities that can help you with the transition. For instance, individuals with CP are advised to inquire about a cerebral palsy community that provides support for students with this particular condition. Having the support of a welcoming community can make a huge difference for an individual with additional needs.

Know Your Federal Rights

In recent decades, many legal protections have been established to aid students with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, provides a legislative foundation for disabled students. You can access information on personal protection, technical assistance, ADA enforcement, and details of the law itself. 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitative Act of 1973 is a civil statute that prohibits discrimination against students with disabilities. For further resources, many of these protections also overlap with the Department of Justice and Department of Education. 

Use Online Tools to Your Advantage

No matter what challenges a disabled learner has, the fact is that it might take them a little extra time to complete their studies compared to a traditional student. If you have a mental barrier, you may benefit from online game-type learning such as Ted-Ed or Kahoot! to supplement your understanding of the material. 

Advocate For Yourself

Regardless of your type of disability, your location, or what tools you use, there will still be unusual challenges to a non-traditional student.

A good professor will do what they can to accommodate you, perhaps recommending extra resources in their particular field of study. Don’t let your need to feel independent supersede your mental or physical capacity. Speaking up for what you need will only benefit you in the long run – and make the rocky path to graduation a lot smoother.

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