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Choosing a College as a Disabled Student

November 10, 2010 By: Category: Choosing a College

Today we have a guest post from S.B. Bryan, a writer and non-traditional college student attending Texas State University. His blog, 30-Year-Old Freshman, details the crazy world of a 30-year-old in a 20-year-old’s world, provides tips for surviving and thriving in college and at work, and explores the fascinating inner lives of llamas.

Disabled students are often referred to as “challenged.” Well, no place can better challenge a person with disabilities or ‘diffabilities,’ than a college or university. Whether you have physical, cognitive, or learning disabilities (or any combination of the three,) you will find unique challenges both inside and outside the classroom that may affect your college choice.

Firstly, if you have a physical disability, you’ll want to learn about the campus’ physical layout—is the campus exceptionally hilly (as it is with my campus of Texas State University)? Do they have easy access to automatic doors and elevators? How many ramps, push-button doors, and other disability management devices do they have per building and are these devices present in both the teaching theaters and the residence halls?

If you are sensory challenged, that is you are non-sighted or low-sighted, or you are non-hearing or low-hearing, you may find that both the physical terrain and classroom challenges affect your college choice. You will want to be as comfortable with the campus terrain as is possible and also knowledgeable about devices offered by your office of students with disabilities—a necessity for all students who are disabled—as they will often have ideas about the types of canes that work best, the magnifying devices for reading, the hearing aids that work best, and all of the problems that students with similar disabilities have run into on campus.

Finally, if you have a cognitive, developmental, or learning disability, you’ll want to find out what support structure is available on campus before making your college choice. Support structures include access to disability management counseling, support groups, and specialized services that are offered to students with similar disabilities. Out of the three groups, you may find (as I have found with my own disabilities) that you suffer from the invisible disability stigma the most. It’s not nice to be yelled at because you have a disability, but it happens. Moreover, the more effectively you compensate, the more people tend to forget you have a disability in the first place.

Your college choice shouldn’t be limited because you have to do things a little differently than everyone else, but the college or university should rise to the occasion of leveling the playing field for all involved. The problem is that, like always in life, some are better than others with their follow-through.

Do you have any other tips to help students with disabilities make the right college choice? Leave a comment. Good luck!