Going to college is tough for everyone, but if you have a disability it can be even more difficult. To be classified as having a disability, you must:
- have a mental or physical condition that significantly hinders your ability to see, walk, speak, hear, breathe, work, or perform other important everyday activities;
- be able to provide a medical record of your condition;
- and be classified by qualified medical personnel as having an impairment.
Some conditions that may be classified as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act include:
- Speech or hearing impairments
- Sight or mobility impairments
- Mental illness
- Learning disabilities
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
These conditions can adversely impact your ability to express yourself orally or in writing, comprehend what you read and/or hear, perform mathematical calculations, solve problems, interact socially, manage time efficiently, and focus your attention on tasks.
If you have been identified as having a disability, the first thing you should know is that you have certain rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This act requires all colleges to provide all students, as well as visitors and staff, with equitable access to campus facilities, services, and academic programs. What this will actually mean for you can vary from school to school, so once you have narrowed down your choices, ask about the types of programs available to students with disabilities. Also inquire whether the school provides additional support or special services targeted towards your specific disability. A visit to the college or university can help you see some of the services offered. While there, meet with a disability specialist if one is available. Express any concerns you may have, and ask about the measures the college has taken to include those with disabilities in the academic and social community.
Another important point is that it's important to tell people what you need. When you apply, be upfront about your disability and any limitations you have. The school will likely return the favor by telling you whether there are programs in place that can effectively address your needs. Once you are accepted, the school will be able to help you access services and make accommodations that will make your life on campus easier. Specific accommodations and services may include allowing you to take fewer classes, providing you with access to a tutor, arranging access to special technology geared to your disability, having another student assist you with note taking, etc. Remember, many schools want to do all they can to help students with special needs succeed, but you have to tell people what you need and be willing to accept suggestions and assistance for these programs to work.
Last Updated: 04/24/2014