You want to go to college, but you don’t know where to start. It’s one thing to be thinking of where to apply, and to know if you’ll qualify and be admitted. But, then there’s your disability. How does that fit into the whole picture? Whether you use a wheelchair, have visual impairments, ADHD or any other number of cognitive or communicative challenges, the approach is going to be relatively the same.
So what do you do? You start early! The earlier, the better. Don’t be afraid of starting the search. The web is full of information that you can use to help locate the universities/colleges that look good, and are helpful for weaning down your choices – finding the best fit for you. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, then it’s time for a visit to the campus and to connect with the campus disability resource provider or a disability counselor.
Make an appointment and bring your disability documents with you. Once the counselor has had an opportunity to review your documentation and meet you, they will be able to tell you what accommondations and services are available. All universities must be ADA compliant, but that being said, some universities are better at complying than others. The range in accomodations from school to school varies as well. Sometimes the accomodations might not be the accomodations you prefer so, make sure to ask specifically what you will recieve. For example, if you are hearing impaired you may prefer to have a C print captionist. However, the school might not be able to provide that, but they could provide you with an interpreter.
If you are in a wheelchair, how easy is the campus to navigate? How far from building to building are your potential classes going to be? Are the elevators functioning well? For the visually impaired, navigating the busy paths, and buildings is something to be addressed as well. Other things to consider and discuss w/ the counselor include talking about your semester load. Are you capable of meeting the demands of a full time class schedule on top of your disability? Or, would you be more successful and feel less overwhelmed with a reduced course load?
You may be wondering about available assistive technology resources. This too is something to discuss with the disability counselor. You may already use your own assistive technology (screen readers, CCTV, speech to text software to name a few) but given the expense, many folks choose to use of the existing technology provided by the school. If that’s the case, remember that learning any new software taskes time and it may be beneficial to train on the systems during the summer so that when school begins you can put your full energy into school and not into learning how your new technology works.
It’s manageable really. With the right approach, and knowing there are folks in your corner at every campus to help you out is half the battle. A second visit to the campus may need to happen in order for you to feel comfortable with the decision. And, that’s great! That’s how it is for a lot of folks. It’s a big step (or roll) towards the future you want for yourself, and you can do it!
A special thanks to Joy L. Ferwerda, M.ED, CRC for helping us understand how it all works.
~ Michele Dykstra, MA, CCC-SLP