College Resources for Students with Disabilities the Ultimate Guide
| Staff Writers
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The Ultimate Guide
Eleven percent of college undergraduates report living with a disability, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Schools around the country—public research universities and small private liberal arts colleges alike—have noted the numbers and made substantial strides towards creating accessible, welcoming, and inclusive campuses. We’ve listed fifty of those schools below, and in addition to providing this definitive ranking of the best disability friendly colleges and universities in the country, we at College Choice have included everything else students and parents need to know about succeeding with disabilities in higher education. Scholarships, advice on choosing schools, laws and rights, distance learning—we’ve got it all covered. We at College Choice have attempted to consider every angle in presenting this resource
Disabilities Covered in this Resource
The lecture hall is an iconic image of college life, but for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, lectures present a huge challenge. However, many college and universities offer a number of aides, including note takers, speech-to-text tools, AT listening devices, captioned audiovisual tools, and sign language interpreters.
Braille is just one of the many tools provided by colleges and universities. Transcribed note-taking devices, speech-outputting computers, 3D models, CCTV magnification systems, enlarged calculators, and magnifiers are among just some of the tools that should be made available to students.
A wide range of conditions is included under the scope of chronic illness disabilities, from multiple sclerosis and hemophilia to cystic fibrosis and diabetes. Chronic illness presents innumerable hurdles for young students, and requires a school to offer an array of specialized accommodations, including a substantial student health care plan.
ADA standards require that colleges and universities create wheelchair-friendly campuses with accessible buildings, classrooms, and residence halls. Those schools that go above and beyond ADA standards do so by offering free transportation to classes, note-takers, specially designed keyboards, allowing oral over written exams, and more.
Cognitive or Intellectual Disability
Cognitive or Intellectual Disabilities are defined by the ADA and AAIDD (the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) as those impairments in intellectual and behavioral functioning that radically affect one’s social experience. Despite the inherent challenges, nearly 58 percent of students with intellectual disabilities go on to attend college or university.
Definitions vary, but the term “learning disability” tends to include conditions that inhibit students from academic achievement because of difficulties with attention, time management, organization, reading, and memory function. These students, though struggling with ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia, are often highly intelligent.
Mental, Psychological, or Emotional Disability
Bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and panic disorders, schizophrenia, PTSD, and OCD among others, can hugely impact a student’s ability to perform academically. Any of these can be qualified as a disability under ADA if it’s chronic and substantially limiting major life activities.
Your Rights: Transitioning from High School to College
Transitioning from high school to college is not easy for anyone, but it is especially complicated for those with disabilities. Not only are students with disabilities required to do more research, about the kind of support they’ll receive once at college, but the differences between high school and college manifest in numerable and significant ways for students with disabilities.
For example, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), in high school the student is entitled to services and accommodations; whereas, in college that same student must meet criteria to be eligible for services, under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
This is not to say there is less chance of support for the student with disabilities, only that it entails a difference of initiative and perspective. We’ve explained more about that below.
Part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability. This civil rights statute requires that the needs of students with disabilities are to be accommodated as much as those non-disabled students.
A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) extends to all areas of public life, including school, transportation, public spaces, jobs, and more. ADA’s Criteria for Disability
You have a documented physical or mental impairment that substantially limits activities.
You have a record of such an impairment.
You are perceived as having such an impairment.
ADA and Section 504: What They Do (Or Should Do) For You
A school may not discriminate on the basis of disability.
All programs offered by the school, including extra-curriculars, must be accessible to students with disabilities.
The school must provide accessible housing at the same cost and offer the same variety of choice that is available to other students.
The school must provide transportation when relevant as well as auxiliary aids and services such as interpreters, listening systems, captioning, Braille materials, and much more.
The school must offer testing accommodations when relevant.
You do not have to disclose your disability if you do not require any accommodations.
Choosing the Right College or University
Though we’ve provided a definitive list of the 50 Best Disability Friendly Colleges and Universities, you’ll still need to utilize some tools of your own when doing your research. Below are questions to ask, contexts to consider, and what specifically to look for.
Questions to Ask
When researching colleges and universities there are crucial questions to ask yourself and, especially, an admissions counselor or a Disability Resource Center representative. Below are some examples of what to ask and where to begin.
What are the percentages and ranges of disabilities on the campus?
Does the campus provide a specific space that serves students with disabilities?
Which papers and documents do you need to show as record of your disability? Inquire about how current those papers should be.
How many accessible dorm rooms are available?
Are all the buildings and classrooms accessible?
Are there support groups and student-led clubs for students with disabilities?
What should you do to apply for accommodations ahead of time? And which accommodations are commonly offered?
Who should you notify of your disability and who will already be notified?
What is the relationship between faculty and the student with a disability?
What kind of tutoring is offered? Similarly, what kind of adaptive software will you have access to?
A college campus is made up of many contexts, from social to academic, so it’s important to visualize yourself in each, asking the above questions but also considering the varying elements that define the context.
In the classroom: lectures, labs, desk set-ups.
Outside the classroom: mobility around campus, transportation, navigation.
Extra-curriculars: clubs, athletics, student groups, support groups.
Campus communication: using phones, email, computers.
Homework: reading, computer use, library access.
Adaptive and Assistive Technology
For obvious reasons, it is important that a college or university make adaptive and assistive technology (AT) available and accessible, but there are still many details to consider before determining whether your needs will be wholly met.
For example, AT tools should be available twenty-four hours a day and on weekends. Training for those tools, as well as manuals or online tutorials are also important. Look into how many AT labs and how much equipment a school offers, and how often that equipment is maintained and updated. If you don’t see the specific AT tool you need, inquire whether the school will order and pay for what you require. More questions to ask yourself and an admissions counselor:
If you don’t see the specific AT tool you need, inquire whether the school will order and pay for what you require. More questions to ask yourself and an admissions counselor:
What kind of AT equipment is available to you?
Will the Disability Resource Center make the AT arrangements on your behalf?
Who should faculty members talk to about utilizing AT in the classroom?
Do you need to sign up to use AT equipment? If so, how far in advance?
Will you be able to utilize AT devices during exams?
Is there AT equipment in the library? How about in classrooms and computer labs?
Will the college make texts available in various formats, including electronic, audio, or large print?
Is the college’s web platform (including course registration software, library catalogs, class discussion boards, etc.) compatible with screen-reading software?
Be sure to reach out to the college and university’s Disability Resource Centers to ask about AT and the school’s implementation of it. The questions provided here are merely suggestive; everyone has different needs and requirements. Think about what you’ll need to have a nourishing academic experience and ask for it.
50 Best Disability Friendly Colleges and Universities
Methodology and Criteria
From non-discrimination policies to the accessibility of dorms and lecture halls, there’s a breadth of considerations—social, economic, academic—to collate and compare when choosing a school. Such consolidation demands innumerable hours of research, the results being of crucial importance to your college experience and happiness.
Which is why we’ve done that work for you, compiling below the best schools for disability identified peoples, taking into account a combination of crucial features: academic rankings; student performance, satisfaction, and retention rates; the amount of disability resources, including clubs, organizations, and majors; the level of inclusion and acceptance a student with disabilities can anticipate; and more.
The scores below reflect the collective ranking of each of these factors.
Home to the Wolverines, the University of Michigan is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, just 40 miles west of Detroit. The school was founded in 1817 under the original name of “Catholepistemiad” and located in Detroit until moving to Ann Arbor in 1837. The current President’s residence is one of the original buildings on the Michigan campus. Today the student body consists of 43,000 students with a lower student to instructor ratio of 12 to 1. Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Michigan alumni include the inventor of the iPod, co-founder of Google and the first American to walk in space.
Service to the disabled student body came into focus at Michigan just five months after the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 when the university officially recognized the Office of Disabled Student Services. The office was renamed Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in 1989 and since then the organization has advocated for students with disabilities at state, national and even international levels. The SSD was the first to establish “an adaptive technology computing lab and together with the Provost’s office a fund to support mandated accommodations”. These trailblazing efforts have since been repeated by many major universities nationwide. The SSD, whose services are free to students, features Modern Language Aptitude Testing throughout the year and maintains the well-resourced HathiTrust Digital Library.
42,000 students are currently enrolled at the University of Southern California located in sunny, Los Angeles, California. It is a far cry from 1880 when the school of just 35 students and 10 teachers was established before LA would have paved roads, electric lighting or even the telephone in place. Today USC’s full-time faculty makes it the single largest private employer in the City of Los Angeles. The school’s connection to the motion picture industry is well-known as over over 234 hours of motion picture film is produced annually by students of the School of Cinematic Arts. Popular USC alumni include directors Ron Howard and Robert Zemeckis. The University of Southern California is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Housed within the Division of Student Affairs, USC offers the Disability Services and Programs (DSP) which “provides support services necessary to enable students with disabilities to develop their maximum academic potential while having the dignity to work independently”. Autonomy is a top priority for the DSP which encourages students who seek their services to focus on self-advocacy within the mainstream of the school’s academic and social culture. “While we provide personal and administrative support, our philosophy encourages students to take responsibility for their academic and co-curricular activities.” The free services provided by DSP include tutoring, note taking, special accommodations for testing, assistive technology and a stress on meeting the unique needs of students based on their specific disabilities.
Northeastern University’s reputation for high academic standards is clear from the onset as 70% of incoming freshmen are in the top ten of their high school’s graduating class. The 19,000 enrolled students at NU, 65% of which are female and 35% of which are male, enjoy a 90% success rate in job placement or grad school acceptance just 9 months after receiving their undergraduate degree. As for diversity, Northeastern, located in Boston, Massachusetts, has seen a 48% increase in students of color since 2006. The university was established in 1898 and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Northeastern’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) is open every weekday and offers an array of services to disabled students free of charge once the register with the office. The Center hosts a sizable group of volunteer students who take notes for DRC supported students. 5 sessions of transitional tutoring are also included that guide DRC students from getting a general overview of the program, becoming a successful self-advocate, resources available on campus, getting the most from the DRC and an overview of the many technological opportunities on the Northeastern campus.
Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Xavier University is a Jesuit institution that stresses knowledge and social justice as part of its mission statement to education. Even though Xavier is rooted in the Catholic faith, its 6,500 students are exposed to over 15 religious groups represented on campus. Located in Cincinnati, the city named by Forbes as the 5th most affordable city in America, Xavier students enjoy the perks of a car-friendly campus, HBO On Demand and free tickets to its sports events for freshmen. As for networking, 560 companies are active in Xavier’s Mentoring Program, the school holds 5 career fairs each year and there are 200 local and national service organizations on campus.
Xavier offers two free programs that work in tandem to both accommodate students with disabilities and support them to better facilitate learning. The first is Disability Services (DS) which “works in partnership with the student and collaborates with faculty to ensure the provision of reasonable and appropriate accommodations.” Services include exam accommodations, alternative formats of textbooks and class resources, access and assistance with class notes, academic coaching, housing and assistance animal accommodations. ClockWork is another free service provided which allows access to “scheduling and database software Disability Services uses for managing accommodations”. Along with DS The Learning Assistance Center is where students can receive tutoring, take tests in a less-distracting environment and utilize assistive technology
U.S. News & World Report hails the University of Texas, located in Texas’ state capitol Austin, as one of the top 20 public universities in the country; while the Latin American history, accounting and petroleum engineering programs lead the nation in their respective areas. 51,000 students are enrolled at UT which is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Popular and famous personalities among the vast total number of 484,000 alumni include actors Matthew McConaughey and Marcia Gay Harden, director Robert Rodriguez, businessmen Michael Dell and Rex Tillerson and journalist Walter Cronkite.
Within their Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the University of Texas maintains the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) offices in the student services building on campus. The SSD holds events throughout the year and promotes such resources as easy access to reporting a Bias Incident directly to the Campus Climate Response Team. Services include assistance programs with alternative text, adaptive testing, assistive technology information course load reduction and sign language interpreters. Each semester the SSD publishes a newsletter containing “important office and staff updates, changes to policies and procedures, a calendar of events, academic dates and deadlines, and other news of interest to students”.
Founded six years before America would declare its independence from England in 1776, The College of Charleston, accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, is currently the oldest university south of Virginia and the 13th oldest in all of the Unites States. Today the school’s enrollment of 11,000, 3,000 of which live on campus, come from 49 states and 62 countries worldwide. Steeped in tradition, graduates of the College of Charleston forgo the usual cap and gown attire worn at most college commencements and instead don white dinner jackets for men and white dresses for women in the spring ceremony and black tuxedos and black dresses during the December commencement.
Accessibility is of the utmost importance to the Center for Disability Services at the College of Charleston. The Center’s staff and volunteers work to ensure an environment of “reasonable and effective accommodations while promoting independence in the student”. One program unique to the Center is SNAP (Students Needing Access Parity). SNAP provides support and guidance to those students with documented disabilities like bridging communication with instructors in order to raise awareness of disabled students’ learning differences and course alternatives to math/logic and foreign language requirements for certain mainstream degree programs. The College of Charleston currently has 900 students enrolled in the SNAP program.
Located in Storrs, Connecticut and accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the University of Connecticut is comprised of 14 schools offering 108 majors and was listed in 2016’s U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s top 25 universities in the nation. The school was first established in 1880 as Storrs Agricultural School when brothers Charles and Augustus Storrs donated 170 acres, a former orphanage and $6,000 to the state. Today’s enrollment is 26,000 and the alumni network is made up of over 242,000 former students, over half of which still reside in Connecticut.
Originally named the Program for the Physically Handicapped in 1967, the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) gained momentum on UC’s campus in 1977 as a result of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 when the campus began to make accessibility for all students a top priority. The school’s work in establishing modified sidewalks, ramps and elevators in less-accessible areas of campus resulted in the University of Connecticut’s being named one of the top ten most disabled-friendly colleges in 1999 by New Mobility Magazine. The CSD touts a large staff that includes over 200 student employees while the campus currently provides 11 accessible residence halls to its over 700 students with disabilities. CSD services include academic advising, access to personal assistants (paid by students) and technology assistance through a program called CSDTech.
For high school students interested in getting a jump on their college career, Marist College of Poughkeepsie, New York offers a summer program called “Pre-College” where students can earn college credit through one of its 13 academic programs before receiving their high school diploma. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Marist was established in 1929 and is located on the Hudson River between Albany and New York City. The student body of 6,300 students can choose from 46 undergraduate programs and 13 master’s programs.
Education Insider News Blog recently named Marist College as the 3rd best campus for students with learning disabilities. The school’s Learning Disability Support Program (LDSP) was established almost 30 years ago in an effort to emphasis students’ unique learning styles and help with the changing climate of assistive technologies in higher education. In their own words, the LDSP exists to “provide individualized support to students with disabilities to ensure access to a complete education, to promote full independence in the academic environment and the greater society, and to increase awareness and sensitivity of the campus and community of the need of individuals with disabilities”.
The small, 4-year private Messiah College has a student body of 3,200 and a student to instructor ratio of 13 to 1. Despite its size, Messiah’s athletic program boasts “23 NCAA DIII National Championships since 2000” and the school offers 80+ programs of study. Located just outside the state capital city of Harrisburg in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, MC received its charter in 1909. It was originally founded as the Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home by the Brethren in Christ Church and today is ranked as the 5th Best Regional College in the Northeast by U.S. News and World Report.
The Office of Disability Services at Messiah College currently supports and accommodates nearly 200 students with physical, psychological and learning disabilities. As they state, “Messiah College is committed, not only to the legal requirements of the ADA, but to the moral and ethical responsibility to treat all members of the community with fairness.” One interesting feature of the services offered at Messiah is the creation of an Accommodation Profile (AP) that is negotiated between the Director of Disability Services and the student seeking aid. Common assistance given as a result of the AP may include extended time on exams, proctored exams, note-taking assistance and alternative text forms. These primary services are free while more specialized assistance is available at the expense of the student.
In 1834 a group of Cumberland Presbyterians assembled to establish the Cane Hill School in Cane Hill, Arkansas. Over a hundred years later, the school would be renamed the University of the Ozarks in 1987. Today the school is planted on 30 acres in Clarksville, AR and is an exclusively undergraduate, private school accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools with a total enrollment of 587 students. Despite its low numbers, UO is still able to offer over 60 majors, minors and pre-professional programs. A trailblazing milestone achievement of University of the Ozarks includes its being the first college in Arkansas to admit women in 1875.
University of the Ozarks offers the Jones Learning Center as a program designed for students with learning disabilities, AD/HD, and ASD. This comprehensive fee-based program “provides students with learning disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the skill sets to succeed academically and build brighter futures. The JLC offers more services than any other collegiate program for students with learning disabilities in the nation.” The JLC works to empower students by focusing on essential areas of academic and social success which providing access to academic support staff, peer tutors and notetakers, specific skill specialists, technology assistance and ASD support. The program enjoys a 100% referral rate from UO graduates for students with similar backgrounds.
The Catholic, liberal arts school of Loras College is located in Dubuque, Iowa. Originally established as St. Raphael Seminary in order to educate young men preparing for priesthood, the school was founded by the Most Rev. Mathias Loras in 1839. Today the school of 1,500 students is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and enjoys a small student to instructor ratio of 12 to 1. 100% of students attending Loras receive some sort of financial aid and the school is ranked 2nd in student return in investment among Iowa’s private universities.
Loras College features the Lynch Learning Center (LLC) which offers 3 levels of direction and support for students with diagnosed disabilities. With the 4-year fee-based Autism Specific Program, students participate in regular meetings with a Certified Autism Specialist as they work through processes of self-advocacy, stress management and organization. The Enhanced Program is “a comprehensive program designed to provide additional support for students with a primary disability of Attention Deficit Disorder or Learning Disability”. For the budget-minded student Loras also offers free accommodation services that includes consultation with LLC staff to determine how services like less-distracting testing environments, extended-time testing and assistive technology can benefit them.
The 236-acre campus of California State University located in Fullerton is just 25 miles from the fast-paced culture of Los Angeles and 20 miles from the beautiful beaches of southern California. Cal State Fullerton offers 107 degree programs from its 8 colleges to the 38,000 students who attend classes. Accredited by the Western Association of schools and colleges, the school was established as the 12th state university in California in 1957. Today the campus consists of 29 buildings, a spectacular Arboretum which spans 26 acres and a state-of-the-art 95,000 square foot two-story Student Recreation Center which cost the school 40 million dollars to complete.
The goal of California State University, Fullerton’s Disability Support Services (DSS) is to provide “co-curricular and academically related services which empower students with disabilities to achieve academic and personal self-determination”. Specific programs include Abled Advocators; a campus community dedicated to disability awareness which meets bimonthly to discuss topics like inclusion and diversity, leadership/professional networking and plans group social events throughout the calendar year. DSS group also takes part in the annual CSUF Special Games for special athletes held on campus for athletes from Orange County and its surrounding areas. The DSS offers students a diagnostic assessment to see what services would best fit their needs in order to achieve success at CSUF.
Enjoying an average class size of 17 students and a student to instructor ratio of 15 to 1, the relatively small number of 3,500 students at Augsburg College are affectionately known as “Auggies”. Originally founded in Marshall, Wisconsin in 1869, the college was moved to Minneapolis just three years later by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Today the two predominant religious affiliations among students are Lutheran at just over twenty percent and Roman Catholic at thirteen percent. Unlike most campuses, virtually half the students enrolled at Augsburg College reside on campus while the three most popular concentrations are Biology, Psychology and Management.
Disability Services offices are housed on the Augsburg College campus within the Center for Learning and Accessible Student Services (CLASS). “CLASS promotes access and inclusion for students with disabilities by partnering with the campus community to provide accommodations, resources and education.” The CLASS boasts a seasoned staff experienced in meeting the needs of students with disabilities. Through CLASS, Disability Specialists offer a wide range of services including evaluations, individual academic and social support, strategies for learning, compensatory techniques and housing assistance.
The Bobcats at 4-year private West Virginia Wesleyan College don orange and black when they compete in their NCAA Division II Mountain East Conference. The campus is located in Buckhannon, West Virginia, is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The 1,500 students of West Virginia Wesleyan can choose from 44 majors and 34 minors “along with graduate programs in athletic training, business administration, education, English creative writing, and nursing”. Education, Nursing and Exercise Science are the three most popular fields of study at the school.
The Learning Center of West Virginia Wesleyan College provides both fee-based and free support programs for students with diagnosed learning disabilities and special needs. The fee-based programs include The Mentor Advantage Program (which can include private and professional tutoring), Day-Time Check-In, and the “Lindamood-Bell ® Approach to Learning”. Free student services include access to the Foundational Program “which provides one-on-one academic and accommodation strategy guidance through professional staff who have graduate degrees in Education, Educational Psychology, Psychology, Special Education, Counseling and Reading”. Other services provided include a test and study lab, assistive technology lab and a peer tutoring system.
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Abilene Christian University is the home of the Wildcats and over 4,400 students seeking undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees. Established in 1906 as the Childers Classical Institute, the school has enjoyed much success in its athletic programs, most notably in track and field. Texas Monthly magazine named ACU’s track and field program “Texas Sports Dynasty” in 1999. Abilene Christian's first Southland Conference championship was won by the women’s cross country team in 2015. The school also leads the way in technology by spearheading programs like the mobile-learning initiative of 2008 when over 900 incoming freshmen received a complimentary iPhone or iPod touch in order to enhance their academic experience. Four years later the school would be named an Apple Distinguished School, “a recognition by Apple as an exemplary learning environment for innovation, leadership and educational excellence”.
Abilene Christian University’s Alpha Scholars Program (ASP) consists of two cooperative resources: Student Support Services (SSS), a federally funded TRIO program, and the school’s Disability Support Services (DSS). ASP’s mission is to “empower college students with individual needs to choose academic success to the level of their greatest potential”. Each year 200 students benefit from the programs offered by the Student Support Services which include private tutoring, academic and career coaching and financial aid assistance. Assessments and accommodations are made for students with disabilities through the DSS based on their their “individual learning styles and study habits with recommendations for adapting study methods to their unique learning characteristics”.
Alfred, New York, known as “a village in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains about an hour west of Corning, an hour and a half south of Rochester”, is home to Alfred University; a 4-year private university of 2,300 students. Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the students of AU enjoy a small student to instructor ratio of 12 to 1. Originally established in 1836, Alfred University is one of America’s oldest co-ed universities. One popular school tradition includes dressing the statue of King Alfred, located in the middle of campus, in various outfits at different times in the school’s calendar. The university places a high value on environmentalism as seen by the newly designed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) residence hall and programs that include sustainable dining, green laundry and the Council on Green Efforts.
All incoming Alfred University students receive a Center for Academic Success (CAS) registration form as a part of their admissions process. By completing the form and after achieving qualification, students with special needs and learning disabilities can receive services like appropriate accommodations, access to early orientation, be assigned an academic consultant and receive self-advocacy training. Besides providing consultation and advocacy with the university’s staff and administration in order to ensure that students with documented disabilities receive appropriate accommodations and services relevant to students’ needs, CAS also works with students to create a student plan with an Academic Consultant to “identify which accommodations and services will be necessary for academic success”.
Located in Waco, Texas, the Baylor Bears are members of the NCAA Division I Big 12 Conference and hold the claim to the 2005 and 2012 women’s basketball national championships. With its close proximity to the bottling company it was at one time a school tradition to feed Dr. Pepper to the school’s bear mascot before football games. The 4-year private university is home to 16,000 enrolled students and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The Baylor campus is comprised of 1,000 acres next to the Brazos River and their Armstrong Browning Library was recently recognized by the BBC as one of the “top 5 beautiful libraries in American colleges”. The student body at Baylor is known for its volunteering as the school touts the first campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Established on the campus of Baylor University, the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation (OALA) “supports the mission of Baylor University and the Paul L. Foster Success Center by creating an encouraging, supportive and caring environment, in which students feel they are accepted and valued as individuals. We achieve this environment by showing compassion, patience, open-mindedness as well as through teaching responsibility.” OALA offers a free testing center for students to schedule and take exams in order to encourage appropriate testing accommodations. In addition to housing, disability shuttle and meal plan accommodations, The OALA offers assistance to students by partnering with the Baylor Counseling Center, Autism Resource Center and offers tuition insurance.
Founded in 1837, Marshall Academy was named after 4th Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall. Renamed years later as Marshall University, the 4-year public school currently consists of 13,000 students that have 55 undergraduate and 50 master’s programs to choose from. The active student body is involved in over 230 recognized student organizations and receive over $10,000 in financial aid each on average each year. The nickname for Marshall’s athletic program is the Thundering Herd and is represented by the mascot Marco the Bison. The most-notable claim to fame for Marshall University is 2006’s motion picture We Are Marshall which depicts the inspiring story of the school after the devastating plane crash of 1970 which took the lives of many of its student athletes.
Founded in 1981, Marshall University’s Higher Education for Learning Problems Center (H.E.L.P.) is a fee-based “comprehensive academic support program that has grown from its humble beginnings in a cramped university basement to a thriving, nationally recognized Center of Excellence with its own modern building, Myers Hall”. The H.E.L.P. Center now offers students with disabilities needs-focused and custom-designed systems and resources by working with a team of experts in the fields of ADHD, psychology, counseling and education. Provided programs include tutoring services, academic coaching, a summer prep program and ongoing diagnostics.
The student body of 5,000 enrolled at the University of Indianapolis enjoy one of the smallest student to teacher ratios found in most colleges at just 11 to 1. Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, UIndy offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs and an average class size of 17 students. The school opened its doors in 1902 and was known as Indiana Central College for most of its existence before being renamed the University of Indianapolis in 1986. From day one the university has been co-ed and accepting of all races.
The Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) on the campus of the University of Indianapolis works in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to ensure equal access and that proper accommodations are being made for students with learning disabilities and special needs. The SSD has set up the Baccalaureate for University of Indianapolis Learning Disabled, or BUILD program in order to help support students with disabilities seeking an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The BUILD program “provides individualized support specifically for those students with a documented learning disorder. This is a voluntary program and students enrolled in BUILD pay additional fees for BUILD-specific services.”
One of the most popular aspects of the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, Wisconsin is the James R. Conner University Center found in the heart of the campus and offering attractions including bowling, an art gallery, coffee shop, live music venue and an assortment of dining options. Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, UW-Whitewater offers 47 undergraduate and 13 graduate programs to its 12,000 students. The school is comprised of 1400 faculty and staff, draws students from 40 states and 30 countries and was established in 1868 as Whitewater Normal School. In addition to the UC, The UW-Whitewater Nature Preserve is 110 acres of “various ecosystems such as woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. In addition to serving as an outdoor classroom and laboratory the preserve includes recreational trails for running, hiking, cross-country skiing, or biking.”
Since 1972, the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) “has provided a wide array of accommodations, support services, auxiliary aids and programs for students, staff and all members of the UW-Whitewater community”. The CSD offers an extensive list of programs and resources including student advocacy, interpreting, alternative media and testing, and classroom accommodations. The fee-based Project Assist is an individual and group tutoring program that offers weekday drop-in tutoring and access to the computer lab and study area. Project Assist receives high marks from previous UW students surveyed.
The University of Denver is a 4-year private university with an enrollment of 11,800 and a student ratio of 11 to 1. The 125-acre school is located in state capital Denver within a residential neighborhood just minutes from downtown. Established in 1864, many of the school’s buildings date back to the late 1860’s but have since been remodeled for modern convenience and safety. First and second year undergraduate students are required to live on campus but have over 100 student organizations including 17 academic honor societies, 8 fraternities and 9 sororities to choose from. 84% of Denver students receive some form of financial aid while 75% of that support is through scholarships or grants. DU is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of Denver offers many services through its Disability Services Program (DSC) at no charge to students with learning disabilities and special needs. The services provided include, but are not limited to testing accommodations in the form of extended times and less-distraction environments, alternate form texts, course substitutions and classroom changes, note takers and aid with the visual and hearing impaired. In addition to the DSC, UD also features the Learning Effectiveness Program (LEP) as a fee-based program that “provides individualized academic support for University of Denver students with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or a history of learning differences”. The LEP provides private individualized academic counseling, individual and subject specific tutoring and organization/time management assistance.
Established in 1885 (before Arizona was even a state), the University of Arizona was planted in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. The school’s motto of “Bear Down” is based on the quoted last words to the football team by revered quarterback John “Buttons” Salmon. The 4-year public university is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and boasts a student enrollment of 42,000. UA's Center for Creative Photography, founded by famous photographer Ansel Adams, is the “largest institution in the world devoted to documenting the history of modern North American photography.”
The Disability Resources Center (DRC) at the University of Arizona offers an online Accommodation Request Form followed by contact from a DRC Access consultant who notifies students of what services will best fit their specific needs. An orientation is then scheduled where students can meet DRC staff, learn more about what the DRC offers (such as housing and access accommodations) and begin to create a strategy for communicating with university staff and achieving success in the classroom. Other services the DRC provides are accessible transportation, exam administration, and a unique adaptive fitness center designed for students with special needs.
20 miles north of Manhattan lies the campus of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. Established as a Catholic university in 1940 by the Christian Brothers whose “goal was to open new paths to economic and social advancement for the sons of New York’s working class. They gave their new college the name of Iona, after a small island off the west coast of Scotland where St. Columba founded an abbey in 563.” The 4-year private school of 3,900 students offers undergraduate and master’s degree programs and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Iona College is a NCAA Division I school with a total of 29 varsity teams on campus.
Established in September 1976, the Samuel Rudin Academic Resource Center began after a generous grant was provided through what is now the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation at Iona College. The Center is available to all students who desire to improve their academic performance through support given both one-on-one and in small group formats. Leadership of the Center, including paid staff, graduate assistants and undergraduate student tutors, focus on academic assistance in the core subjects of math, reading, composition and computer science. The Samuel Rudin Academic Resource Center is free to all students and is open six days a week.
Over the past 30 years the athletic programs at SUNY Cortland in Cortland, New York have produced 200 conference team champions, 100 individual national crowns and 25 national team titles. First named Cortland Normal School in 1868, the university’s nickname of “Red Dragons” was coined by a team manager in 1933. Today the school is known as being one of the greenest campuses in the country and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. SUNY Cortland is a 4-year public school comprised of a student body of 6,900 where 50% of undergraduate students live on campus.
Maintained under the umbrella of services offered through the Student Development Center at SUNY Cortland, Student Disability Services (SDS) works to encourage an environment of higher learning characterized by students with learning disabilities and special needs feeling both educated and accepted. The goal of SDS is to “ensure equal access to all programs and activities and facilitate the architectural and attitudinal accessibility of the campus environment”. Student Disability Services has made it the priority of its policies and procedures to establish accessibility when it comes to everything from its buildings on campus to its technologies in the classroom. There are free resources made available to the hearing impaired, those with learning disabilities, students with mobility impairments and visual impairments.
In 1871, Mother Mary of the Annunciation Beaumont of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland saw the need for an institution of higher learning for women and established Ursuline College; Ohio’s first women’s college and one of the first in the United States. Since that time, Ursuline College has grown into a 4-year private university located in Pepper Pike, Ohio, just 13 miles east of Cleveland. The current student body of 1,200 students enjoy an amazing student to teacher ratio of 6 to 1 and are offered 30 undergrad programs and 10 master’s programs. Although the majority of Ursuline students are female, 9% are male and 27% of all undergraduate students are from minority groups.
Ursuline College has designed a program for students with learning disabilities and special needs called FOCUS. The FOCUS program is a “comprehensive fee-based mentoring and coaching program aimed at helping students with documented disabilities make the successful transition from high school to college and obtain the necessary self-advocacy skills needed to be independent learners”. Students having a diagnosed disability can apply for the FOCUS program which consists of 4 stages of assistance which include weekly meetings with a disability specialist, mid-term progress monitoring, course advisement and priority registration. As a student prepares to transition away from college, the program emphasizes “real world” accommodations and shares what to expect in graduate school settings.
Established in 1882, and affiliated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport, St. Ambrose University is a private, Roman Catholic, liberal arts university in Davenport, Iowa. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers 60 undergraduate majors, 13 master's, and two doctoral programs. Average class size at St. Ambrose is 20 students, with a student to faculty ratio of 11:1. Of the undergraduate student body, 2,526 students in the fall of 2015, 16.5 percent identify themselves as belonging to a minority group.
The Student Disability Services (SDS) at St. Ambrose offers academic advising for students with disabilities, as well as providing resources for students to obtain alternative exam arrangements, assistive technology - including listening devices, books in alternative formats, note takers, and sign language interpreters. The SDS will also screen and refer students who may have a disability to the appropriate professionals in the area. In addition, SDS helps students develop self-advocacy skills to use with faculty and others on campus when identifying and requesting appropriate accommodations for themselves. The resources available at SDS are offered at no additional cost to students.
Located in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech University, also known as Texas Tech or TTU, is a public research university. Established in 1910, today TTU is made up of 10 colleges and two professional schools, offering a total of 150 undergraduate, 100 master's, and 50 doctoral degrees. The student population in the fall of 2015 was 35,893. It is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In 2013, ten faculty members at Texas Tech were awarded Fulbright grants - the most of any research university in the country.
There are nearly 2,000 students registered for services with TTU's Student Disability Services (SDS). Services provided by SDS range include assistance in arranging course, classroom, and testing accommodations, campus disability awareness education, Sign Language Interpreter services, drop-in tutoring, and the loaning of some assertive devices. All accommodations are tailored to the specific student. Beyond the services offered at SDS, which are provided at no additional cost to students, the university also has the TECHniques Center, a free-for-service program for students with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders. The TECHniques Center offers one-on-one, regularly scheduled content and study skills tutoring and weekly meetings with an academic counselor.
Named after the 17th-century French priest, Saint Vincent de Paul, DePaul University is a private university in Chicago, Illinois. Originally founded by the Vincentians in 1898, today DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the country. As of the fall of 2015 it has a student population of 23,539, spread among four campuses in Chicago. The university is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and offers nearly 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs across 10 colleges and schools.
The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) works with students diagnosed with a range of disabilities, from AD/HD to chronic illness, to physical and sensory impairments. With the exception a small fee for those students who require weekly clinician services, the CSD services are free for all DePaul students. Services include testing accommodations, note-taking assistance, adaptive equipment and assistive technology, sign language interpreters, advocacy, priority registration, and course selection advising, among others. The CSD also provides for physical access across campus, including in university housing. Services at the CSD are provided at no additional cost to students.
Manhattanville College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college. Originally located in Manhattan proper when it was founded in 1841, the college moved to Purchase, New York in 1952. The college has 45 undergraduate majors and minors and 75 graduate degrees and advanced certificates. It is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. As of 2015, Manhattanville had a total enrollment, both undergraduate and graduate, of 2,700 students. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Manhattanville students completed over 30,000 hours of community service, both locally and abroad.
Services offered by the Office of Disability Services at Manhattanville includes, but not limited to, testing accommodations, course notes, sign language interpretation, assistive technology, and alternate formats for materials. The services offered by the Office of Disability Services are free to Manhattanville students. In addition, the college offers the Higher Education Learning Program (H.E.L.P.), a fee-based program, serving as a center of support for students with documented learning disabilities. H.E.L.P provides individualized tutoring services by professionals trained to work with students with disabilities and provide three hours of 1:1 tutoring per week.
Established in 1899 as the Southwest Texas State Normal School, Texas State University a state university in San Marcos, Texas and the fourth-largest university in the state. Besides its main campus, the university also has a satellite campus in Round Rock, just outside Austin. In 2015 it had an enrollment of 37,979 students. There are 97 bachelor’s, 88 master’s and 12 doctoral degree programs for students to choose from. The university is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. 48 percent of students are ethnic minorities and the school ranks 13th in the country for total bachelor degrees awarded to Hispanic students.
The Office of Disability Services (ODS) at Texas University coordinates academic accommodations and support services, promotes independence and self-advocacy, and provides information and referrals for students with disabilities. In addition, it also works to promote disability awareness across the university and helps guide and shape university policy and procedures to ensure the full participation for people with disabilities in all aspects of campus life. The services are free for students and include: testing accommodations, adaptive computer equipment, alternative text/audio books, disability management counseling, volunteer note-takers, and referrals for tutoring.
Missouri State University, Springfield is the main campus of the Missouri State University system. Formerly Southwest Missouri State University, the school, founded in 1905 is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The over 24,000 students in the system are able to choose from more than 85 undergraduate majors and and over 45 graduate degree programs. Missouri State has around 300 student organizations and 25 fraternities and sororities. The university has been listed on the President's Roll for Higher Education Community Service, and students log more than 100,000 hours volunteering through the Campus Volunteer Center.
Through the Disability Resource Center, Missouri State offers a several different resources to help differently-abled students succeed. The Learning Diagnostic Clinic (LDC) works with students with learning or psychological disabilities and offers evaluation services. The Access Technology Center (ATC) provides a range of assistive technology, adaptive computer technology services, and is the location for out-of-class testing. These services are provided at no additional cost. During the 2013-14 school year the Faculty Senate approved a Disability Studies Minor. Students have the option of participating in the Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society, which recognizes students with disabilities for their academic accomplishments and encourages leadership and advocacy skills.
Established in 1923 as a preparatory and military school, today Schreiner University is a small, private liberal arts institution located in Kerrville, Texas. With a small student population of just over 1,230 students in the fall of 2015, Schreiner offers 26 undergraduate programs, as well as an MBA and master of education programs. It is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Kerrville is in the central Texas resort area, one hour northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes west of Austin.
In order to help students with learning disabilities success at Schreiner, the university offers a Learning Support Services (LSS) Program. The program generally serves 60-70 students each year, who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or a specific learning disability in reading, mathematics or written expression. All new students in the program take a freshman seminar, introducing them to the program. Individual tutoring plans are created for each student in the program, and reviewed at the end of each semester. Other resources include note-takers, recorded textbooks, and alternative testing arrangements. There is a fee for participating in the LSS program.
One of three institutions in the University of Tennessee system, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) is a public university in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Established in 1886, today the university has 11,388 undergraduate and graduate students, a of fall 2015, and has been the fastest growing university in Tennessee over the past decade. It offers 45 undergraduate degrees, 20 master's, and five doctorates. UTC offers more than 120 student organizations, including 17 fraternities and sororities. It is regionally accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Disability Resource Center at UTC offers a variety of free resources to support students with disabilities, including the disABILITY Ambassador Training Program. This program is a three-hour training program designed to identify the professionals at UTC who understand issues facing people with disabilities and can help provide resources. Established in 2008, Mosaic is a program at UTC developed to support the holistic needs of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The program is made up of three components: a credit bearing course with a fully established curriculum with a letter grade attached, academic/life coaching, peer/faculty mentoring, and required supervised study hours. A newer, informal addition to the program is a lunch group called Aspergirls, which developed due to a growing number of women in the program. There is a fee for Mosaic.
Founded as Western Maryland College in 1867, McDaniel College is a private four-year liberal arts college in Westminster, Maryland, located between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Since its inception, the college has offered entrance to all students, regardless of race, religion, gender, or ethnicity, and was the first coeducational college south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In the fall of 2015, McDaniel enrolled 1,669 full-time undergraduates and 624 full-time master's students, with an average class size of 16. It is regionally accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The college has a satellite campus, McDaniel College Budapest located in Budapest, Hungary.
Student Academic Support Services (SASS) assists all students with documented disabilities and works with each student on a case-by-case basis to implement appropriate accommodations. SASS offers a variety of programs. The Basic program is free and provides access to all approved accommodations, assistive technology, and use of the testing center. Other programs include workshops to help students improve various skill sets, group study sessions with Graduate Assistants, and one-on-one sessions with an Academic Counselor for work on academics, time management, organizational skills, and self-advocacy techniques. SASS also has a five-day early move-in program for first-year and transfer students and organizes a January term study abroad trip.
The Metropolitan campus of Fairleigh Dickenson University (FDU) is located in Teaneck, New Jersey, very close to New York City. It is a private university founded in 1942, and the Metropolitan campus is home to FDU's business, professional, science, and healthcare programs. As of 2015, there are 4,114 undergraduates and 2,350 graduate students. Fairleigh Dickinson University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Since the early 1990s, the Regional Center for Learning Disabilities has offered structured plans, academic support, and counseling for students with language-based learning disabilities at no additional fee. Freshmen in the program receive up to four support sessions per week, based on their courses. They also enroll in a two-semester Metacognitive Strategies course, which helps students build skills in time management, note-taking, reading comprehension, test preparation, assistive technology, stress reduction, self-advocacy, and career development. Students in the program are provided counseling upon request, given a diagnostic test upon entry to determine appropriate accommodations, provided various forms of assistive technology, and given priority registration. Services are provided at no additional cost to students.
Twenty-five miles east of New York City, in Hempstead, Long Island is Hofstra University, a private nonprofit institution established in 1935. Hofstra is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and offers around 140 undergraduate and around 150 graduate programs. There is a student to faculty ratio of 14:1. In the fall of 2015 total student enrollment, undergraduate and graduate, was 10,870. The university offers over 200 student clubs, 28 of which are local/national fraternities and sororities. The Hofstra University Museum on campus is nationally accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.
Student Access Services (SAS) at Hofstra works to arrange accommodations and help students with disabilities develop the skills to be self-advocates and is free to Hofstra students. In addition to the services offered by SAS, such as housing accommodations, testing labs, and assistive technology, there are two fee-based programs for students registered with SAS. Program for Academic Learning Skills (PALS) assists students with learning disabilities and ADD/ADHD. Students apply for the PALS program at the time of admission to Hofstra. The second program is the Academic Coaching Program which provides short-term program to help students develop study skills. It provides one-on-one meetings with one of the SAS' learning specialists on topics such as social adjustments to college, time management, text reading and analysis strategies, and learning style awareness.
Adelphi University is a private university located in Garden City, New York, originally founded in 1863 as a preparatory school in Brooklyn. In 1929, Adelphi was the first private, co-educational higher education institution on Long Island. The school has an average class size of 19.4 students and a student to faculty ratio of 10:1. As of the fall of 2015, 5,071 undergraduate students were enrolled in over 50 programs of study. Adelphi is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to the Garden City campus, it also has Centers in Manhattan, Hudson Valley, and Suffolk County, New York.
Disability Services at Adelphi offers free academic and physical accommodations and adjustments for students with disabilities, including accessible classrooms and parking, assistive technology, extended-time and reduced-distraction testing environments, sign language interpreters, and housing accommodations. The Writing Center is available for all students at all levels with writing assignments and the Learning Center provides skills workshops and subject specific tutoring. For students on the autism spectrum, the Social Training Center and Bridges to Adelphi program exist to help make the transition to university smoother.
Founded in 1948, Nicholls State University is one of the schools in the University of Louisiana system, and is a public institution. It is named after Francis Redding Tillou Nicholls, a two-term Louisiana governor and Louisiana Supreme Court chief justice. Nicholls State is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and as of the fall of 2015 enrolled 6,164 undergraduate and graduate students. The university is located in Thibodaux, in south central Louisiana, the heart of the Mississippi River delta.
The Office of Disability Services at Nicholls State provides educational accommodations, information on university and outside resources and advocacy, and mediation for students with disabilities. The Office works with students on a case-by-case basis for a variety of classroom accommodations, including preferential seating, reader/writers for tests, assistive technology, extended test time, and volunteer notetakers. In addition to the services provided by the Office of Disability Services, Nicholls State is home to the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders provides tutoring and study help to students who have dyslexia. The Center provides students with a coordinator to assist them academic planning, accommodations for classrooms and testing, assistive technology, and remediation. There is a fee for the program.
Located in Ashland, Oregon, Southern Oregon University is a public liberal arts college. It was founded in 1926 and is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. As of the fall of 2015, 3,581 full-time and 1,825 part-time students were enrolled at SOU. The student to faculty ratio is 21:1 and the university offers 31 majors and 100 programs. Ashland is home to the Tony Award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), and many OSF actors, directors, and designers as guest artists and adjunct faculty work with SOU's Theater Arts, which is one of the university's most popular programs.
Disability Resources at SOU provides academic accommodations for students with disabilities through a variety of services including: testing accommodations, notetaking services, alternative textbook formats, assistive technology, special classroom seating, and Sign Language interpreters/captioning. University Coaching and Academic Mentoring (U-CAM) is an inclusive learning environment which provides "comprehensive support for students with executive function challenges (such as organization, planning, follow-through, and prioritization), learning disabilities, or ADD." It is a fee-for-service program which is in addition to a student's disability accommodations.
Southern Illinois University is the flagship campus of the Southern Illinois University system. It is a public research university located in Carbondale, Illinois, and was founded in 1869 as the state's second teachers college. Total fall 2014 enrollment was 17,989 students, 13,461 of which were undergraduates. It is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It has a student to faculty ratio of 15:1 and offers 84 undergraduate majors. The SIU mascot is the Saluki, a dog known for its speed and hunting skills in ancient Egypt, which is a nickname for the southern part of Illinois, due to the area not being hit by a severe drought in the early 1800s which affected the rest of the state.
Disability Support Services at SIU include note takers and lab assistants, testing accommodations, accessible course materials, tutorial referrals, advocacy and counseling, and housing assessments. In addition to these services, DSS has a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) for loan, interpreting and speech to text typists, and a Case Coordinator who is fluent in ASL for those students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. For students with visual impairments, DSS offers route familiarization training for new students and various equipment loans, such as talking calculators and electronic note taking systems with GPS. A fee-for-service program, Achieve Program, is available for student with learning disabilities. Students with mobility impairments can be approved for accessible van transport and personal assistants through the Southern Illinois Center for Independent Living.
Davis & Elkins College, also known as D&E, was named for Henry G. Davis and his son-in-law Stephen B. Elkins, United States Senators responsible for bringing the first railroad to the area. To this day the school's athletic teams are the Senators. D&E is a liberal arts college established in 1904 in Elkins, West Virginia. The college offers over 30 majors and pre-professional programs and has a student faculty ratio of 13:1. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. D&E is quite small, with 846 students enrolled in 2015.
Established in 1989, the Supported Learning Program providing individualized support to students with documented learning disabilities. It is a fee-based program, admitting a limited number of students each year. It offers weekly meetings with a Supported Learning program instructor, five hours of supervised study hall, a one-credit study skills class for incoming students, and help in implementing effective time management skills, among other services. There are also weekly group meetings for students with ADHD, ADD, and Executive Function challenges. The Naylor Center provides accommodations for students with disabilities who are not enrolled in the Supported Learning Program.
Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1926, Mercyhurst University is a Catholic liberal arts institution. Originally Mercyhurst College, the school was granted university status in 2012. Today there are more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in over 50 undergraduate majors and eight graduate programs. The average class size is 20. Mercyhurst is located in Erie, Pennsylvania. It is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The first man to graduate Mercyhurst College was Daniel Burke, who is today part of the university's art faculty.
The Learning Differences Program was begun in 1986, seven years before the Americans with Disabilities Act. It offers two levels of services for students with learning, physical and/or sensory disabilities. The first level is free and provides students with testing accommodations, assistive technology, and peer tutors. The second level provides additional academic support for students who need a bit more structure. This level is fee-based. First year Level 2 students are able to participate in the Summer PASS Program, allowing students to move onto campus three weeks early and earn three college credits while developing academic skills and abilities. Mercyhurst is also home to the Autism Initiative, a pioneering program after which many other colleges and universities are modeling their own initiatives.
Part of the University System of Ohio, the University of Akron is a public research university in Akron, Ohio. As of the fall of 2015, over 25,000 students were enrolled in more than 300 associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate and law degree programs. It was founded in 1870 as Buchtel College and is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. UA is a leader in polymer research and is home to the world’s largest polymer academic program.
The Office of Accessibility offers accommodations and a supportive, well-resourced environment to students with disabilities at the University of Akron. Some of the services offered include adaptive technology, alternative media formats, classroom accommodations, priority registration, testing accommodations, and Sign Language interpreters and transcribers. The Office of Accessibility will also help students with disability-related housing accommodations. In addition, the office offers a web-based Student Testing and Accommodation Request System (STARS) to help manage the requesting of accommodation letters, testing, note taking, alternative media and equipment electronically. These services are provided at no extra cost to students.
With campuses in Chicago and Schaumburg, Illinois, Roosevelt University is a private university. It was founded in 1945 and named after the then recently-deceased President Franklin Roosevelt. Today the school offers 116 degree programs across six colleges. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. As of 2015 there were 3,793 undergraduate students at Roosevelt University with an average class size of 11. Their mascot is Fala, named after Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's Scottish Terrier.
The Academic Success Center at Roosevelt offers several programs to assist students with disabilities. The Learning and Support Services Program (LSSP), established in 1981 helps support students with disabilities through an emphasis on planning, tutoring, counseling and modified test taking accommodations. The Disability Services program serves all students with special needs, and is both voluntary and confidential. It provides students with accommodations, including extended time when taking tests, tests in a separate room, use of a tape recorder in class, use of a calculator for tests / assignments, use of a scribe for tests / assignments, note-taker, and the use of a word processor for tests / assignments. Both of these programs are provided at no extra cost to students.
One of 14 schools associated with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Edinboro University is a public liberal arts university located in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1857 as the Edinboro Academy, a private training school for Pennsylvania teachers. The university offers 135 Bachelor’s degree programs, 16 graduate programs, 10 Associate's degree programs, and 10 certificates. Fall 2015 enrollment was 5,247 undergraduate and 1,303 graduate students with a student to faculty ratio of 18:1. It is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The town is named after Edinburgh, Scotland.
Through the Office of Students with Disabilities, students can access a wide variety of services, at no extra charge. These include classroom accommodations, such as audio recorded lectures, notetakers, alternate format textbooks and handouts; testing accommodations, such as extended test time, reader, scribe, computer, or alternate formats; and other accommodations like academic and meal aides, tactile laboratory and services, and van transportation. Edinboro University has expanded universal design of the physical environment in most of its recent renovation and construction projects. For those students with personal needs, the Office of Students with Disabilities has an Attendant Care Service, which is coordinated by a team which includes a program nurse, occupational therapist, social worker, and a student affairs professional.
The Disability Resource Center
Also known as Disability Student Services, the Learning Center, or the Center for Students with Disabilities, among others, a college or university’s Disability Resource Center has dual purposes: to serve the student with a disability and to make the campus a more affirming and accessible environment for that student.
Of course, this entails the provision of accommodations, from testing to assistive technology, but a good resource center will also create opportunities for the student to connect with other students. And the best resource centers will ensure against isolation and instead infuse themselves with a campus’ academic and social life.
We’ve explained below what to look for and how to discern if a school’s resource center will best serve you.
Resources and Accommodations
For those with either physical or cognitive disabilities, the campus resource center should provide the necessary forms and documents necessary for requesting assistance and accommodations.
These forms cover requests for housing, testing and exam accommodations, alternate text, use of specific assistive technology (more on that below), interpreters, classroom adjustments, and more. Additionally, the resource center should provide resources on local and state services.
Older, experienced students with disabilities who have proven their commitment to and involvement in the Disability Resource Center community often chose to become mentors to new or transfer students.
If your school provides this program (and they should), we encourage you to become a mentee, as it gives you the opportunity to connect with someone who can offer advice, resources, and support.
Campus-Wide Education and Training
Some Disability Resource Centers make education and training available to staff, faculty, and administration, reflecting not just a commitment to disability awareness, but emphasizing the importance of making such education accessible.
Often, students can participate in the trainings, connecting with other students and faculty alike. Examples of such trainings, taken from actual Disability Resource Centers, include:
An introduction to the Disability Resource Center
Explorations on the Social Justice Model of Disability
A Demonstration of Adaptive/Assistive Technology
Effective Strategies for Communication and Interaction
Incorporating Disabled Perspectives into Curriculum and Instruction
Organizational and Extra-Curricular Support
Not all colleges and universities, and their respective Disability Resource Centers, have groups and organizations specific to students with disabilities, but many do. Look for those, and look for groups that are relevant to your experience and needs.
Social groups are the nucleus of a vibrant community. A particularly active and high-functioning center will accommodate groups and organizations that align with various identities and needs.
National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Intercollegiate Leagues
Project Eye to Eye
Delta Alpha Pi International Honor Society
AccessABILITY Student Union
Black, Disabled, and Proud
Counselors and Tutors
While some Disability Resource Centers are run by students, we encourage finding a center that combines the efforts of students and (paid) staff.
Schools that prioritize all aspects of their students’ health—physical, emotional, mental—and prove that by staffing experienced counselors and tutors are schools creating higher success rates for their students. Look for a college that offers personal counseling, psychological and cognitive testing, academic advisors, vocational counseling, and note takers among others.
Such experienced counselors can help facilitate the transition to college life, as well as provide the support needed to perform well academically. Counselors can also help you manage an array of potential issues: stress, self-esteem, coping, anxiety, and balancing school with family and work life.
We’ve provided below a thorough list of scholarships that are available to students with disabilities, but internships can provide another option for affording school. Plus, they look great on a resume!
Generally, there are two kinds of internships: those directly affiliated with the school and those that will connect you with a local (and sometimes even national) organization. Your Disability Resource Center can, and should, facilitate this connection.
Tip: Some internships do not pay, but that does not mean they are not worthwhile. Many offer a range of other incentives, such as college cred, and the experience alone will serve you well.
Many liberal arts colleges and research universities have an interdisciplinary department that includes the possibility of majoring or minoring in disability studies or rehabilitative services, a field that has substantial scholarly interest, graduate options, and career opportunities.
For those students wishing to concentrate in disability studies, our list of the 50 Best Disability Friendly Colleges and Universities is a good place to start.
However, there are many other programs worth noting in addition to those, so we’ve listed below the colleges and universities where you can earn either a bachelor of arts in disability studies or combine a disability studies minor with another area of study.
We have only chosen those programs that are theory based, meaning you won’t find special education or other applied programs. Finally, are you wondering how a disability studies degree will serve you and what kind of career it’ll afford you?
We’ve provided some suggestions and resources below the school listing.
After Graduation: Careers for Disability Studies Students
Disability studies—whether a minor, major, or degree certificate—may not situate you on an explicit and predictable career track. Rather than see this nebulosity as problematic and a potential hindrance to finding a job, students of disability studies should feel confident that their studies have prepared them for a range of career options, and that this scope will set them apart.
Education, health, and public policy systems alike actively seek prospective employees with experience and expertise in diversity. In business, media, and philanthropic fields, the need for perspectives that embrace disability is of exponential importance.
There are also numerous graduate programs where you could build off your undergraduate studies, that is, if you are interested in pursuing more school. Wherever you decide to apply your academic experience, it’s of crucial importance to know your workplace rights as a person with disability:
A service provided by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, JAN enables the employment of workers with disabilities. They partner and collaborate with a number of organizations, including the US Business Leadership Network, Assistive Technology Industry Association, EEOC, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and more.
Workplace Fairness is a public education and advocacy organization with a vision to create a global workplace marked by fair treatment of workers. They have aggregated one of the most comprehensive collections of information on workplace rights, to which they provide free access.
Working to promote disability inclusion in the workplace, ILO Global Business and Disability Network is a global network of companies, national organizations, businesses, and disability groups. They publish a range of resources on workplace inclusivity and best business practices.
Online and Distance Learning
ADA and Section 504 do not specify and enforce explicit requirements on the distance and online learning programs offered by colleges and universities. However, by nature of those laws, students with disabilities should have the same access to online and distance learning as non-disabled students.
If you are considering acquiring a degree through distance education, we at College Choice encourage you to put forth the same measure of research you’d put into traditional programs. Talk to admissions counselors and find out what kind of accommodations will be made for you.
Below are more considerations and questions you may want to work through during the research and application process.
Why Distance Learning?
Self pacing: Many online or distance programs give students the opportunity to advance through the material at their own pace. This flexibility allows students to slow down and allocate their time and energy where they see the most need. And vice-versa, students can work quickly through material about which they are confident.
Affordability: Not only do you save on commute costs, housing, and board, but many online programs cost a fraction of the traditional program’s tuition.
Environment: You know when and where you work best. Create your own class hours and classrooms.
Stability: Distance education allows you to maintain the stability and support you receive from your schedules, habits, home life, job, and relationships.
Individualized instruction: Your teachers—many of whom are full-time faculty on traditional campuses—connect with you by phone, email, or chat, making the academic experience highly individualized.
Geography: Perhaps the schools closest to you don’t offer what you need, either academically or in terms of student support. With distance learning you can earn a degree from a college or university located anywhere in the country without having to relocate yourself. This often saves you out-of-state tuition and extends your options past your geographical area.
What to Look for as a Student
Accreditation: Schools are required to list their accreditation on their websites. Ensure the school is accredited, but also that it’s accredited by a recognized and respected organization. Regionally accredited colleges and universities are usually non-profit or state-owned and are academically oriented. Nationally accredited schools are vocationally oriented, marked by their career and technical programs.
Transferable credits and curriculum: Will you be able to transfer any of your distance-learning earned credits to another institution? If not, this tends to reflect a lack of academic recognition.
Support services: Online learners require as much, and sometimes more, support than traditional students. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Are there academic advisors?
Is there a way to connect with others, both when you are actively a student and after graduation?
Is there a career center?
Is there an online library and/or bookstore?
Admission requirements: A credible and quality online program will maintain the high admission standards as a traditional, on-campus program.
What to Look for as a Student with a Disability
Does the school provide the same AT tools to their online students as their traditional students?
Is the college’s web platform—including lecture material, assignment sections, library catalogs, captioning, keyboard and mouse alternatives, discussion boards, etc.—compatible with screen-reading software?
Will students be allowed to opt out of teleconferences, chats, and real-time discussions and presentations if their disability inhibits effective participation?
Can students still find connection to a student body, and especially to a community of other students with disabilities?
Applying and Preparing
Applying to college is one of the most important things you’ll do in your young adult life, and for that reason it can be a difficult and overwhelming process for any student. Applying to college as a student with a disability comes with added challenges. So, take each step slowly, thoughtfully working toward those goals and deadlines. Collaborate with counselors, parents, and educators to ensure all deadlines and requirements are met and met in full. Below are some considerations, tips, and advice for the application process.
So, take each step slowly, thoughtfully working toward those goals and deadlines. Collaborate with counselors, parents, and educators to ensure all deadlines and requirements are met and met in full. Below are some considerations, tips, and advice for the application process.
How to Start: Create a List of Prospective Schools
We at College Choice created this resource to guide you through all the nuances of being a student with a disability, aware that it all starts with finding the right school and surviving the application season. So start by creating a list of eight to ten prospective colleges and universities. Do your own research on
So start by creating a list of eight to ten prospective colleges and universities. Do your own research on schools, and a lot of it. Use our 50 Best Disability Friendly Colleges and Universities list to get started. But also think about a school’s location, affordability, and emphases—that is, does the school prioritize athletics and
But also think about a school’s location, affordability, and emphases—that is, does the school prioritize athletics and extra-curriculars, and do they excel in certain academic disciplines—as well as what they offer their students with disabilities (those considerations we’ve noted above in our “Choosing the Right College or University” section).
When: Start your research early, during either your sophomore or junior year. When you start your senior year of high school finalize your list of schools and make a calendar that includes the application and material deadlines of each school.
If it’s possible to visit the colleges and universities on your list, make it happen. You’ll want the opportunity to attend classes, meet with students and professors, and get a feel for the campus.
Additionally, schedule a time to visit with the Disability Resource Center, and meet with a counselor to ask about accommodations, accessibility, and services provided. The size of and services offered through the DRC will reveal how a school cares for their students with disabilities.
When: Reach out to college and university admission offices during your junior year. Visit in the spring of your junior year and again in the fall of your senior year, if possible.
Applying: The Question of Disclosure
It is within your right whether or not you disclose your disability on college applications. Likewise, you are not required to discuss any medical, psychological, or personal circumstances with admissions counselors.
However, it could be of benefit to you, your application, and an admissions office to disclose the disability if it has played a role in the reliability of your GPA, test scores, or extra-curricular activity. During the process of applying to college many students and families struggle with the disclosure issue, so here are some things to consider and to prepare, if you choose to disclose:
Disclosure can actually reflect self-advocacy, determination, and awareness of the disability’s effects and nuances.
Colleges and universities seek diversity and most consider disability a form of diversity.
If your disability affects your academic history—for example, if your learning disability has resulted in consistently low grades and test scores—know that most admission offices will recognize this and recast those grades and test scores in a new light.
Under “additional information” or in your personal statements, specify the disability, its effects on your daily life, and its effects on your academic life.
Don’t just disclose. Explain how you’ve persevered despite the disability, how you’ve compensated for its adverse effects—noting specifically what you’ve done on your own, tutoring, and/or medication you take—and what you’ve learned from your experiences.
Create a portfolio that includes recent assessments of the disability (if possible), thorough records of accommodations made on behalf of your high school, and letters of recommendation from counselors, doctors, or disability specialists.
And, finally, if you don’t feel comfortable disclosing then listen to your intuition.
Tip: Hundreds of colleges and universities are “test optional,” meaning students can chose not to release their test scores. FairTest provides list of those schools.
All of the following will happen in the fall of your senior year of high school. Talk to counselors, parents, and teachers about applications and to together construct a plan for the process of applying.
Register for and complete the necessary application tests, including SAT, SAT subject, and/or ACT. It is possible to request accommodations—individual administration of the test, audio or large print test editions, extended time, special answer sheets, etc.—for these tests.
Write your application essays, making sure to have a guidance counselor, teacher, or parent proofread your final drafts. If you need assistance, reach out to your high school’s learning facilitator or to a local learning center.
Seek out letters of recommendations from teachers and counselors who can speak to your academic performance as well as your holistic approach to education. If you feel comfortable, ask them to explicitly comment on the challenges of your disability and how you’ve faced them.
Send in the finished applications, letters, test scores, and transcripts by the stated deadlines.
Start researching your financial aid options. More on that below.
College is expensive, but with some creativity and resilience, you can find a way to afford it (without relying too much on loans). Below we explain the options specific to students with disabilities.
Grants: Need-based awards given to students based on criteria (such as disability and/or family income), grants are usually provided by federal and state governments. The Federal Pell Grant is one of the most known in the country, given to students with financial need. For students with disabilities there is also the US Department of Education’s TRIO Program, which partners with a number of schools in the country, providing grants for students with severe disabilities.
Scholarships: Different from grants in that they are given based on certain qualities or achievements, scholarships are awarded by a variety of organizations, including the college itself. See our scholarship section for a full list of awards given specifically to students with disabilities.
Waivers: Not all but some schools offer a tuition waiver or a discount for students with disabilities. The award criteria depends on the school but many require that the student have a severe and permanent disability. For example, Texas residents who are legally blind or deaf may be eligible for a tuition waver at public universities.
Work Program: Connect with your local Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS). They’re a great resource for job opportunities, helping people with disabilities obtain and retain employment in their communities.
FAFSA: Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, even if you don’t think you qualify.
Official Benefactors: In exchange for service work, organizations like Americorps, Peace Corp, National Health Services Corps, and ROTC programs will help pay for college. Of course, there’s a serious time commitment for these.
Before you Begin: What to Do and How to Get Ready
Though the summer months between high school and college may seem like a waiting period, those months are actually some of the best for seizing opportunities that will benefit you throughout college.
Even if you are not starting college after high school, taking advantage of any time you have to prepare for this big transition will be critical to both your success and happiness as a college student.
Organize and Prepare Documents
Your high school will have maintained records of your accommodations and assessments. Before graduating, request copies of all these forms, including special testing records, as you may need to show them to your college’s disability services.
Register for classes as soon as you can. Often, registration works on a first-come first-serve basis, so it’s best to not delay. Most colleges publish their course descriptions online in addition to sending complete course catalogs to their students, so decide what you’d like to take before registration forms appear in your mailbox.
Connect with the local Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) office once you’ve been accepted to and have chosen a college. They can facilitate job placements, internship opportunities, vocational assessments, and more on your behalf.
Reach out to the college’s Disability Resource Center. Ask for more information and inform them of what you’ll need in the fall. They can advise you on how best to prepare over the summer and tell you what to expect as a first-year student.
Become Your Own Advocate
College is substantially different from high school in a number of ways, but the most important difference, one that specifically affects students with disabilities, is that in high school the responsibility of accommodations falls on the school’s staff and administrators. In college, you must be your own advocate, requesting the tools, access, and help that ensures your full range of needs are met.
Once you’ve been accepted, your college will start sending you important information over the summer, including registration and housing forms, as well as inquiring about extra-curricular interests. Use this opportunity to get pre-emptively involved!
If you’re planning to live on-campus, housing information is usually sent to students in mid-to-late summer, so use those last summer weeks to reach out to your roommate. Get to know him or her through email, social media, and phone.
Work on Independent Living Skills
Really, everyone could use a brush-up on the nuances of laundry before college, but for students with disabilities, increasing your independent living skills will not only make the transition to college life easier, but it’ll give you more confidence to tackle other obstacles.
Here are some things to consider:
Finances: Do you feel comfortable managing your checking and savings accounts? How about writing checks and balancing credit cards?
Resident Life: Are you prepared to do your own laundry, practice good personal hygiene, stay physically fit, and maintain your living space? Do you feel comfortable contacting RAs, landlords, utility service people for basic household help? How about knowing when to seek medical assistance?
Food Prep: Understanding the significance of good nutrition goes a long way to improving the overall health of your life. Do you know how to prepare and store food safely? How about planning meals in advance and creating a food budget?
Work Life: You may want to find a part-time job or volunteer position over the summer to work on socialization skills and to give yourself an idea of workplace expectations. Then later, when you need to find work while in college, you’ll be better able to balance school and work.
It may seem intuitive, but knowing yourself ensures a successful college experience. Figure out how you learn. Are you a visual, auditory, or hands-on learner? What does this mean for your study habits?
Research your disability. Perhaps this is work you did years ago, but maybe you were recently diagnosed, or maybe new research has developed. Know everything you can about your disability and how it affects all areas of your life.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses. This will lead you to determine how you organize your work and schedule, how you problem solve, what habits (both good and bad) you develop, what fears you have, and how to overcome those fears.
Veterans with Disabilities
For Veterans with disabilities—whether physical, psychological, or cognitive—the transition from soldier to student is fraught with challenges, especially for all those who are still acclimating to the newness of their disability.
However, education will not only clear the path toward fulfilling career opportunities, but it can provide needed enrichment post employment. Here are some considerations to work through and some resources to help facilitate the shift from soldier to student.
The Age Difference
Starting college at twenty-five (or older) rather than eighteen means there are not only those many years of experience separating you and your classmate, but your needs vary, sometimes radically.
For example, while the eighteen-year-old student fresh out of high school is eager to enter the dorm, you have already experienced the barracks. Look into non-traditional resident options. Inquire with the admissions office about living in graduate housing or look into applying your G.I. Bill benefits to off-campus housing. The age difference may also create an isolated campus experience, so see below about finding allies.
A great resource to help pay your way through college, the G.I. Bill comes in varying amounts and packages. Know your options, what’s required, and how best to utilize the benefits.
In addition to the funds received through the G.I. Bill, you also have access to hundreds of scholarships specifically committed to promoting education among vets. While these merit-based awards range in amounts and requirements, the diversity of scholarships connotes high probability that you will find a relevant award.
To start, non-active and active military vets who are disabled because of wounds received in combat can receive a scholarship from the AFCEA, called the AFCEA Disabled War Veterans Scholarship. Also see our “Scholarship” section for more.
Traditional vs. Non-traditional Education
There are pros and cons to both traditional and non-traditional education (regarding the latter, see our “Online and Distance Learning” section). Traditional academia offers on-campus opportunities such as extra-curriculars and athletics, national accreditation, relationships with faculty and classmates, and the discipline of class schedules, deadlines, and appointments.
Non-traditional is flexible, but often more isolating. Think through your needs and ask yourself what ranks as most important to you in your college experience.
Some colleges are considered more military friendly than others. Though, beware of those for-profit colleges boasting deep tuition discounts for vets. While it may be cheaper, for-profits usually don’t maintain the same academic standards as public and non-profit institutions.
The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the G.I. Bill that allows veterans to attend private schools and graduate programs despite their higher tuition rates. For a list of schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program visit here.
Whether you decide to enroll in distance learning or a traditional program, it’s crucial to connect with your peers, and especially with other veterans. Find organizations, clubs, support groups, and discussion groups where you can meet other like-minded folk who may empathize with your experiences. It’s also important to make connections with classmates who have diverging experiences, too.
Most colleges and universities offer healthcare and include counseling in their plan. Utilize this resource. Find a counselor you trust and meet with him or her at least a couple times throughout the term.
Likewise, meet with an academic advisor if you need help planning and implementing your studies. Advisors can help with everything from scheduling and organizing to proofing papers and sharing test-taking strategies.
A charity that serves veterans with disabilities, they work primarily with vets in homeless populations, women vets, and those with posttraumatic stress disorder. They offer financial support to veteran organizations as well as supplemental assistance to the homeless and those with low-incomes.
This government-run military veteran benefit system provides resources on every sector of post-employment life. From healthcare and education to job placement and vet center information, they are the largest, most encompassing resource on and authority about what it means to thrive as a veteran.
SOC is a liaison between military members and higher education, helping coordinate educational opportunities and improve access to and the experience of educational programs for service members.
Best U.S. Cities for People with Disabilities
Depending on your economic and logistic situation, it may not be feasible to travel far for college. In-state tuition is notably lower than out-of-state tuition, often a third of the price, if not less.
But if finding a disability friendly environment is a significant priority, it’s then advisable to look into a metro area known not only for being accessible, but for its higher population of people with disabilities, the range of disabilities represented, and disability pride events.
We’ve compiled a list of the ten best cities for people with disabilities, plus ten honorable mention cities, taking into account the disability population numbers, organizations that promote and cultivate independence, the number of events and activities, and the accessibility of transit, city attractions, and businesses.
We’ve also included disability friendly colleges and universities populating those cities to expedite your search for an accessible campus.
1. SEATTLE, WA
Seattle may only conjure images of hills and rain, but it’s also consistently ranked as one of the most disability friendly cities in the country, as it is home to several autism centers, including one for kids, as well as visual and hearing impairment centers.
Light rail, city buses, water ferries, and taxies alike provide wheelchair ramps and since some of their transportation is new it was built to fully comply with ADA standards. The city’s main attractions are noted for their accessibility; the Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market, the Experience Music Project Museum, the Seattle Museum, and the Space Needle each strive to accommodate their visitors with disabilities.
The Washington Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities has a sizeable and active presence in the city.
Less than an hour from both Seattle and Olympia National Park, Evergreen State College is an experimental public liberal arts college where there are over sixty emphases to choose from, covering everything from biology and art history to somatic studies and sustainability.
Not only is Evergreen considered one of the best colleges on the West Coast, as ranked by The Princeton Review and the U.S. News and World Report, but Evergreen is a pioneer in innovative education and a leader in diversity. For more about being a student with a disability at Evergreen, check out their Access Services program.
Finally, Evergreen is an affordable education option with an in-state tuition of $8,200 and an out-of-state tuition at $22,321.
Bellevue College is located near Seattle in Bellevue, Washington. Not only are their annual tuition rates seriously affordable ($3,754 in-state and $8,944 out-of-state), but their innovative OLS program is one of the first of its kind.
An associate degree program tailored specifically for students with cognitive disabilities, the curriculum was designed to lead to employment after graduation. Their Disability Resource Center is also one of the best nationwide.
2. DENVER, CO
Denver, Colorado, with its integrated disability-specific arts programs, paratransit door-to-door service, and a renowned hospital serving people with head and spinal cord injuries, competes for being the best city for those with disabilities.
The Denver Office of Disability Rights, the Center for People with Disabilities, and the National Sports Center for the Disabled are just some of the organizations based in the Mile-High City, working towards improving the lives their disability communities. The University of Denver ranks twenty-first among best disability friendly colleges on our list. See above for more on DU.
The University of Colorado Denver is both nationally ranked for its academics and known for its disability resources and services. In the last few years the university has created a diversity council to focus on the importance of disability diversity, raise awareness, cultivate a more supportive community for students with disabilities, and to educate the faculty, staff, and administration on issues related to disabilities.
3. CHICAGO, IL
Home to an annual Disability Pride Parade, Chicago boasts a disability community that is close, active, and spirited. Chicago is also known for its accessible transit system—almost all railways are accessible to the physically handicapped and wheelchair users get discounted fares—as well as a strong healthcare system by way of the University of Illinois, which created a Healthy Community Mapping System.
The map helps one navigate the city’s fitness centers, sidewalks, businesses, parks, and more. DePaul University, located in the heart of the city, ranks twenty-eighth among best disability friendly colleges on our list. See above for more on DU.
Columbia College is a liberal arts college specializing in arts and media. Their programs cover everything from art history to nonfiction, from music technology to theatre, animation, design, marketing, and more.
They offer a BA in Deaf Studies, a program designed to educate students who will become advocates for deaf and hard of hearing communities, as well as an ASL minor. The Services for Students with Disabilities Office provides accommodations, resources, and is a place for connection. Tuition is $23,544 annually.
4. BERKELEY, CA
Berkeley’s history is a testament to why it is ranked one of the friendliest cities for those with disabilities; not only have people with disabilities been a public presence for a long time, but it was also the first city in the country to organize a CIL, a Center for Independent Living.
Berkeley offers paratransit all days of the week and is a short, accessible train ride to Oakland and San Francisco, which are also known for their leadership in disability equality, social action, and arts scene (most notable is the AXIS Dance Company).
The University of California Berkeley is one of the most academically renowned universities in the country, often ranked first in a number of disciplines by U.S. News and World Report.
Their Disabled Students’ Program currently serves more than 1,600 students at UC Berkeley and is one of nine federal TRIO programs in the country. Tuition for in-state students is $13,432 and $38,140 for out-of-state students.
5. NEW YORK CITY, NY
The numbers that make New York City—from population size to the amount of renowned museums, theatres, and attractions—instill among the skyscrapers and interminable sidewalks the kind of diversity that negates a norm.
People with disabilities won’t feel they stand out in the City that Never Sleeps. New York City is also home to an accessible transit system, an Office for People with Disabilities connected to the mayoral office, the Learning Disabilities Association headquarters, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
The City University of New York demonstrates its commitment to its students with disabilities through several ongoing projects and services. Project REACH (Resources and Education on Autism as CUNY’s Hallmark) has been working for years to better the college experience for students with autism spectrum disorders.
CUNY also boasts an assistive technology specialist team called CATS, which is both an on-campus community of experts trying to stay on the forefront of AT and an online resource for AT professionals. Tuition at CUNY varies depending on the campus.
6. PORTLAND, OR
TriMet—the bus, light rail, and commuter rail transit system in Portland—offers reduced fares to people with disabilities, as well as use of neighborhood shuttles, a paratransit service with over 250 minibuses and cars, and disability-friendly stations and stops.
Located in the middle of downtown, the Oregon Health and Science University Hospital provides a range of services and facilities to those with physical, cognitive, and mental disabilities. There are numerous legal offices that specifically handle cases regarding disability discrimination and Adaptive Sports Northwest—an organization that provides sport and recreation opportunities to those with disabilities—is located just outside the city.
Lewis & Clark College is a private liberal arts college specializing in arts, sciences, education, and law. They provide a range of support, services, and advocacy for their students with disabilities, as well as for faculty and staff. For more about being a student with a disability at Lewis & Clark, check out the Student Support Services. Tuition is $45,100 a year.
Reed College, a very small (there are only 1,400 undergrads) private, liberal arts college with a forested canyon nature preserve at the center of campus, is known for its interdisciplinary studies program, which allows students to combine disciplines and academic pursuits.
Their Disability Support Services center serves both students and faculty to create a successful academic experience for the disability community on campus. Tuition is $47,760 annually.
7. MINNEAPOLIS, MN
Minneapolis has received accolades and awards for its service to its disability community from highly regarded groups like the National Organization on Disability.
The city’s Skyway System—a network of enclosed walkways that connect most of downtown—provides relief from the severe seasonal weather in addition to easy transit around town.
Minneapolis’ CIP, Community Involvement Programs, is a non-profit that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, connecting those individuals with a number of programs, groups, mentors, and more.
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is one of the largest campuses in the country with approximately 50,000 students, and it is the oldest school in the University of Minnesota system.
The Disability Resource Center provides peer note takers, testing options, education and training, and a number of scholarships offered through both the DRC and outside advocacy groups. In-state tuition is $13,560 annually and out-of-state is $20,810.
8. WASHINGTON, DC
Our nation’s capital has over two hundred wheelchair-converted taxies, over 70 percent of the metro buses are accessible, and the metro stations are 100 percent accessible by elevator, which means you’ll have few problems frequenting the numerous museums across the city.
The distinguished museums and monuments in DC offer group or individual tours for those with hearing or visual impairments, including the help of an interpreter if needed.
Dozens of learning disability therapists are located in Washington DC, as is the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders, and the Disability Power and Pride organization, a group that works to unify the disability community.
Often named one of the most politically active schools in the country, American University boasts a lively Academic Support & Access Center. They host an academic skills workshop series, provide courtesy testing, study abroad opportunities, a variety of AT software, and they actively pair their students with job and internship opportunities. Tuition is $43,103 annually.
9. ALBUQUERQUE, NM
For milder weather, head south to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city with excellent curb cuts, a paratransit service, and the University of New Mexico Hospital, which houses the Center for Development and Disability.
Though the main transit system is newly (and thus not fully) accessible, the city offsets this with navigable sidewalks and a flat, gridded network of streets. Albuquerque also has numerous therapists and tutors who work with students who have learning and cognitive disabilities.
The state’s flagship university, the University of New Mexico’s Albuquerque campus encompasses over six hundred acres, four museums, and the Center for Development and Disability Information Network Library.
Their active Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) works both with students and faculty to help students with disabilities gain equal access to education. For those living in New Mexico, tuition is highly affordable with annual rates of $6,846. Non-residents pay $20,664 annually.
10. BALTIMORE, MD
The League for People with Disabilities has served individuals with physical, cognitive, and neurological disabilities for nearly a century through their vocational, rehabilitative, educational, medical, and social services.
Also based in Baltimore, the national non-profit Kennedy Krieger Institute is an affiliate of John Hopkins that provides care for youth with learning disabilities. The museums, aquariums, monuments, visitor centers, and transit systems throughout the city are known to be accessible and some even offer discounts for wheelchair users.
Loyola University at Maryland aims to give all students equal opportunity to participate in the school’s programs and activities. The Disability Support Services ensures barriers—physical, programmatic, technological, or cultural—are eliminated, elevating the diversity that marks Loyola’s core values.
Students have access to a number of accommodations at Loyola including a range of AT software and devices, scholarship resources, organization coaches, tech labs, and much more. Tuition at Loyola is $45,365 a year.
Coppin State University is a small school of approximately 2,600 undergraduates known for its Rehabilitation Counseling program. The major (they also offer a graduate degree) prepares its students to provide rehabilitation services to a wide variety of people with a variety of disabilities.
Coppin’s Disability Support Services works to promote a greater understanding of disability culture and accessibility issues across campus and beyond. Coppin is very affordable: tuition for residents is $6,624 and is $11,885 for non-residents.
Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
Less than half of high school students who have a disability go on to pursue higher education. Though this statistic is alarming, it used to be much worse; twenty years ago only a quarter of high school students with a disability went to college.
The increase can be attributed to gains in disability rights, the enforcement of ADA standards, and greater visibility. Adding financial hardship on top of those challenges already in place can make college seem inaccessible at best and impossible at worst.
However, scholarships can be key to making college a possibility, and there are hundreds of scholarships specific to students with disabilities. We’ve compiled below a list of such scholarships; while some are general, others have specific eligibility requirements.
AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability
Though preference is given to applicants who will major in public health, disability studies, disability research, rehabilitation engineering, disability policy, audiology, or a similar field, students with any kind of disability—learning, cognitive, physical, etc.—are eligible.
Seeking students who have shown perseverance in the face of adversity, and who have a demonstrated financial need, the Horatio Alger Association scholarship program is one of the nation’s largest scholarships programs in the country.
Categories: general Application deadline: April 15 Award range: varying Contact Website
“Business Plan” Scholarship for Students with Disabilities
Founders of Fit Small Business award a scholarship twice a year to a student with a disability. One of the eligibility requirements includes submitting a 500–1,000 word essay on creating a business plan, making this a scholarship open to everyone but perhaps best suited to business, communication, marketing, and economics students.
Categories: general Application deadline: April 1 and November 1 Award range: $1,000 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship Program
Students with MS who have demonstrated leadership qualities, commitment to their communities, academic performance, goals and aspirations post high school, and who are in financial need are eligible for this scholarship awarded by the National MS Society each year.
Categories: MS Application deadline: January 15 Award range: $1,000–$3,000 Contact: email@example.com Website
The Independence Foundation Scholarship
The Independence Foundation provides support and assistance to people with physical disabilities in an effort to help them live independent, self-directed lives. Each year they award three scholarships to students with a physical disability. Application requires a five hundred-word essay about how your physical limitation has presented challenges and how you have preserved despite those challenges.
Categories: physical disability Application deadline: April 15 Award range: $500 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website
JC Runyon Foundation Moving Forward Scholarship
For many students who have struggled with emotional and mental health and have had in-patient treatment, a difficult choice must be made: pay off expensive medical bills or attend college. The JC Runyon Foundation and the Moving Forward Scholarship seeks to eliminate that decision.
Categories: emotional / behavioral health Application deadline: May 1 Award range: $2,000 per semester for up to eight semesters (or $16,000 total) Contact: email@example.com Website
Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships
Awarded by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, these two scholarships are given to two graduating high school seniors with documented learning disabilities. The Allegra Ford scholarship is a one-time award while the Anne Ford scholarship is given once a year for four years.
Categories: learning disability Application deadline: December 15 Award range: $2,500 / $10,000 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website
National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program
Blind college students have the opportunity to win one of thirty merit-based scholarships through the National Federation of Blind’s scholarship program. Eligible applicants must prove an excellent academic history, dedication to community service, and leadership qualities.
Categories: visual impairment Application deadline: March 31 Award range: $3,000–$12,000 Contact: email@example.com Website
OAR Scholarship Program
OAR, the Organization for Autism Research, grants numerous scholarships each year to college students who have a medical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The program is highly competitive with over five hundred students applying each year.
Categories: autism spectrum disability Application deadline: May 1 Award range: $3,000 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website
Tip: There are hundreds of scholarships for students with disabilities. While some of those scholarships are not specific to a kind of disability, many are. So, you should continue researching your options to make college as affordable as possible.
The American Association of People with Disabilities, the nation’s largest disability rights organization, advocates for the legal rights of people with disabilities, primarily through implementation of and enacting the requirements of ADA. AAPD offers internships, leadership awards, scholarships, and hosts events, campaigns, initiatives, and coalitions throughout the year.
Passed by the US Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disability Act protects the civil rights of people with disabilities. Their website explicates the details of the law, its titles, and its regulations.
With nearly three thousand members worldwide, the Association on Higher Education and Disability is a professional organization that develops policy and services on behalf of people with disabilities in all areas of higher education. Becoming a student member introduces one to a number of resources and benefits, including academic journal subscriptions, access to online job postings, discounts on workshops and conferences, eligibility for awards, and much more.
A membership organization that supports a national university network of disability centers, the AUCD promotes leadership, congress advocacy, networking and partnering, and communication among the centers. From listserves to information on network centers, the AUCD provides innumerable resources for students with disabilities.
Run by and for individuals on the autism spectrum, ASAN seeks to bring to people with autism the same access, rights, and opportunities as everyone else, heartily pushing for more autistic voices in media, policy, education, and professional venues. With chapters throughout the country, there are many ways to get involved, from Autistic Pride Day to mentoring opportunities.
CLE works directly with college students to promote independent living. They help people with cognitive and learning disabilities to pursue higher education, develop social skills, navigate career goals, manage personal finances, handle household responsibilities, and more. An application and interview is required before partnering with CLE, but students can reach out at any time throughout the year.
The largest, most encompassing resource on being a person with a disability, Disability.gov has an abundance of information on civil rights, health, employment, technology, housing, transportation, community life, and education. Disability.gov is the authority on what it means to thrive as a person with a disability.
Though affiliated with the University of Washington and based in Seattle, DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) is a global-wide effort to empower people with disabilities through education and technology. By providing teachers, administrators, librarians, and other educators with online content, publications, videos, and other resources for students with disabilities, DO-IT increases the academic success of people with disabilities.
Though not strictly focused on issues of disability, Lumina Foundation’s mission is to expand student access to and success in higher education. They have created over 250 million dollars in grants since their founding and are currently working to increase the number of Americans with degrees by 60 percent.
Twenty percent of children and adults have a learning or attention disability in our country. NCLD seeks to transform schools to give everyone the same opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. Their programs have something for everyone—parents, students, doctors, and educators alike—including an online community that offers support to young adults with learning disabilities.
In the vein of TEDx, the National Youth Leadership Network’s online platform hosts numerous videos on being a teen, with special emphasis on being a young adult with a disability. There are also videos and resources for leaders.
A national organization committed to improving and expanding the higher education experience for people with intellectual disabilities, Think College can help you find a college, guide you through the methods and means of affording college, and provide training and technical assistance to your educators and administrators.
An online master of education is an advanced degree that prepares educators for roles in K-12 school administration, student counseling, curriculum design, and instruction. According to Georgetown University's , individuals...