Colleges that Cater to Students with Special Needs

         With over 4,300 institutions of higher education in the US alone, helping your youngster choose which college or university to attend can seem like a mountainous task especially when your college-bound son or daughter has special needs. But don’t worry because today more than ever students with limitations have no limitations when it comes to pursuing college dreams!

In fact, many colleges specialize in providing services for students with challenges. These services allow kids with special needs to experience college life in full force!

College represents the first opportunity for many young people to live independently. So, students with disabilities need to think about a lot more than just academic facilities and social amenities.

         As a student with a disability, your child needs to be well informed about his or her educational rights and responsibilities. Being well informed will help ensure that your child will have a full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the postsecondary education experience without confusion or delay.

         According to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act established in 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act established in 1990, no student can be denied educational access due to disability. Practically every school district and postsecondary school in the United States is subject to one or both of these laws, which have similar requirements.

As required by law, most colleges and universities offer services to students with physical disabilities such as accessible buildings, note-takers, and testing accommodations. However, some programs go beyond legally-mandated access requirements, helping students experience fuller and more independent college years.

Here are some questions you and your youngster may want to address when investigating college possibilities.

  • Will the college provide the necessary support services necessary for daily living such as modified dorms, personal assistance services?
  • Are all classrooms and field experiences accessible?
  • Is there adaptive on-campus transportation available?
  • Is there assistance available in the cafeteria and/or computer lab?
  • Are there adaptive sports and other recreational activities?
  • Will your child be able to participate fully in campus life?

If your son or daughter uses a wheelchair or needs significant assistance with daily living activities, you may want to consider one of these ten schools.

  1. The University of Illinois developed the first wheelchair-accessible bus system and competitive wheelchair sports program. An extensive array of assistive technology and personal attendant services help students succeed in and out of class.
  2. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania provides students with special needs a wealth of services including occupational therapy, wheelchair maintenance services on campus, 24/7 personal care assistance in accessible dorms and a fleat of wheelchair lift vans to transport students around campus. In addition, the dining hall has student aides to assist students with meals. Many students also participate in competitive adaptive sports.
  3. The University of Arizona also offers an exceptional wheelchair athletics program. A free transit system and cart service helps students travel across the highly accessible campus.
  4. Wright State University features a system of underground tunnels connecting almost all buildings on campus, so students do not have to travel outside in inclement weather. The "PA Station" in the Student Union is equipped with special transfer lifts for wheelchair users and is staffed with trained attendants.
  5. Southern Illinois University is another school which has a highly-ranked wheelchair athletic program along with a wide variety of adaptive recreation options. Student medical services have accessible examination facilities with staff trained to meet the needs of students with physical disabilities.
  6. The University of California-Berkeley is the birthplace of the Independent Living Movement initiated to help people with disabilities to achieve maximum independence. As a result of this movement, a group of disabled students at the University of California-Berkeley formed the Physically Disabled Students Program to make the full academic and social life of the campus more accessible. Today, students with challenges at the University of California-Berkeley enjoy support services like help finding personal attendants and accessible housing. In addition, the city excels at in architectural access and transportation services.
  7. Michigan State University makes the campus accessible in winter with outstanding snow removal. There are even some heated parking spaces to melt ice and snow. Students can also ride the para-transit service to destinations both on and off campus.
  8. The University of Wisconsin features a high level of accessibility in transportation and assistive technology. They also offer various adaptive athletics.
  9. Ohio State University has a strong organization called Unity which advocates for access and facilitates understanding of disability culture on campus.
  10. Temple University has assistive software and devices integrated throughout campus computer labs. All multi-level buildings have elevators and a transit system helps students get around.

You and your child should also investigate whether one of these schools has the major or career path she or he wishes to pursue. Location may be another factor of importance. Overall, the right choice for a student with physical challenges is the one that balances academic opportunities with support services at a distance that’s not too far from home but far enough to achieve independent freedom!