Going off to college is a tough transition for most students, and having a physical disability can make this transition even more challenging. Having a physical disability should not be an obstacle to obtaining the best education you possibly can. Fortunately, several colleges have made significant strides throughout the decades in making their campuses as supportive and accessible as possible so that students with physical disabilities can reach their full potential. Ten such colleges that are going above and beyond to accommodate students with physical disabilities are listed below.
University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona’s campus is flat, which makes it easy for wheelchair users to get around. They also offer an adaptive athletics program and accessible study abroad programs. The Disability Resource Center goes above and beyond to make sure that students with disabilities have the accommodations they need for success in college.
- University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA:
Berkeley is an accessible city, making it easy for students to get around both on and off campus. Furthermore, the university has a rich history of activism, making it one of the most accessible campuses. UC Berkeley has a Disabled Students’ Residence Program that is designed to empower students to live independently and confidently both during their college years and after graduation. Other highlights include wheelchair rentals, sports for students with disabilities, accessible rooms and toilets, and an overall supportive community. Berkeley also offers an academic program in Disability Studies.
- Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA:
The Office for Students with Disabilities at Edinboro is committed to making the campus an accessible space for all students. Highlights include accessible vans that travel on and off campus, a wheelchair repair facility, a life skills center staffed by an occupational therapist and rehabilitation nurse, and a computer lab with adaptive technology. The university also offers a wide range of varsity and intramural wheelchair sports.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Champaign, IL:
UIUC was one of the first campuses in the nation to implement a wheelchair-accessible bus system, an accessible study abroad program, and competitive wheelchair sports. When students pick their classes, the staff Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services helps them take distance, location, and personal endurance into account. For example, they identify travel routes, pinpoint ramps, and take care of elevator maintenance and outages. In the dreaded Midwest winters, students with disabilities have high priority for snow removal.
- Stanford University, Stanford, CA:
Stanford students with disabilities can take advantage of the Campus Access Guide, which provides detailed information on how to access every building on campus. Students with special needs also have access to hearing, speech, and writing aides. Every dorm has special facilities and accessible points. In addition to wheelchair sports, Stanford also has a swim team for students with disabilities.
- Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY:
Hofstra was designed with wheelchair users in mind, making it an accessible campus. The Student Access Services Office offers assistive technology, academic and career coaching, and assistance getting accessible housing. The university also hosts an annual FULLAccess Student Summit.
- Wayne State University, Detroit, MI:
Students looking to take a dip into the college waters rather than diving straight in can take advantage of Wayne State’s College of Lifelong Learning, which allows to arrange independent study with a professor at a mutually convenient time and place. Most of these meetings take place at the Oakland Center, a completely accessible building about 20 miles from campus. Wayne State has special study rooms for students with disabilities, alternative textbook formats including audio and Braille, and lodging caretakers and in-class assistance. Students are also given a contact number where they can report abuse.
- University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI:
The McBurney Disability Resource Center at UW-Madison works with students with disabilities to create a plan called a VISA, which outlines recommended accommodations. Early in the semester, the student and their professors negotiate the details. If issues arise, the student can come back or the professor can call McBurney. McBurney’s electronic reserve system also saves students trips to the library since they have access to all course-related material that the professor provides. Parents can attend information sessions with their students and tour the facilities so that they’re familiar with their child’s future home. Hearing, speech, and seeing aides are also available.
- University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX:
Although UT Austin is a large school, it has the resources to provide a wide range of accommodations. One of UT’s highlights is its Alternative Technology Lab, which converts textbooks into audiobooks for the blind. The Center for Disability Studies at UT Austin is committed to research, policy, practice, and education to create a better world for students with disabilities and offers disability studies courses. They also have a stellar Murderball (wheelchair basketball) team.
- University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT: While the rural environment of Storrs can be inspirational and serene for students, it can be a challenge for students with disabilities. However, UConn is a supportive environment for students with disabilities. Features include accessible bathrooms and toilets, buses and shuttles to get around campus and to run errands, various hearing, speaking, and seeing aids, and a special department that helps students with disabilities hire aids.
Of course, the best way to alleviate your concerns about attending college with a disability is to talk to someone who has been in the same situation. You can find these people on Konversai—a knowledge-sharing social conversation platform that enables one-on-one live video conversations between anyone, anywhere, about anything. One of the premises behind Konversai is that we shouldn’t have to rely solely on our networks to get valuable information that can improve our lives. Regardless of where in the world you are, there is sure to be someone on Konversai who may be located down the street or across the world and can give you exactly the information you need. Those sharing their experiences or knowledge also have the option of charging for their time if they wish. If they do not need the money, they can hold a session for free or donate their earnings to charity. Whatever the case, conversations held on Konversai are of mutual benefit to both knowledge providers and knowledge seekers.
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- New Mobility. (1998). Disability Friendly Colleges.
- Pantalena, Gabrielle. (2014). 6 Wheelchair-Friendly College Campuses. 101 Mobility.