How should I go about my initial search if I am disabled?
Just like any other student, but it depends that everything related to your disability can be satisfied.
When I was in college, a blind girl was in one of my classes. Someone took notes for her, and she got around the campus (Akron U) faster than you can imagine! She was also in a fire and was disfigured.
Both four year and two year colleges offer disability services to students in need of assistance. The most important thing to keep in mind when a special needs student is researching potential colleges is the type of disability program he/she will need to be successful in their post-graduate years. The two programs: Structured vs. Self-Directed. A structured program offers above and beyond what is dictated by the government through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This program typically has an additional if not entirely different application process that requires documentation that accommodations and/or modifications are needed. A self-directed program typically does not require an additional application and is more than likely handled through the Office of Disability Services. The structured program is much more hands on with the special needs student.
The first thing you should do is to determine which institutions offer sufficient support for your particular disability.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, guarantees that all U.S. colleges/universities provide some level of services/accommodations for students with disabilities. Some institutions, however, have taken this requirement further, offering comprehensive programs supporting learning and/or physically disabled students. The level of support for specific disabilities will vary from one institution to another. Students should seek schools which offer the best support for their specific disabilities. Try the following websites:
Students who have undergone a neuro-psychological or educational evaluation have an enormous advantage in the college search and admission process. Finding the right college fit requires students to know themselves well and students who have been diagnosed with a learning difference are armed with specific insight into their their learning style as well as their academic strengths and weaknesses. Using this knowledge, families can find learning environments most suited to the individual student. For example, students who receive accommodations for distraction-free seating assignments in high school will be best served enrolling in colleges with small class sizes. View self-awareness about your learning style as a strength that will allow you to find an ideal college match.
The same care that goes into research for specific areas of interest should go into the search for colleges that can work with and accommodate your particular disabilities. For example, if you have physical limitations, you might prefer a campus in which all of the buildings are not only close together but that have wide, well paved walkways on a fairly flat terrain.
Come up with a list of your needs–that means, you need to understand your needs before you begin your search! Then when you find some colleges based upon majors or locations of interest, call and get the number for support services for students with learning disabilities. Personnel in these departments are very helpful, and can answer specific questions. By compiling your list carefully, you can enhance or eliminate colleges based upon your needs.
The ADA has laws that ensure that a person with disabilities have all of the same access as one without. So search based on your academic and personal interest not your disability. Remember you are a human being with a set of different abilities and if I am not mistaken that is just like the rest of the world. So once you have chosen your college I recommend you go to the Disability office if you need special accomodations so they can be in place when you arrive for classes.
The search you conduct will depend on if you plan to disclose your disability to colleges/universities. If you plan to disclose then you need to be aware of a college/universities services for you. Most of your smaller, private schools will offer more support and in a structured way. Larger colleges/univeristies will offer services, but they seem to offer the same types of services to all students. Another way to seek support/services is directly working with professors. Again, if you disclose to them the nature of your disibility and refer to your IEP document, then you have the paperwork to show what your needs are.
Your first priority should be to look at schools that offer your major. The second step is to throughly research each schools disability support services. If a school does not offer services that will support your needs, then you should cross them off of your list. Peterson’s Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities is a great place to start. You can also check out LD online, to get a list of schools with great support services.
The fundamental process is no different, but students with disabilities do need to determine what the exact extent of the school’s effort and accommodations will be. Given the nature of the Americans With Disabilities Act there are certain things that every school must provide, but some are certainly more involved and active than others. Indeed, some schools are making a point of being particularly open to and supportive of students with learning disabilities—it is their niche–and so obviously those schools are ones that student with disabilities might find even more attractive. Ultimately an applicant for whom this is a concern must do their research and ask the right questions.
If you are physically disabled or have a chronic illness, you need to do research to find out if the college will happily accommodate your needs. Make sure the college you eventually choose is understanding about your condition.
For Learniing Different students, there are questions you need to ask before your search. 1. Do you need accommodations only? 2. Do you need a comprehensive support program? 3. Perhaps you need a college dedicated to the Learning Different Student. All three are available. On my blog (www.collegeadventures.net/blog) I have written quite a bit about LD students, from ADD to Asperger’s Syndrome. Take a look at http://collegeadventures.net/blog/category/college-for-learning-different-students/
Research the schools that have the best reputation for helping students with your particular disability.
An independent educational consultant may be your best starting point. There are guidebooks (The K&W Guide), information on websites, and your current educational providers to look to for information. Obviously the specific disability may drive your search. A mobility impairment presents a different set of circumstances than someone with dyslexia. Knowing what you will need to experience success in college is key. It will be up to you to advocate for yourself once you are on campus, so there is no time like the present.
I would suggest that your initial search not include a factor for your disability. When you begin to narrow your list you can use that as a way to slim your list. Depending on your disability you may or may not have any trouble finding colleges that can accommodate you. Most colleges do have a disability services department who can help with any disability. The smaller the campus the less ability this department will have to assist you.
I love this question! I always tell my students with disabilities to start the college search process the same way any student would.
1. What are my interests? academic interests? personal interests?
2. What kind of college do I imagine attending? big/ small? public/private?
3. Are there particular colleges do I want to learn more about?
4. Do I want to be close to home or far away?
5. Do I prefer lecture based classes or interactive classes?
Use these initial questions to guide your search. Once you have a glimpse of what you are looking for in a college, then also look at the Disability Support Services. I find many students and parents do the reverse process. I caution you to resist this temptation. There are many, many wonderful colleges with good disability programs. Don’t sell yourself short by only defining the process in terms of your disability, find a few colleges that really excite you and then review their disability programs.
Start with a visit to the school and take note of things such as the terrain, ease of navigating the campus and accessibility of the school’s major facilities (dorms, classrooms, dining hall, student union, library, etc.). When scheduling a college visit, a student with a disability should also make an appointment with someone in the disability office to learn about the services offered, the cost, staffing, the number of students registered with the office, and documentation required in order for the student to receive assistance. Inquire whether there are other students with similar physical conditions on campus. If so, the prospective student should try to meet with someone who can speak directly to the experiences and challenges of college life with a physical disability. One should seek candid responses with respect to fit, social acceptance, support and ease in navigating the college campus.
It’s a good idea to register with the local Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID) office. In addition to ensuring that disabled students receive the rights and protections to which they are entitled, VESID will provide training and resources to assist students in achieving independence in school and work. Students registered with VESID are eligible to receive text books and other required course materials free of charge (up to a pre-determined limit). In some cases, other support services may be covered, including transportation to and from college and personal aides.
Begin your search like all other students by determining what elements will make a good academic, social and financial fit for you. Become aware of what a disability support office is on a college campus. Schedule an appointment with a DSS office at a school near you and learn about how you will take your LD to college and succeed.
Harness the power of the Internet before making any trips to colleges. Disabilities take many forms, or course, so you will want to read information from the specific college of your choice to see what accommodations are available for you. Most have made quite an effort to enable you to discover their services online. Another way is to speak with your secondary school’s guidance department about feedback they have received from previous grads with disabilities. You should make a target list of schools just as any candidate would. Depending on what you find out about its accommodations, you will wind up adjusting that list. Remember, so much of your initial research can be conducted without going onto a particular campus. But don’t deny yourself that pleasure – and it should be a pleasurable experience.
if you have your own counselor to work with you, your counselor may set up interviews with the admissions office and other people. that’s the best way to go.
if you do not have a counselor, you should visit schools with other seniors or classmates to gain different perspectives.
if your parents are helpful and able to share their perspectives with you, you should consider their inputs seriouly.
if you have college friends, they can help you with their experiences as well.
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