8 Tips for Going to College with a Physical Disability

By Joseph Clymer posted 10-21-2019 20:10


Going to college is a challenge for most people, but it can be very difficult for those with physical disabilities. Many students have mobility issues or need special accommodations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Here are some tips for you if you’re attending college and you have a physical disability.

Be informed about the law

Students with disabilities at colleges that are publicly funded must have equal services and benefits, according to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. If you’re a college student with a physical disability, you have the protection of the law. 

For example, students with impaired motor functioning must be provided with ‘reasonable’ accommodations’ for their disabilities. Knowing the law means you can advocate for your rights.

Consider accessibility issues during the selection process

When you’re researching schools, connect with a disability counselor who can answer your questions about special academic services and building accessibility. Get a feel for what challenges you may face around campus. 

Be proactive about transportation issues

You need to know how you will get around campus. Find out whether you can use a campus bus if you use a wheelchair or other devices. Inquire whether the college has a van service for those times when alternative modes of transport aren’t available. 

Mobility scooters provide an excellent way of getting around campus and winning a mobility scooters giveaway could change the way you get around campus. 

Familiarize yourself with the campus

If getting around on a daily basis is challenging for you, you need to work hard to familiarize yourself with the campus. Find out where to find handicap accessible parking spaces, entrances, restrooms, and elevators. Consider how you will deal with any steep gradients or hills. Know where your classes will be held and how far apart they are. 

Get acquainted with special services

An advisor from the disability services department will be able to tell you about any accommodations you may be allowed to offset any limitations in motor functioning. 

For example, if you have difficulty with speech, you may be allowed alternative assignments to oral presentations. Developing a relationship with disability services staff as early as possible is an important part of ensuring that you will have a comfortable college experience. 

Make use of assistive technologies

Assistive technologies, such as tape recorders, adaptive keyboards, voice recognition software, head wands and mouth sticks, are just some of the tools available to disabled students at colleges all over the country. Ask the disability office about what tools are available to you. The Assistive Technology Act provides grant funding for technological aids. 

Establish suitable routines

If you have difficulties with mobility, it helps to have routines that you can follow to get around and be comfortable. For instance, where you sit in the classroom may be based on the device you use. 

Sitting close to the door is obviously better for you. Getting to class early would also help as this would give you more room to maneuver around before the classroom filled up. Avoiding major thoroughfares at the busiest times would also be advisable. 

Advocate for yourself with faculty members

Make any arrangements you need to with faculty members. If a class you want to take is scheduled in a building that isn’t accessible, ask about a change of classroom. 

If it’s difficult to raise your hand due to a physical disability, arrange to signal differently. Speak up if you have an issue with workstation placement or seating. Advocating for yourself will help to ensure that you can participate fully in all aspects of college life.