More and more high school students with disabilities are planning to continue their education in postsecondary schools, including vocational and career schools, two and four year colleges, and universities.
As a student with a disability, you need to be well informed about your rights and responsibilities as well as the responsibilities postsecondary schools have toward you. Being well informed will help ensure you have a full opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the postsecondary education experience without confusion or delay.
(Listed further down the page you will find various reviews of colleges and universities focusing on disability aspects and student facilities.)
General College and University Information and Rights:
College enrollment rates of those with disabilities have increased in the U.S. according to national statistics. Among the disabilities reported, 31 percent have specific learning disabilities, 18 percent have ADD or ADHD, 18 percent have physical health conditions, 15 percent have mental or psychiatric conditions, 7 percent have difficulty hearing or seeing and 11 percent were reported as other by the National Center for Education Statistics. A few of the accommodations offered include certified interpreters, transcribers, document conversions to alternate formatting, note-taking assistance, transportation between classes and a distraction-reduced exam environment. It's required that students who have, or think they may have, a disability provide medical records in order be eligible for accommodations.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of 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. If you meet the essential requirements for admission, a postsecondary school may not deny your admission simply because you have a disability - www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html
U.S. Federal and State aid, Scholarships, and Awards: Attending college can be an exciting and enriching experience. It can also be a costly one. In addition to tuition, fees, books, and supplies, other expenses to think about include room and board, health insurance, transportation, and spending money. A combination of financial aid and other outside funding resources can help you meet college costs.
Common forms of financial aid include grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships. Some are available specifically to students with disabilities. Many students use a combination of these financial aid resources. It is important to remember that financial aid results in a partnership of the student, parents, postsecondary educational institutions, state and federal governments, and/or private organizations. Such a partnership requires cooperation, communication, and an understanding by each of their responsibilities within the financial aid process.
The financial aid office at the school you plan to attend is a good place to begin your search for financial aid information. An administrator there can tell you about student aid available from your state, the school itself, and other sources.
U.S Federal Student Aid Programs: The programs described below are administered by the U.S. Department of Education and provide billions of dollars each year to students attending postsecondary schools. Not all schools participate in all federal student aid programs. Check with your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid officer at a postsecondary institution to make sure your destination school participates in the federal program(s) you are interested in.
Federal Pell Grants are available to undergraduate students only and they do not have to be repaid.
Federal Stafford Loans are based on financial need, are available to both undergraduate and graduate students, vary in maximum value each year of study, and must be repaid. The interest rate is variable. If you qualify (based on need) for a subsidized Stafford loan, the government will pay the interest on your loan while you are in school, during grace periods, and during any deferment periods.
Federal PLUS Loans are unsubsidized loans made to parents. If you are independent or your parents cannot get a PLUS loan, you are eligible to borrow additional Stafford Loan funds. The interest rate is variable.
Campus-Based Programs are administered by participating schools.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are grants available for undergraduates only and range in value.
- Federal Work Study provides jobs to undergraduate and graduate students, allowing them to earn money to pay education expenses.
- Perkins Loans are low-interest loans; the maximum annual loan amount is greater for graduate students than for undergraduate students.
List of U.S. Universities and Colleges - Listing of colleges and universities in the United States listed by state and region - (Published 2012-04-24).
United Kingdom: Natspec - (Association of National Specialist Colleges) - The membership association for independent specialist colleges providing further education for young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Natspec believes that specialist provision should always be one of the choices available in an inclusive system. Specialist colleges can give a first taste of real independence and through personalized learning and support they help young people to achieve their aspirations for adult life - to live independently, to be active in the community or to work - www.natspec.org.uk
Ireland: Irish Higher Education and Government are committed to the objective of promoting equality of access to higher education, irrespective of social class, age or disability. To widen access to 3rd level, participating colleges have developed a range of initiatives including the DARE and HEAR supplementary admission routes.
DARE - (Disability Access Route to Education) - A college and university admissions scheme which offers places on a reduced points basis to school leavers under 23 years old with disabilities. DARE has been set up by a number of colleges and universities as evidence shows that disability can have a negative effect on how well a student does at school and whether they go on to college - www.accesscollege.ie/dare/index.php
HEAR - (The Higher Education Access Route) - A college and university admissions scheme which offers places at reduced points to school leavers from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Further Information - www.accesscollege.ie
Australia: Students with disabilities in Australia are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Coverage is not limited to those who are permanent Australian residents or citizens. Fee-paying international students have the right of access to the full range of services typically provided to Australian students, including counseling services. Australian colleges and universities are prohibited from refusing admission on the basis of disability, and they must make every effort to accommodate a student with a disability. As in the United States, university students with disabilities in Australia can often arrange for note takers, readers, sign language interpreters and accommodations for exams. Students who will need disability-related accommodations should contact the institution as early as possible after admission to discuss arrangements.
Canada: People with disabilities face barriers to education that other prospective students do not. While many students are overcoming these barriers, participation in postsecondary education remains below the Canadian average. NEADS EdLink is the most comprehensive Canadian directory of college and university disability service providers and links to service center websites, with listings from coast to coast. Each entry provides current contact information for service providers at Canadian post-secondary institutions. The links to disability center websites allow access to detailed information on accommodations, physical access, services and support - www.neads.ca/en/norc/edlink/
General Scholarships and Awards:
College and University scholarships and awards provide monetary gifts based on a student's achievements, interests, background, or other criteria. A good first step in your scholarship search is to check with your parents' employers, local organizations, your high school guidance counselor, your college or university's financial aid office, the department chairman at your chosen school, online, and your college or the local library.
To request a listing of a college or university in regards to disability policy and facilities please Contact Disabled World.
Quick Facts: College & Disability
All U.S. postsecondary institutions are required to accommodate students with disabilities in areas such as educational opportunities, facilities, services, parking and transportation, and to have an ADA coordinator. Legally, higher education institutions have to provide accommodations for people with disabilities.
Accessibility to academics in higher education remains an ongoing struggle for students with disabilities (SWDs) as the number of SWDs enrolled in postsecondary institutions has grown by 65.08 percent (428,280 between the academic years 1996-1998 and approximately 707,000 in 2009-2010) (Lewis and Farris, 1999; and Raue and Lewis, 2011).
A significant development in the field of postsecondary disability supports in the last decade has been the proliferation of individuals with psychiatric disabilities. This phenomenon has emerged at a pace that one observer characterized as a "rising tide" (Eudaly, 2002). Measel (1998) found that within one year, five institutions in the Big Ten Conference encountered an increase from 30% to 100% in the number of students served with psychiatric disabilities.
Statistics: Disability in Postsecondary Institutions
Students with Disabilities at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions. Students with disabilities are those who reported that they had one or more of the following conditions: a specific learning disability, a visual handicap, hard of hearing, deafness, a speech disability, an orthopedic handicap, or a health impairment.
11 percent of undergraduates in both 2003 - 04 and 2007 - 08 reported having a disability. In 2007 - 08, some 43 percent of undergraduates with disabilities were male and 57 percent were female, the same percentages as for undergraduates without disabilities. There were some differences in characteristics such as race/ethnicity, age, dependency status, and veteran status between undergraduates reporting disabilities and those without disabilities in 2007 - 08. For example, White students made up a larger percentage of undergraduates reporting disabilities than of undergraduates without disabilities (66 percent vs. 61 percent). Undergraduates under age 24 made up a smaller percentage of those reporting disabilities than of those not reporting disabilities (52 percent vs. 59 percent). A smaller percentage of undergraduates who reported disabilities than of those without disabilities were dependents (45 percent vs. 52 percent). Veterans made up a larger percentage of undergraduates with disabilities than of undergraduates without disabilities (5 percent vs. 3 percent).
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (2014-015), Chapter 3.
Nearly a third of young people with disabilities have taken at least some postsecondary classes within the first two years after they leave high school, according to a U.S. Education Department study.
Among the study's other key findings:
- Nearly 80 percent of disabled students who had attained some postsecondary education were enrolled steadily, and three-quarters were enrolled full time.
- Students with disabilities were less likely than their peers to be expected to go to college. Sixty-one percent of parents of young people with disabilities expected them to get a postsecondary education, compared to 92 percent of those in the general population.
- About two-thirds of postsecondary students with disabilities received no accommodations from their colleges. That was attributed in large part to the fact that about half of postsecondary students with disabilities said they do not consider themselves to have a disability, and another 7 percent acknowledged having a disability but had not told their colleges about it.
- 67 percent of students with hearing impairments and 69 percent of students with visual impairments had attended some college since high school. They were also far likelier than other disabled students to be at a four-year college; 40 percent of them had enrolled in such colleges. Only one in five students with emotional disabilities had received some postsecondary education since they left high school.
- Fewer disabled students went on to college than were expecting to. About 77 percent of students interviewed while in high school said they aspired to get a postsecondary education, but only 31 percent had taken some postsecondary classes in the period after they finished. But students who aspired to go to college were far more likely to do so: Only 5 percent of those who did not envision attending postsecondary school have enrolled in two-year colleges, compared with 36 percent of those who expressed the goal of attending a two- or four-year institution.