As a disabled student, you have the right to request and expect accommodations, including auxiliary aids and services that will enable you to participate in and benefit from all programs and activities offered by or related to a school. During the college admissions process, you should investigate schools' services and accommodations for disabled students along with their college admission requirements.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires educational institutions at all levels, public and private, to provide equal access to their programs, services, and facilities to students, employees, and members of the public, regardless of disability. To ensure accessibility, they must follow specific requirements for new construction, alterations or renovations, academic programs, and institutional policies, practices, and procedures.
How to get information during the college admission process
To comply with ADA requirements, many high schools and universities offer programs and information to answer your questions during the college admission process and to assist you with both selecting appropriate schools and in attaining full inclusion once you get there. Most colleges and universities have disabilities services offices to help you negotiate the system.
When it comes time to apply and learn about college admissions requirements, write to the schools that you're interested in to find out what kinds of programs they have in place. As you narrow your choices, also make sure that you visit the campuses before making a decision.
Am I considered disabled under the ADA?
You are considered to have a disability if you meet at least one of the following three conditions:
- You have a documented physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- You have a record of such an impairment
- You are perceived as having such an impairment
Physical disabilities include impairments of speech, vision, hearing and mobility. Other disabilities, while less obvious, are similarly limiting; they include diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, cerebral palsy, and learning disabilities.
The term "learning disabilities" refers to an array of biological conditions that impede your ability to process and disseminate information. A learning disability is commonly recognized as a significant deficiency in one or more of the following areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or problem solving. If you are learning disabled, you may also have difficulty with sustained attention, time management, or social interaction.
If you find that your disability is making the college admissions process itself more difficult, don't hesitate to ask your parents, teachers, guidance counselor for college admissions assistance.
College admission requirements for you and the school
If you have a disability, follow the same steps for choosing and applying to a school as any other student, but you should also evaluate schools based on their ability to accommodate your needs.
Explore college admissions requirements, research schools, and build a college list. Once you have schools of interest, get organized and meet with campus specialists to discuss your specific requirements. Then, explore whether the programs, policies, procedures, and facilities meet your specific situation.
It's usually best to describe your disability in a letter attached to your application so the proper fit can be made between you and the school. Send copies of your psycho-educational evaluation, testing records, and/or any other assessments of your disabilities directly to the school. Some will help arrange your schedule and offer transition courses, reduced course loads, extra access to professors, and special study areas to help address your needs.
A disability doesn't have to be a barrier to continuing your education. If you're a motivated student, it's a completely realistic goal. Invest the time and effort and make it happen!