It’s unfortunate, but the word disability can be a vague description of so many things that some people aren’t even certain what it means. A disability is a broad term used to describe something that causes a person to live with an impairment, disease, or disorder that limits their abilities. Unless you or someone you know is living with a disability, you probably haven’t given much thought to the issue. College students with disabilities may be singled out by others on campus and treated differently. I remember occasionally seeing people in wheelchairs around my college campus, but at the time I didn’t really pay much attention to them or think about what they were really going through.
When I returned to college in my late twenties, I had been diagnosed with epilepsy. My condition is under control with medication, but I do have to worry about the possibility of having a seizure and getting hurt. I was afraid of what people would think if this happened while I was at school. I didn’t have that concern when I was in college the first time around because I had not yet begun having seizures, and it made me think of those people in wheelchairs at my old school.
People with disabilities often want to attend college and they have every right to do so. They will most likely have to face many extra challenges while earning their degree, but then again they have to face challenges normally on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications is guaranteed.
When I was in college the first time around, one of my friends lived down the hallway from a girl in a wheelchair. She lived in a regular dorm room and went to regular classes. She must have even belonged to a sorority, because I recall seeing her in t-shirts with the Greek letters displayed across the front. Based on the fact that she was living away from home in a dorm while attending college, I’m sure that she was a very independent, confident young woman but she probably had to have some assistance with things.
Most colleges and universities have services available to assist students with physical disabilities. These things may include the obvious handicapped-accessible buildings, but also note-takers to help take notes during classes, people to assist them with typing, and special test-taking accommodations.
Special financial aid and scholarship opportunities may also be available for students living with disabilities. Disability.gov is a website dedicated to providing information and opportunities to people living with disabilities, and they have a list of disability scholarship info available.
There is also information available from Education.com regarding the best universities for students with physical disabilities. For instance, Ohio State University in Columbus has a strong organization called Unity which advocates for access and facilitates understanding of disability culture on campus. The grounds crew at Michigan State University in East Lansing makes the campus accessible in winter with impeccable snow removal. There are even some heated parking spaces to melt ice and snow. Students that attend Edinboro University in northwestern Pennsylvania can access occupational therapy and wheelchair maintenance services on campus. An impressive system provides personal assistance in accessible dorms and the dining hall has meal aides to assist students there. Many students also participate in competitive athletics. To view the full list and the rest of the information, please visit Universities For Students with Disabilities
I feel that a college education should be available to anyone who knows how to work hard and do what has to be done. People living with disabilities should be given every single opportunity to earn their degree in a pleasant environment, just like any other student. All students should treat each other with the respect that they wish to be treated with.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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