Factors To Consider When Choosing Universities For Students With Disabilities


When you look at how universities and colleges handle disability issues, it is clear that each one handles it differently. It is imperative that students and families familiarize themselves with the process of seeking accommodations at each university they are considering. Students with disabilities will have to be able to advocate for themselves when navigating life at university, so it is imperative that they ask questions of universities that will help them learn how the university will address their specific needs.

These are general questions that every student should ask each university –

  1. What is the process of seeking accommodations at the university?
  2. How long does the process take? 
  3. What documents does a student need to provide? 
  4. Is there an appeals process if I get denied? 
  5. When can a student begin the process of seeking accommodations?
  6. Do I have to speak to the professors about seeking accommodations or are they notified of the decision to grant accommodations by the disability services office?
  7. What academic and personal characteristics has the university deemed are necessary or important in order for students with _______ disabilities to succeed at this university? 
  8. How many students with _________ disabilities have graduated from this university in 4 years? 6 years?
  9. What are your policies on course waivers or course substitutions for GEs or majors?

For Students with Learning Disabilities

  1. How current does my testing have to be in order to apply for accommodations? 
  2. Will the university require new or additional testing? If so, who will pay for it?
  3. How do I ensure that the accommodations listed under my 504 Plan or IEP will be continued at university?
  4. What is the policy for the use of assistive devices during exams? In Class?
  5. Are the accommodations free or a paid-for service? 
  6. Will I have a contact person assigned who will work with me? Is this advisor separate from my academic advisor?
  7. Will the university help me find note-takers? 
  8. Can I record lectures? 
  9. Are there alternative course materials? Large print? Audiobooks?
  10. Can I have access to reading software and a computer with a scanner and optical character recognition (OCR)? 
  11. Do you offer any trainings in time management? Self-advocacy? Study skills?

For Students with Physical Impairments-

  1. How will the university address the need for accessible classrooms? Accessible furniture?
  2. Will I be able to find note-takers? Request all of my assignments be submitted online? Have all assignments posted online?
  3. Do you have transportation available to move around campus?
  4. Are the dining halls and residential halls accessible?
  5. Can I record lectures? Use my computer in all of my classes? 
  6. Will I have to address my need for accommodations on my own or will the university handle accessibility issues once I have been approved by the Disability services office?
  7. Will I be able to access assistive technology devices in class? During exams?
  8.  Does the university offer devices to professors to use to make the classroom accessible for students with hearing impairments? Visual disabilities?
  9. Does the university have campus maps which identify accessibility features such as ramps/automatic doors/elevators? 
  10. Are there wheelchair-accessible rooms in all of the dorms?
  11. Are there accessible living arrangements on campus for upperclassmen students? 
  12. Do most students with physical impairments remain in on-campus housing or do they find off-campus housing for their junior and senior years? 
  13. Does the university provide any assistance to students trying to find accessible off-campus housing? 
  14. Does the university have any connections with nursing/personal care agencies for students who need assistance with activities of daily living(ADLs)? If not, where can I get access to such information?

For Students with Emotional Disabilities

  1. How readily accessible are mental health services on campus? 
  2. What is the typical wait time for an appointment at the clinic?
  3. Can I get extended time to complete assignments? Tests?
  4. Can I get note-takers? 
  5. What is the policy on service animals? 
  6. Are emotional support animals permitted in the dorms?
  7. What type of crisis management services do you offer? Do you have urgent therapy services at the on-campus medical center?
  8. If a hospitalization is required, can I get access to academic materials? Have exams administered at the hospital? Can I ask for assignments and exams to be delayed? (Please note that this  could be a tricky question to ask for a student since it raises the issue about how much a student is willing to disclose.)

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