College is always an exciting time! The first year, you’re stepping into the adult world. You have a greater responsibility, you meet new friends, and create new memories. Sometimes it’s difficult for a “normal” student to decide what school they want to go to. They may decide based on appearance, the offered education, or even school spirit. Unfortunately, disabled students don’t get that luxury. When an able bodied student looks for the beauty of a campus, a disabled student is looking for the accessibility of the campus. Technically, schools have to be ADA compliant but that doesn’t mean every campus is perfect. We have to think about a lot. For example, what is the proximity of the buildings? Are they too far apart to push a chair? Are the ramps too steep? How well are the elevators.? Is the nurses office close to your class in case of an emergency? How is the handicap parking? Can you schedule your classes around your medical schedule? Are you independent on campus? Will you need an aide? Who’s going to provide the aide? An additional idea is the dormitory. Are you able to live independently on campus or not? If you can, how accessible are the dorm rooms? Is the bathroom wide enough, is the sink accessible, and is the bed low enough to transfer. You have to think outside of the box to make the college experience accessible.
There are multiple factors to consider when you are searching for a college. It can be discouraging but continue the search. Thanks to technology, you also have the option of online schools too (which are very convenient)!
Right now, I am a student at Northern Kentucky University. I commute 40 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday. Vocational rehab helps cover part of my tuition and cost for an aide. I have accommodations approved by the school for extended due dates, test times, etc. I don’t always use them but for some classes, I need them. The handicap parking isn’t always perfect and I am late to class once in awhile, but the teachers understand. At first, it was a lot to figure out but it gets easier. I found that It’s best to build a relationship with your professors. Inform them on your disabilities, introduce your aide (if you need one), and let them know what you need. Before school starts, find your classes, create a route that is easy and find the handicap parking.
School can be intimidating when you feel like the whole world is starring at your disability. That’s how I felt. I learned that preparation calmed my nerves. Later on, I became comfortable and dropped my insecurities. School is possible, but don’t lose heart. Work with your resources like Vocational rehab, a guidance counselor, the nurses office, and the accommodations office. It might sound like a lot of steps but it creates an accessible college experience!