Entering college is a major transition in any young adult’s life, but the change is perhaps no more difficult than for disabled students. Both mental and physical disabilities can complicate everything from the college application process to move-in day. However, with some preparation in advance, clear communication along the way, and the right fit in treatment, accommodation, and other factors, your college experience can be a great one regardless of your disability.
Find resources now that can last through school
Chances are, you already have doctors and other professionals and resources that help to accommodate your needs. When you pursue higher education, though, you’ll find that many of those people can’t come with you, especially if your chosen school isn’t local. Before heading off into the next four years of learning, look into resources that you can pack amidst your dorm furnishings and school supplies. Telehealth platforms, for instance, make it easy to get necessary care from anywhere with an internet connection. From virtual speech therapy to mail-order prescriptions, there’s almost certainly a tool that can bring your speech-language pathologist (SLP), clinician, or other caregivers to you thanks to their telepractice.
Prioritize your well-being in your college search
When choosing a college or university, there are many factors a soon-to-be applicant must keep in mind. For you, financial aid, programs of study, and location are joined by an equally crucial component: accessibility. When you’re researching schools, take time to look up their disability services or similar department. If you’re utilizing a counselor for college application season, make it clear that this is a top consideration in your admission needs. Should you visit a school in person, test out its navigability and general accessibility. Are there dorms, classrooms, and other amenities that you can access? Ideally, that answer is yes, particularly in a school you’re strongly considering.
Be up-front about your needs and limitations
In college and, truly, for the rest of your life, you’ll need to be your own best advocate. From the start of your college journey, communicate with your professors, administrators, and other school professionals about what accommodations you require and any limitations you might have. If you have an invisible disability, this is especially critical. Because you aren’t obviously disabled to a stranger, you’ll find yourself “coming out” as disabled with each new professor or upcoming event. While it’s not fair that this burden falls to you, it’s nevertheless essential to getting the services you need to succeed.
Advocate for progress
Even your dream school likely has room for improvement in terms of accessibility and equity when it comes to disabled students. During your time enrolled there, do what you can to advocate for students like yourself now and into the future. You might even find that you love this activism enough to pursue a similar field for your own career path. At the very least, you’ll help to ensure you, your peers, and future disabled students at this institution can thrive. Beyond simple legal compliance and ethical efforts, every student—disabled or otherwise—deserves to have their needs met and rights upheld. If a certain person or group affiliated with your school doesn’t realize that, you have the opportunity to enlighten them and make the process an easier one for yourself and those who enroll later.
While entering post-secondary education is a significant step for anyone, it’s a particularly major moment for disabled students. By curating a treatment plan you can use throughout school, communicating through the admissions process and beyond, and gathering support to help you each step of the way, you can manage your education and reach whatever goals you‘re striving for with ease.