The Best Colleges for Students with Disabilities

When it comes to choosing a college, there’s a lot to consider: What major should I choose? Would I prefer a small, close-knit campus community or a big state school with tens of thousands of students? Should I “go Greek”?

But for students with disabilities, choosing the right school can be even harder. To make your college search a little easier, we scoured rankings and reviews of the best colleges for students with disabilities. Here are some standouts.

The University of California at Berkeley: One of the top-ranked public universities in the nation, UC-Berkeley is well-known for its open-minded, inclusive atmosphere and commitment to social justice. UC-Berkeley also offers wheelchair-friendly on-campus housing, wheelchair rental for students, and special athletic clubs for students with physical disabilities, complete with special accessible locker rooms. Best of all, UC-Berkeley offers free wheelchair repairs for cash-strapped students—a real plus when you’re living off ramen noodles and a student meal plan!

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: This large public school was one of the most well-represented universities at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is largely thanks to the school’s Adaptive Athletics program, which has helped produce several gold medalists at the Paralympics. The school’s Disability Resources and Educational Services also offers special on-call assistance to disabled students living on campus, including assistance with meals.

Ball State University: This Indiana university has a student group called the Alliance for Disability Awareness (ADA) that meets once a month with the purpose of educating fellow students and advocating for disabled students’ needs. The ADA also hosts a book club and intramural sporting events. Thanks in part to ADA’s advocacy, Ball State is in-tune with the needs of its disabled students. The school offers on-campus accessible shuttles, special space in dormitories, and even hooks students up with local personal care aides that can assist with activities like cooking and showering.

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale: This small university went out of its way to create a program called Access Inclusive Recreation, or AIR, which offers everything from wheelchair sports to personal training sessions for disabled students. Like Ball State, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale also helps disabled students find personal care assistants to help them on-campus—including assistants who will take notes for you in class.

Arizona State University—Tempe: The University of Arizona and Arizona State University both consistently rank high on lists of the best colleges for disabled students. Arizona State University at Tempe goes above and beyond when it comes to making the classroom easier for disabled students. The school offers talking books, reader services, note-taking services, tape recorders, and a full range of adaptive equipment intended for classroom use.

Edinboro University: This Pennsylvania school has earned many rave reviews for its accessible campus: extra-wide crosswalks, ramps and elevators in every building, and automatic doors. A shuttle service helps disabled students get to class for free, Monday through Friday. Edinboro also has an Adaptive Intramural and Recreational Sports league, which includes swimming, bowling, basketball—even target shooting. The Office for Accessibility Services also offers students with disabilities a five-day program that helps ease their transition into campus life.

The University of Michigan: This top-tier public university was a trailblazer when it came to making college classrooms more accessible for disabled students. It was the first school to build a computer lab with adaptive technology, becoming a model for computer labs at other universities. Today, the James Edward Knox Center Adaptive Technology Computing Site allows students with disabilities to work in a special, accessible computer lab. All the computers in the Knox Center have 21” or higher, high-resolution monitors and wheelchair-friendly workstations.

These are just a few of many great options for disabled students applying to college. Many colleges and universities offer services for disabled students that may not be advertised in brochures or Web sites. Some services to ask about include:

-a resource department for students with disabilities

-academic and personal aides that can assist you in classrooms and dormitories

-snow removal on campus

-tunnels and ramps on campus

-support groups, clubs, and adaptive sports

-medical services

-wheelchair maintenance and repair

When it comes to selecting a university, your best bet is to do your research—and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Ashley Herzog

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