College is challenging for any incoming freshman. Now imagine having to navigate this completely new world with a physical disability. These students must find ways to navigate class and seek accessible accommodations all while learning in each fast-paced college class. Some colleges go above and beyond to make the transition to college life easy for students with disabilities. These ten schools offer accessible dorms, classrooms and transportation, plus they get the entire school body involved by advocating for awareness and inclusion for students with physical disabilities.
Check out the 10 best campuses for students with disabilities.
10. Northern Kentucky University
Moving away from home is a challenge for every student. At NKU, students can join different social groups that help with the adjustment. Director of the Disability Programs and Services Cindy Knox said, “We act as a resource to faculty, staff and community agencies to provide education, consultation and guidance regarding disability issues… We are extremely committed to ensuring that every student has an equitable opportunity to obtain the same level of education.” DPS also helps find a personal care attendant for students with disabilities that need more support in everyday living on campus. Northern Kentucky adjusts dorms and classrooms to make sure they meet the accessibility needs. To get around campus, NKU offers free bus services equipped with hydraulic lifts for wheelchairs.
9. University of Missouri
Students with disabilities are sometimes unable to control medical complications, making it impossible to attend class some days. MU helps students out in these situations with Flexible Attendance. The exact procedure varies based on class and student-professor agreements, but this makes it possible for students to keep on pace with their studies. To make the classroom accessible, the university offers classroom assistants that help with note-taking and opening and lifting items. Students can also request lab assistants. Before classes begin, faculty members tailor chairs and tables for the individual to ensure they feel comfortable. The school also offers on-campus transportation that runs Monday through Friday to help them get to classes. As far as housing goes, student must make sure to request special accommodations through the Disability Center. After the center approves their request, those students can live with service animals.
8. Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Southern Illinois University Carbondale created the program AIR, or Access Inclusive Recreation, to make sure students with disabilities can access everything the Recreational Sports and Services department has to offer. AIR staff assist those individuals through personalized workout sessions, group fitness and other sports activities. In terms of accessibility on campus, the school has modified classrooms, libraries and dorms so that opening doors, seating and living space feels welcoming and comfortable. Transportation by means of the Saluki Express and Rides Mass Transit provide accessible means of travel on and off campus. And to facilitate your learning experience, the school offers note-taking services and classroom assistants.
7. Ramapo College of New Jersey
Ramapo College integrated students with disabilities into its campus when it first opened in 1971. Director of Specialized Services David Nast said, “Even before it was law, Ramapo College of New Jersey demonstrated a strong commitment to providing equal access to all students through the removal of architectural and attitudinal barriers.” All of Ramapo’s buildings interconnect, allowing for easy travel from classroom to classroom for those in wheelchairs. The Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts is also wheelchair accessible, offering companion seating in the theatre. Ramapo also offers an assistive technology lab reserved for those with physical disabilities that replaces a workspace and allows for the individual to work as efficiently as possible. For housing, the school will make accommodations on first-come-first-served basis. The school also offers free shuttles that run around the campus and the city so you will always have a way to travel around from place to place.
6. University of Florida
Cypress Hall, a dorm catered specifically to students with physical disabilities, has lifts that carry individuals around the room and even into the bathroom, wheelchair accessible bathrooms and showers, and furniture adjusted appropriately for each individual. UF’s Disability Resource Center (DRC) ensures the accessibility of all classrooms and facilities to students. “UF’s accessibility definitely surprised me when I first came here, because I expected it to be really hard to get around such a big campus. But as a whole, UF’s campus is really accessible with everything from automatic door buttons to ramps to get into buildings,” said UF junior Jordan Ellis. “If I ever run into issues, with resources like the DRC, it’s really easy to get help when I need it.” The many hills around campus aren’t an issue; UF transportation gets students with disabilities to class with Gatorlift, a free bus for students with physical needs. SNAP, another bus system, runs at nighttime to make sure you get home safe from a late-night study sesh. For off campus travel, RTS busses come equipped with ramps. Just this past year, UF created an honor society, Delta Alpha Pi, to acknowledge the students with disabilities on their accomplishments and create a supportive environment that destigmatizes disability.
5. University of California Berkeley
UC Berkeley’s inclusive environment includes an accessible locker room that makes everyone feel welcome. Students with disabilities can relax and wind down in the locker room after participating in accessible biking, skiing, hiking, yoga, power chair soccer, roll’n shoot basketball and golf, all offered at UC Berkeley. And for all the sailing and boating fanatics out there, The Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors paddle out every weekend from the San Francisco Yacht Club. Back in the classroom, students can request more accessibility in classrooms and dorms. “DSP Berkeley offers some valuable non-mandated services for students with disabilities including career services, services for students on the autism spectrum, a TRIO academic support program, graduate student support and a learning specialist,” said Karen Nielson, executive director of the Disabled Students’ Program. TRIO supports students with disabilities by providing enrichment workshops that foster success for the individuals’ goals. The program also includes scholarship and financial aid assistance, assistance with applying to graduate school and creative writing classes. UC Berkeley will also fix minor wheelchair repairs and loan equipment based on need because they understand the #brokecollegestudent life is reality for all students.
4. Edinboro University
Wide crosswalks, ramps and elevators in every facility, a bridge that connects two sides of campus, automatic doors and accessible classrooms welcome students with disabilities at this 585-acre campus. Monday through Friday, Edinboro offers on-campus transportation to take students from their dorms to their classrooms. Students can head to the Life Skills Center to ease the transition into college .The center teaches skills on how to successfully live independently. The Office for Accessibility Services organizes the Bridge Program, a five-day experience that covers finding success in college, navigating campus, and working campus technology and resources. When it comes to sports, disabled students have no limits at Edinboro. The Adaptive Intramural and Recreational Sports programs offer sports like swimming, bowling, snow tubing, basketball and even air rifle target shooting.
3. Wright State University
Service dogs feel welcomed by Wright State University. This university opened the first on-campus service dog park. Yup, the whole one-acre park remains exclusive to service dogs. The park also includes a covered patio area, a water station so that your dog doesn’t dehydrate after running around and paved paths. And construction is underway for a dog agility trail. Now back to the students. Wright State offers plenty of dorm assistance and equipment. Staff also help students find a personal care attendant to assist with more hands-on needs such as bathing, grooming and feeding as needed. Wright State recently started paratransit services that provide students with door-to-door campus transportation. Other wheelchair accessible campus shuttles run throughout the weekdays to locations throughout campus plus buses for off-campus travel. Back on campus, the university has a Personal Assistance (PA) Station that includes private restrooms, lifts and personal assistance with restroom needs.
2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Go pro at the Paralympic Games after training at the University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign. “Illinois led the country in promoting rehabilitation through sport that evolved into an elite adapted athletics program,” said Brian Siemann, alumnus and Access Specialist in the Disability Resources and Educational Service. UIUC’s services ensure that a student with physical disabilities can live like any other student on campus. “What started as a program to improve physical accessibility has evolved into a campus wide-partnership dedicated to removing visible and invisible barriers to access,” said Siemann. “As a student, I benefited from the university’s commitment to accessibility, and as a staff member, I am able to contribute to our role as leaders in accessibility services.”
At Nugent Hall, students get the accommodations they need. The dorm includes daily room service that assists with making beds, cleaning rooms and bathrooms, and emptying the garbage. Off-campus buses can take you to the Willard Airport, the Illinois Terminal and other locations. On-campus buses can take students to classes, dormitories, medical appointments and other campus facilities. For extracurricular activities, men’s AND women’s wheelchair basketball have struck popularity at the university. If you don’t play sports, join Delta Sigma Omicron (DSO). This fraternity of rehabilitation service dedicates itself to education, research and service in rehabilitation. UIUC’s support for students with disabilities goes international. Faculty and stuff provide accommodations so that a student can study abroad. S tart planning a year in advance so your dreams of staring up at the Eiffel Tower or eating a plate fresh Italian pasta become a reality.
1. Ball State University
From accessible housing to wheelchair sports to attendant care, Ball State University makes its campus accessible to all. In the classroom, adjustable seating and tables make it easy for students to learn comfortably no matter their disability. Ball State also provides safe and accessible on–campus shuttles to and from classes. When it snows, routes used by students in wheelchairs get cleared first. For living care, students get assigned housing based on need. The university even helps students find local personal care attendants to assist in daily activities such as cleaning, cooking, showering and more if needed. After class, Ball State offers wheelchair basketball and power soccer, a competitive sport that actually takes place on a basketball court with two teams of only four players.
Ball State also advocates for awareness about disabilities to the entire student body. Students created the Alliance for Disability Awareness (ADA) to educate and create awareness about people living with disabilities. They meet once a month and host annual events like a lab open house to learn about adaptive technology, a book club and intramural sports. And each March, Ball State celebrates Disability Awareness Month by coordinating events and programs to raise awareness, including past speakers like Marlee Matlin and Mark Zupan.