Which US Campuses are the Most Disability-Friendly?

In 2019, US Census Bureau stated that there are nearly 40.7 million people living with disabilities in America. Of them, school students who might need special help enrolling in college comprise a huge number of 7.1 million individuals. Since the Americans with Disabilities Act, any form of such discrimination has been practically banned on the legal level. However, it did not change the societal struggle with equality that persists to this day due to significant stigma.

The issue is especially acute for young people who wish to enter university. Students experience a lot of anxiety because disabled people are more likely to be unemployed and are obviously a minority in academic environments - less than 20% of US undergraduates have some form of disability.

Don’t forget about those with ethnic minority backgrounds who face a whole different level of intersectional discrimination. Black young people are 55% less likely to be identified to have a learning disability - this is despite the fact that 16% of all disabled US students are black.

Naturally, colleges and universities try to create welcoming surroundings to help their scholars and attract new talent. Each institution approaches the task differently, whether by recruiting counsellors or buying specialized equipment. We have compiled a list of our personal favorite candidates.

Selection Criteria

We have studied top university lists concerning their campuses infrastructure and the amount disability students among the total number of students. We based our decisions on reviews of students with disabilities - including our own sources and those from Niche - concerning the campuses, the commodities provided to students with disabilities by specific universities, and the accessibility of campuses to disabled students. We’ve build our own complex rating system (24.7% - disability infrastructure; 48.1% - students’ reviews on their disability experience;  27.1% - particular disability services and universities reputation in the disability sphere), but to stay objective we decided to provide it not like a chart of top campuses, but just a list of the most comfortable places to live while studying with disabilities.

University of Connecticut

University of Connecticut is a public research leader that welcomes 32,000 students yearly. The school prides itself on its disability support services. The Center for Students with Disabilities offers help in finding and hiring a personal assistant to those in need - for anything ranging from laundry and minor errands to grooming and hygiene.

The college hosts yearly disability career fairs and frequently updates online learning resources with guides, helpful applications and assistive technology. UConn’s own interpreting service held an open house event in 2019, sharing developments and progress.

Other disability facilities include pre-admission services, support for disabled students who wish to study abroad, and help with choice of appropriate accommodation.

Beacon College

Beacon College is one of the two American higher education institutions that exclusively serve students with learning disabilities and attention disorders, the other one being Landmark College.

The staff are specially trained to attend to and teach students with learning disabilities. Lectures occur in small groups of less than 16 people and teaching methods are tailored to each student to suit their needs and learning style. The entire university’s population is just 405 people.

Essential support services are part of the tuition fees, including Learning Specialists who are hired to provide individual mentoring. Each coursework is supplemented with assistive technology. There is also an integrated career development program that starts in the freshman year, building a strong foundation for the students’ aspirations.

The college offers a support program called NavigatorPREP, which helps future students prepare for university life.

High Point University

The OARS COMPASS accessibility services at High Point University aim to teach students to promote self-advocacy, engage in partnership with the institution and remove equality barriers. They provide students with a range of opportunities:

  • Bringing their emotional support animals. Normally, pets are not allowed on campus, but that can change with a special request form and the appropriate veterinary records.
  • Special housing accommodations. Students can renew their housing arrangements on a yearly basis.
  • Access to professors’ notes. The college allows some students to have their lecturers’ notes. All you need to do is to arrange a discussion with the professor themselves.
  • Testing accommodations. Comfortable exam conditions, such as extra time, special type of paper and separate room can be provided.
  • Academic accommodations. Each approved student can receive academic benefits such as peer note-taking services and textbooks in alternative formats.
  • Free counselling. The school offers free counselling and therapy that can be arranged through the Student Health Services.

University of Iowa

University of Iowa offers a range of scholarships for students with disabilities to encourage them to advance their education. The scholars also receive support from the Student Disability Service, where highly-trained staff help them communicate their needs to the university and ensure a comfortable time while studying.

The Service takes an individualized approach when it comes to making reasonable adjustments to the study process. These may include extra time during exams and reduced distraction seating, transit services, alternative textbook, handout and syllabus formats, and interpreting services for deaf and hard of hearing students.

The college also has a range of support networks for students with disabilities, such as the student council, an assistive technology research center, office of equal opportunity and diversity and the council on disability awareness.

University of Southern California

USC has a range of services for students with disabilities. These include peer note-taking, CART and interpreting, as well as altered exam conditions that may involve extra time, separate venues and accessible furniture. Some students depending on their condition are entitled to use approved formula cards, computers instead of paper-based tests, pencils instead of pens, and personal equipment such as food and drinks.

There are also options to have no back-to-back exams, alteret lamp lighting, breaks, repeating audio recordings for up to 5 times, and personalized font and text size of the exam paper. Everything mentioned above continues to function during lockdown.

The Disability Services and Programs facility is another benefit that enables disabled students full participation in college life, including making special housing arrangements. All that is required of the applicant is to register and provide a set of documents that will help the services determine their eligibility.

Stanford University

The Office of Accessible Education of Stanford University has an active position promoting social equality and the rights of minorities. On their Facebook page, they support Black Lives Matter and make regular updates about the disability awareness events on campus.

The administration of Stanford has made sure that the university campus is easy to access physically as well as providing academic and housing accommodations. Among these are low vision access and accessible entrances to campus buildings.

The Stanford Neurodiversity Project is designed to support students with a range of neurodiverse conditions, such as autism, ADHD and learning difficulties. They provide help with multiple key areas of everyday life, including independent living, career planning, social functions and mental wellbeing.

The school also provides alternative housing accommodations, different textbook and file formats, mentoring and tutoring, support through non-academic extracurricular activities, sports and dorm events.

University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan has made sure that they have all the equipment required to make their students feel at ease. The college’s own SSD facilitates the loaning of learning equipment and materials, including FM amplification system and portable transmitters, four-track cassette recorders, talking calculators, raised line drawing kit, materials in the Braille font, assistive learning devices and laptops for test taking.

The Knox Center Adaptive Technology Computing Site at the university offers specialized hardware and software with on-campus Windows and Apple computers. The center has adjustable height tables for wheelchair users and students that prefer standing up. There are also a number of adjustable chairs, as well as a video magnifier and a reclining chair.

The school offers speech-to-text services, video captioning services, real-time translation, sign language interpreters and peer note-taking. A special PASS program accommodates study sessions assisted by other students. Other options include academic coaching, videophones, storage units and paratransit.

University of Texas in Austin

Each disabled student at the University of Texas is assigned a Disabilities Services Coordinator within the SSD. These trained professionals help communicate the individual needs of the person, including arranging alternative housing.

Some classroom accommodations that are available are access to PowerPoint and Overheads presentations, copies of class notes, permission to record lectures on audio, attendance flexibility, alternative seating arrangements and permission to move around the classroom or leave at any point.

The school provides a range of accessibility services, including interpretation and captioning, other formats of orientation materials for freshman students, extended time and reduced distraction environment for tests, as well as course load reduction and deadline extensions. Some individuals are allowed to use calculators, computers, spell checks and readers during examinations.

These are some of the typical accommodations provided by the university. If a student requires an additional arrangement, their coordinator can help them make the necessary requests.

American University

The American University provides assistive technology to disabled students, such as text-to-speech support for all reading materials, speech-to-text writing support and conversion to Braille. Students can request closed captioning and audio descriptions, CART and sign language interpreting services, help with note-taking and specialized software for memory retention and time-management. The school provides accessible guidance for Kurzweil and Sonocent Audio Notetaker users and other technology for Apple, Google and Microsoft products. 

All campus buildings are fully accessible with some reasonable classroom adjustments available on request. The university’s disability service also gives support with the alternative housing registration process. Finally, the school can arrange customized dining accommodations for students with major food allergies.

University of Pennsylvania 

Among the most prominent support options at the University of Pennsylvania are additional examination time beyond 50 percent, scribes, readers and the use of assistive technology during tests. Alternate paper formats and separate rooms are also available.

The school supplies text-to-speech and screen reading software to students in need that is available for Windows, macOS and iOS devices. Note-taking tools include assistive listening devices, sign language interpreters, CART, captioning and real-time translation services. These can be supplemented by note-taking assistance and alternative textbook and course material formats.

Other services include special housing accommodations, support for temporary impairments, assistance animals, accessible parking and transportation between Penn State’s campuses.

University of California in Los Angeles

UCLA’s Center for Accessible Education supplies accommodations and support services for both temporary and permanent disabilities. For example, instead of funding peer note-taking, they have invested into technology-assisted note-taking facilities.

Like other colleges, they provide proctoring and test-taking arrangements, adaptive equipment and alternate formats for online materials and textbooks. They supply real-time captioning and sign-language interpretation for deaf and hard of hearing students. Library services for users with disability provide accessible library materials and software.

The university campus has accessible pathways and entrances, as well as on-campus transportation and parking ID cards. Students can request housing arrangements and adaptive equipment. Regular workshops are held to support independence.

Finally, UCLA funds a Recreation program that facilitates adaptive kayaking, cycling, sailing and other sports for disabled students.

Messiah College

The Messiah University is centered around the Christian faith. One of the core values of the college is the importance of each human being regardless of their race, gender, nationality and status, because they are created in the image of God. Naturally, the school tries to fit its image and create the best conditions for their students.

Some common disability accommodations include peer note takers, extended time and quiet environment on exams, proctoring, interpreters, captioning, alternate text formats and large print materials for students with visual impairments. Other adjustments can be made based on each individual’s needs.

The school also allows assistance animals on campus for both emotional support and physical guidance. Special seating areas are available for wheelchair users and their companions, those who require a clear view of an interpreter and others. Finally, the university provides special housing accommodations and a wheelchair-accessible minivan.

Study has No Limits

All American colleges are obliged to have suitable conditions for people with disabilities and ensure no student or staff member is discriminated against. Some have managed to establish better facilities than others, so make sure you have studied the colleges’ websites thoroughly before submitting your application. At the end of the day, your comfort at any given institution is directly proportional to your academic success.

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