Managing a Physical Disability in College


More than 2 million people attending college (over 10%) have some kind of physical disability. While college life can certainly present some challenges, colleges have gotten much better in recent years in creating environments and appropriate services to support the continuing health and success of students with disabilities. Hopefully, you’ve done good research before choosing a college and you are at a school that is working for you.

Here are some tips that can make your college experience smoother and more rewarding:

  • Get to know the right support offices: if you have needs that require campus or classroom accommodations, the disabilities office is an important resource and you should get to know this office well. They can help with housing and environmental concerns and they should help you to work out any needs you may have with your classes and courses. They will work with you and your faculty (and when necessary deans) to try to determine what may be necessary and reasonable to even the playing field for you. Colleges are doing better at developing dorms that are properly accessible. The housing office should be able to help you make sure your living situation is right for your needs.
  • Advocate for yourself: in high school, your family (and doctors) were probably the primary people working with your school to make sure your needs were being addressed. While they all will still be able to provide guidance and support, you’ll be more of your own advocate in college. Make sure you have the necessary tools to describe your situation and your needs. If you are getting ready to go to college, it will be helpful to speak with family and clinicians to make sure you have a clear understanding of what is necessary and reasonable for you to expect. It is important for you to speak up and let the right people know about your concerns and needs.
  • Make good use of assistive technology and media: there is a growing array of technology based supports for people with disabilities and many colleges have really good resources. Make sure to find out what is available and make use of these helpful resources.
  • Make sure your medical care and insurance are being addressed: hopefully, before coming to college, you developed a plan to make sure your medical needs are being properly addressed while you are at college. As you begin school, you should continue to think about and discuss with family and clinicians whether the plan is adequate and appropriately addressing medical issue that are there or might emerge for you.

For more information, check out: Best Colleges – College Guide for Students with Physical Disabilities.

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