What to consider when attending college in a wheelchair

Being A Student With A Disability

Right now, I’m attending Normandale Community College pursuing a degree in communications. My goal is to be a public speaker. I’ve been going to college since fall of 2006; just taking one or two classes at a time schedule permitting. When it came to choosing a college to go to after high school, I had to look at a few more things than just which one sounded the best.

There are many things that go along with being a student with a disability. In my case, special accommodations are made so that things are easier inside and outside of the classroom. Also, I have to figure out the best approach before going into a classroom for the first time.

What to consider when attending college in a wheelchairWhen choosing a college to go to, accessibility is one of the first things someone with a disability looks at. How wide are the doorways? How big are the hallways? How much space is in each classroom? How far do I have to travel to get to each class? These are all questions that come to mind when looking at accessibility and design.

Before each semester, I visit the school a week ahead to scope out where the classroom is. I look for how far away it is from the entrance, where the closest exits are, where the elevators are, and where the closest handicapped accessible bathroom is. Then I actually go to the classroom and check out the size and where the best place for me to sit would be.

The next thing I do is contact my teachers so that they know I will be in their class. I usually tell them a little bit about myself in an e-mail. The office for students with disabilities at my college e-mails all the teachers before so that they’re aware that I’ll need assistance and extra time on tests. Also, if it’s a class that requires taking notes they will send someone to the classroom to ask a volunteer to take them using carbon copy paper.

The office does supply free books on tape for anyone that needs them. When I first started I would get all of mine on tape. After a while of using the CD player, I decided to go back to just reading the text. I’m a very visual person so it was hard for me to retain any info that way. However, I know a lot of people in my situation that benefit from using them. Now I just have someone turn the pages for me when I need to.

Distance is another thing I looked at. The college is about a 30 min. drive from my house, but often longer with my transportation. I use a bus service called Metro Mobility which is run by the city buses Metro Council. It’s a ride-share program set up for people with disabilities where one has to have a doctor’s order to ride. We frequently have to pickup and drop-off other people on my way to and from school, which can sometimes make for a long ride.

These are just some of the things that go along with being a student with a disability. I would say the biggest tip I could give is to become familiar with what the college has to offer for support. Also, making sure that the accessibility is there and things are available if needed. I’m glad I found a school that works for me.

Here is a related post written by Erin Breedlove that might also be helpful to read, “Post-Secondary Education: What Your Student with a Disability Should Know.”

Do you attend college? What accommodations help you inside or outside of the classroom?

Photo courtesy: thatautguy

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