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The expectations of attending college with a disability

Many children and young adults in New York and across the country live with disabilities. These disabilities, whether attention deficit disorder, a mobility impairment or blindness, can make learning and going to school much more challenging that it is for students who do not have disabilities. Fortunately, laws exist that mandate that elementary and secondary schools pinpoint these students and make concerted efforts to understand their individual needs. While these laws can benefit children until they finish high school, what happens after that?

Once a student reaches college, they are on their own. In college, students are expected to reach out to professors and staff to explain their disabilities. Most colleges have a disability office where a student can submit documentation of his or her disability. In turn, colleges are expected to make reasonable accommodations for disabled students.

For example, if a student who uses a wheelchair enrolls in a class that is scheduled to be on the top floor of a building that doesn't have elevators, the school would be expected to move that class to a ground-level room. Colleges and universities are also required to make areas that students need to have access to accessible, including classrooms, the library and residence halls.

In general, colleges work to make sure students who have a disability still enjoy a normal college experience, but in order for them to do so, students must speak up about their disabilities. A disabilities specialist at one school encourages students who have disabilities to be their own advocates in college.

Source: The New York Times, "ABC's of Accommodations," Roger H. Martin, Oct. 30, 2012

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