College Resources for Students with Disabilities

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Students with disabilities often require additional support to succeed in college. While many postsecondary institutions offer various college disability resources, not every school offers robust support services. However, most colleges and universities remain committed to providing their enrollees with disabilities with adequate assistance to reach their academic objectives.

This guide outlines some college disability resources and how students with disabilities can benefit from them.

Attention Deficit Disorder


  • What is ADHD or ADD?

    Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a mental disorder commonly diagnosed in children. ADHD/ADD can also affect adults. This disorder is characterized by a continuing pattern of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), up to 8.5% of children and 2.5% of adults in America have ADHD. An ADD diagnosis means the attention deficit disorder does not include hyperactive behavior.


  • How Can Students With ADHD/ADD Succeed in College?

    Institutions offer various college disability resources for students diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, including application assistance, counseling, academic support, and financial aid. Students can choose to share their diagnosis with their school. Most colleges and universities strive to support and accommodate the special needs of students diagnosed with ADHD/ADD.


  • Why Are ADHD/ADD Accommodations Important in College?

    Colleges and universities can support ADHD/ADD students in several ways. Some schools employ simple measures such as allowing students with ADHD/ADD to enroll in one class at a time or offering self-paced online courses. Other schools give learners with ADHD/ADD priority enrollment for classes with a low teacher-to-student ratio so they can receive the attention they need.


Resources for Students With ADHD/ADD


  • ADDitude The website contains several current and archived articles with practical advice from adults with ADHD/ADD and parents of children with the disorder. The site also features the latest research from field professionals.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association ADDA unites adults with ADHD/ADD for mutual support, socialization, and networking opportunities. The association offers educational workshops, workplace resources, and volunteer opportunities.
  • TotallyADD Individuals with ADHD/ADD or those living with someone with the disorder manage this site. Website visitors can explore various resources and purchase videos and books on living with ADHD/ADD.

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Autism


  • What Is Autism?

    The APA defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as “… a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restrictive/repetitive behaviors.” ASD affects people differently. Individuals with ASD may experience mild to profound symptoms that change over time.


  • How Can Students With Autism Succeed in College?

    Students with high-functioning autism can do well in college, especially in schools that understand their needs and offer supportive services. College disability resources for students diagnosed with ASD vary between institutions. Students with ASD may need extra time to submit assignments or take tests, visual prompts to improve understanding, and detailed directions.


  • Why Are Autism Accommodations Important in College?

    Individuals with high-functioning autism often have intellectual capabilities similar to their peers. Many require only basic supportive services and resources to succeed in college. Despite their relative independence, or perhaps because of it, students with ASD can still quickly fall behind in their studies without close and continuous monitoring.


Resources for Students With Autism


  • Autism NOW The Arc maintains a directory of resources and services available in each state that addresses the social and educational needs of individuals with ASD. The Arc is the largest national organization serving people with ASD.
  • Autism.com This directory provides educational resources and therapeutic support services for people with ASD. The website also contains useful information for parents and teachers of young children with autism.
  • Autism Speaks This organization serves the autism community by taking the lead in several advocacy initiatives to improve and increase the services and resources available to individuals with ASD, and their families and teachers.


Cognitive Disabilities


  • What Are Cognitive Disabilities?

    A cognitive disability, also called an intellectual disability, involves problems with general mental abilities that impact intellectual and adaptive functioning. About 1% of the U.S. population have this kind of disability. People with a cognitive disability often display problems with language and communication, have underdeveloped social and organizational skills, and difficulty with self-care and managing daily tasks.


  • How Can Students With Cognitive Disabilities Succeed in College?

    Approximately 275 colleges and universities nationwide offer federally funded transition programs for students with intellectual disabilities. The programs offer supportive services and resources that prepare students for independent living and professional opportunities. Learners can also participate in typical college activities that help improve their social and communication skills.


  • Why Are Cognitive Disability Accommodations Important in College?

    Transition programs allow students with intellectual disabilities to develop the skills and knowledge required for various jobs. These programs also prepare students for the application process, from writing a resume and preparing for an interview to negotiating salary and benefits.


Resources for Students With Cognitive Disabilities


  • American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities AAIDD advocates for progressive policies and inclusive practices for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This international organization supports continued research in the field to meet the social, educational, and professional needs of people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities Located at the University of Colorado, this institute integrates the most recent technological advances focused on improving the quality of life for individuals with intellectual disabilities in the educational, home, and social arenas.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America LDA compiles the latest information, research, and resources concerning individuals with learning disabilities, their families, and the practitioners who work with them.


Hearing Impairments


  • What Are Hearing Impairments?

    The accepted normal hearing range lies within a 20-decibel threshold. Individuals who cannot hear or experience difficulty hearing within this decibel level are hearing-impaired. Devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can help hearing-impaired individuals hear more clearly. People who are deaf suffer from profound hearing loss and communicate using sign language or by reading lips.


  • How Can Students With Hearing Impairments Succeed in College?

    Federal regulations require all public colleges and universities receiving public funding to ensure that deaf and hearing-impaired students receive equal access to the school’s academic resources and facilities. Additional resources for college students with hearing impairment may include assistive-listening devices, real-time translation, and minor classroom and curriculum modifications.


  • Why Are Hearing Impairment Accommodations Important in College?

    Hearing-impaired college students with no accompanying cognitive disabilities can usually meet the academic requirements of postsecondary education with adequate support from teachers, peers, and school administration. Services and resources vary between institutions. Hearing-impaired college students must often act as their own advocates by making their needs known to professors and school personnel.


Resources for Students With Hearing Impairments


  • American Hearing Research Foundation AHRF provides financial support for research focused on understanding and overcoming hearing impairment and balance disorders. The organization also promotes initiatives that educate the general population about the capabilities of hearing-impaired individuals and the support they need to reach their full potential and improve their quality of life.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ASHA publishes several journals on various topics relevant to hearing-impaired individuals, including a publication that focuses on language, speech, and hearing services in schools. The association offers certifications, participates in advocacy efforts, and conducts independent and collaborative research in the field.
  • Better Hearing Institute This organization provides hearing-impaired individuals with the latest research and product innovations in hearing aids and other assistive-listening devices. BHI also advocates for patient safety and education. The institute supports various initiatives to influence public policy on improving the academic and professional opportunities for hearing-impaired individuals.


Learning Disabilities


  • What Are Learning Disabilities?

    Individuals with a learning disability display altered brain functioning that impedes one or several cognitive processes related to learning. Examples of learning disabilities include dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, which refer to difficulties in reading, writing, and performing mathematical functions, respectively. Some individuals with a learning disability can also experience difficulty with higher functions, such as organization, time management, and planning.


  • How Can Students With Learning Disabilities Succeed in College?

    The government mandates that all publicly funded schools at the elementary and secondary levels provide special education services for students who require it. In college, students with learning disabilities must be proactive in ensuring teachers and school administrators know about their diagnosis. Working together, they can identify the necessary support services and resources.


  • Why Are Learning Disability Accommodations Important in College?

    Services and resources for college students with learning disabilities help them manage their condition and cope with academic and social repercussions early. This awareness and ability can contribute much to their success in school and in the workplace.



Resources for Students With Learning Disabilities


  • Council for Learning Disabilities An international organization, CLD works to improve the quality of life and enhance the educational and professional opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities. The council shares research findings and promotes the inclusion of evidence-based practice at all educational levels for students with learning disabilities.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America LDA's website contains an extensive list of services and resources for individuals with learning disabilities from private nonprofits, government agencies, state offices, and professional organizations.
  • Learning Disabilities Worldwide The organization's website contains information, research data, merchandise, and a directory of practitioners specializing in the learning disability field. College students can access articles on how to apply, choose, get into, and succeed in college.


Physical Disabilities


  • What Are Physical Disabilities?

    Whether present at birth, a result of a disease, or a result of an accident or injury, a physical disability refers to a condition that affects a person’s mobility, physical capacity, stamina, or dexterity. For the purpose of federal nondiscriminatory laws, the U.S. government defines a person with a disability as someone who “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more ‘major life activities.'”


  • How Can Students With Physical Disabilities Succeed in College?

    Most students with just a physical disability (versus students who also have a mental disability) can succeed in college with adequate support from instructors, school administrators, and their peers. Colleges and universities offer various assistive technologies that address a specific physical disability, such as limited mobility, deafness, or blindness.


  • Why Are Physical Disability Accommodations Important in College?

    Colleges and universities can better guide students to academic and future professional success by giving them every opportunity to concentrate on their studies. Providing accommodations and resources for college students with physical disabilities allows them to focus on their studies and career goals rather than their disability.


Resources for Students With Physical Disabilities


  • American Association on Health & Disability AAHD strives to achieve health equity for children and adults with different types of disabilities through education, research, and advocacy work at the community, state, and federal levels.
  • Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund This organization addresses the prevailing societal discrimination against individuals with disabilities. DREDF works toward this goal through legal advocacy, dissemination of accurate and timely information, education, and legislative action.
  • National Organization on Disability Partnering with businesses across diverse industries, NOD works to eradicate workplace inequality, and to improve and increase the employment options of people with any type of disability.


Speech Disorders


  • What Are Speech Disorders?

    A speech and language disorder refers to difficulties in communication and other oral-motor functions. The disorder can be mild (slurring or sound substitution) to profound (inability to understand or use language). Individuals with this disorder may also experience problems with eating and swallowing.


  • How Can Students With Speech Disorders Succeed in College?

    Students’ level and type of speech and language impairment often determines the services and resources their school can offer to help them succeed. Accommodations may include augmentative and alternative communication devices, extended scheduling, note-takers, and speech and hearing clinics.


  • Why Are Speech Disorder Accommodations Important in College?

    The inability to communicate clearly impedes learning and hampers social interactions, which can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Resources for college students with speech and language disorders can help them participate more fully in the academic and social life on campus.


Resources for Students With Speech Disorders


  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ASHA supports various advocacy initiatives that break down education, social, and occupational barriers for individuals with speech and language disorders. The organization's website includes information on Medicaid, private insurance, and Medicare issues related to speech and language disorders.
  • Center for Hearing and Communication CHC serves individuals with speech and language disorders by providing free hearing screenings, various professional audiological services, and many educational support resources.
  • Dysphagia Research Society This society provides research, academic, and scientific support to the community of individuals with speech and language disorders and the different practitioners who work with them.


Visual Disabilities


  • What Are Visual Disabilities?

    The federal government considers individuals with a visual acuity of 20/200 or less to be legally blind and therefore entitled to certain benefits and school or workplace accommodations. Some professionals prefer to define a visual disability along functional lines. People are visually impaired when they have uncorrectable vision that prevents them from performing daily activities.


  • How Can Students With Visual Disabilities Succeed in College?

    Public colleges and universities receiving federal funding must make their academic programs accessible to students with disabilities, including enrollees with diagnosed visual problems. Schools use various assistive devices to support visually impaired students, including CCTV magnification systems, Braille translation software, and screen readers.


  • Why Are Visual Disability Accommodations Important in College?

    Providing accommodations and resources for college students with visual disabilities helps integrate them academically into the general student population. These accommodations help learners enhance their social skills, improve their learning experience, and develop coping habits that can serve them well on campus and in the workplace.


Resources for Students With Visual Disabilities


  • American Council of the Blind A national organization governed by blind and visually impaired individuals, ACB supports privately and federally funded programs and initiatives that help people with visual disabilities to live independent, productive, and secure lives.
  • American Foundation for the Blind AFB supports research and advocacy activities that expand the educational and professional opportunities of individuals with visual disabilities. The organization also supports programs for individuals who are losing their vision due to aging.
  • FamilyConnect The organization mainly supports the parents and families of young children diagnosed with cortical visual impairment. The website includes a directory of practitioners who specialize in this field, various educational resources, and reviews of laws and regulations impacting visually impaired individuals.

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