A college education is hard to achieve. It’s even harder for the Disability Community. Factors that play into our academic success like class-to-class transportation, accommodations and classroom accessibility are often overlooked by the college. As a second-year student, I have encountered many of these problems. Below are some tips on how to navigate your college campus and find accommodations.
Disabled Student Services
Talking to Disabled Student Services (DSS) can be daunting at first, but you will benefit from their resources. Because colleges don’t have an equivalent to a 504 plan or IEP, you must advocate for your own accommodations. DSS is there to help. Not only do they help advocate for accommodations, but many also offer peer-mentoring and academic support programs. If you are starting the college application process, research what the college’s DSS program looks like. Many DSS programs will show up on a search engine if you enter the college’s name and “Disabled Student Services.” You can also reach out to the admissions staff and ask for more information.
College Campus Tours
College campuses are notorious for their size. Every incoming freshman gets lost at least a few times during their first semester (from personal experience). The main office or student center will offer tours to new students and those who are interested in applying. If you are either of those, definitely take advantage of tours. Not only will it give you an inside look, but you can also examine the accessibility of the campus. If you are specifically looking for accessible entrances and other accommodations, ask for a tour from Disabled Student Services. They can answer accessibility-related questions better than a general tour guide.
Plan Your Transportation Route
After you tour the campus, the next step is to plan your route. This will help minimize stress and confusion. I recommend writing down each class and the corresponding building. Then, plan a timeline that includes when you should leave your dorm, how you will get to campus (car, walking, public transportation, etc.), and an outline of your class-to-class route. Familiarize yourself with this routine and keep a hard copy of a campus map in your backpack.
Battery Life and Outlets for Quantum Rehab Wheelchairs
On a campus map, mark the location of charging outlets that will work with your mobility aid. As a power wheelchair user, I always rely on study areas like the library or common area to have accessible outlets for my chair charger. This allows me to charge my Quantum Rehab Wheelchair in between classes. Running out of battery in between classes is not fun. Ask your Disabled Student Services staff if they can help you advocate to not be marked absent in the event your mobility aid dies, although you should always try to plan ahead.
About Riley Hurt: Riley lives in Salem, Oregon, and uses a Stretto Power Wheelchair for mobility. Riley is enrolled in college, pursuing electrical and computer engineering. She hopes to make her future field more inclusive for people with disabilities. Click here to learn more about Riley.
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