Helpful Tips for Returning to Campus When You Have a Disability
Kelsey Shearman, MA, Shepherd Center’s academic coordinator, offers advice to help students advocate for themselves when transitioning to college campuses.
Prepare as early as possible.
Just like high school, early preparation is the key to success when it comes to returning to college. Often, colleges have you request your own accommodations. If you’re newly injured in college, this can be a “deer in the headlights” moment. Don’t worry – you can discuss a list of possible recommended accommodations with your doctor and therapy team to get you started.
Get to know your office of disability services.
Scheduling an appointment with your college’s office of disability services is a great starting point. These are the people who are going to help you put everything in place and answer important questions for you. To prepare for your appointment, be sure to complete an application for disability services found on your college’s website, bring documentation of your injury, and, if you have one, a copy of your IEP or 504 plan from high school.
There are a lot of questions to ask, and it’s easy to overlook ones, like, “Where do I sit for special events, and can my friends sit with me?” and “Does the recreation center have accessible gym equipment?” So, we’ve put together a checklist for you to bring with you to help you cover your bases. You can find it here: (Insert Link or rephrase to “You can find it at the bottom of the page.”)
Think about your schedule and housing.
Ask your office of disability services about priority registration. Registering early can help you get the first pick of class times to work around personal care, therapy, and doctor appointments. If any of your classes are in inaccessible buildings or classrooms, the office of disability services can change the location. That also goes for housing. If you live in a dorm and have a caregiver, you may need to make special arrangements for your caregiver to have a dorm ID, or if you’re living off campus, it may take time to plan an accessible route to campus. Either way, planning early is key!
Advocate for yourself.
You may have noticed a common theme here – advocate for yourself. When you return to college, it’s up to you to ensure you have proper accommodations in place and to make sure they’re being implemented by faculty and staff.
(Please click the images below to enlarge/ download the checklist for disability services.)