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New University Accessibility Video Encourages People with Disabilities to Pursue Higher Education

Shepherd Center develops video featuring former patients who learned to manage campus challenges after injury.

A new video produced by Shepherd Center and its partners promotes the idea that on-campus higher education is quite possible and manageable for people with spinal cord injury and other disabilities.

“Believe in yourself that you can attend a college or university after spinal cord injury or with any disability,” say the producers of the “University Accessibility” video available on this page and on Shepherd Center’s YouTube channel.

Students interviewed for the video answer the question, “What is it like to attend a college or university after spinal cord injury?”

The biggest hurdle is often a student’s perception or self-confidence, the producers say. “Once you make the decision that you are ready to attend college, your campus disability services office is available to help with the details,” they explain. “These professionals will coordinate academic accommodations, such as accessible classrooms, note- and test-taking assistance, and e-books, as well as environmental accessibility for classrooms, dorms and on-campus transportation.”

See the guidelines below (and available above as a PDF download) for questions you might want to ask of the disability services office at colleges that interest you.

Students who have attended school after injury also enjoy the social aspects of college life – participation in sports, clubs, theater and Greek life, as well as making new friends, the producers say. “We encourage students with disabilities to give higher education a try,” they add. “Take a look at the University Accessibility video. You may like what you see!”

Getting Ready: Talking with the Office of Disability Services at a College or University

What I Should Bring: 

1. Documentation of my injury, including a medical professional’s signature, date of onset, diagnosis and prognosis
2. A copy of my Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan from high school if I want to make it available to the college
3. A completed application for disability services (available on most colleges’ websites)

Questions I Should Ask (if applicable to me): 


1. How do I sign up to have a note-taker if I need help? How will the note-taker be selected? How will I get notes from the note-taker?
2. How will I take tests if I need help writing?
3. How can I get textbooks in an electronic format?
4. How can I get class handouts in an electronic format (especially if loose-leaf papers are hard for me to manage)?
5. Will assistive technology devices (whatever I need) be available in all my classes?
6. When I have new professors each semester, will you explain my accommodations to them, or do I need to initiate that conversation each semester?
7. Am I eligible for priority registration? How does that process work?
8. If I am still participating in therapy, how can I manage my schedule?
9. What are my options for participating in a class online if, for medical reasons, I am unable to physically attend class one day?
10. If I require assistance with setup (pulling a tablet out of my backpack, managing supplies, opening a dictation program), who could help me during class?
11. Am I eligible for extended time? How do I plan for completing assignments with extended time?
12. Can I record lectures and listen to them later? Is there a device available on campus that I can use for that?
13. What assistive technology is available in the library? Do your computers have Dragon, Quad-Joy and MathSpeak? Can I check out a Livescribe pen, etc.?
14. If I need a scribe for certain parts of a class, how do I coordinate receiving help?
15. Will I have access to all parts of the classroom?
16. If I am in a science or engineering course with a lab component, how will I do the labs? Can any of the lab tables be lowered?

Campus Accessibility 

1. Are all parts of campus accessible to me?
2. Can you or a member of facilities management do a walk-through with me before classes start to ensure that I can safely follow my class schedule?
3. Where are the accessible restrooms on campus?
4. How can I access sporting events and other extracurricular activities? Where can I sit for special events? How do I buy those tickets? Can my friends sit with me?
5. Does the recreation center have accessible gym equipment? Does the pool have a lift?
6. How accessible is your on-campus dining area? If I need help reaching food or bringing it to a table, how could I get help with that?
7. If I find that a push-button isn’t working on a door or anything else like that isn’t working, who should I contact?
8. What parts of campus are “historical” and not up to ADA? How can I get around them?


1. How will I access my housing? Can I open the door?
2. Do any ramps need to be added so I can access my dorm?
3. Do I have a private bathroom? Can I access the shower?
4. Do I need to change anything about the bed or bring my own bed or mattress?
5. Can I reach everything I need to access?
6. Am I in climate-controlled housing (if I have temperature regulation issues)?
7. Can I access the laundry room?
8. Do all your dorms have elevators?
9. Can we modify my dorm room? Who could help me adjust things to make my room accessible?

Personal Care Needs

1. If I need help with bowel or bladder management, what are my options? If I have a medical problem on campus, where could I go?
2. If I have a personal care attendant, when will they come, how will they access my dorm, how will they access the rest of campus, where will they stay, should we get them a student ID, etc.?
3. If my classes are far from where I live, can I keep bowel and bladder supplies stocked at the student health office?

Healthcare Needs

1. What health services does the student health office offer?
2. Does anyone in the student health office have experience working with a person with a spinal cord injury?
3. Should I meet with anyone in student health to discuss dysreflexia or other medical complications I might encounter?

Emergency Preparedness 

1. In the event of a fire or emergency, how can I reach safety? Who could I contact for help?
2. Who should I contact if I get stuck somewhere?
3. What should I do in the event of severe weather?


1. Could you tell me about transportation on campus? How do students usually get around?
2. Are campus buses accessible? Do all the buses have a lift?
3. What are the local accessible public transportation options?
4. How do I let them know I’m moving to this area or apply to join their program?
5. Is handicapped parking widely available? What parking passes, if any, do I need? Is parking covered? Are spaces wide enough for me to get into/out of my vehicle?

Extracurricular Activities 

1. Does this campus have any adapted sports teams? How do people join?
2. What clubs or other activities are available to me?
3. What about sororities and fraternities?

Vocational Rehabilitation 

1. Would you tell me about your relationship with the state’s vocational rehabilitation office?
2. How could vocational rehab help me with my return to college?

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.