Visually impaired? Hard of hearing? Physically challenged? When colleges and universities indicate in their mission statements that they embrace diversity, they are not only referring to color, gender, age, or ethnicity.
Government legislation, including the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires all colleges and universities that receive federal money to provide “equal” services to students with disabilities. Since these laws were enacted, opportunities for individuals with documented disabilities have grown exponentially.
While some schools may adhere to the minimum required by law, a number of institutions of higher education have gone beyond in their aim to accommodate any student whose cognitive abilities would allow them to complete an academic program. The scope of services offered varies by institution and may include providing easy access to buildings and classrooms, assisting students during class time, and training students to become as independent as possible before joining the job market.
While some colleges and universities may assign the duties of assisting students with disabilities to their professors, Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, has centralized the administration of these programs in the Office of Disability Services. This office is in charge of providing: personal assistance, by training personal attendants and pairing them with the students; academic support, by proctoring tests or transferring textbooks into digital, audio, or Braille format; and vocational support, by offering special classes to prepare students for their life after college. The office also monitors and maintains state-of-the-art adaptive computer labs and programs.
Although some of the services are provided at no cost, students are expected to pay for their attendants and training courses. Therefore, students with disabilities must contact the institutions prior to making any enrollment decision in order to determine the extra costs involved.