Students with disabilities may still be a minority at most universities and colleges, but they are rapidly growing in number. This has encouraged academic institutions to take notice of these students’ needs and special accommodations in terms of the physical and logistic aspects that are directly connected with the schools. It has also pushed academic personnel and faculty to become familiar with the issues, concerns and dynamics that are unique and specific to this population.
Students with disabilities may be categorized into two main groups: those with physical disabilities and those with learning disabilities. Physical disabilities can include hearing and vision impairment, speech impairment and orthopedic impairments.
Some concerns for students with disabilities include:
Colleges and universities are needed by law to provide architectural access to classrooms, dorms and other campus facilities for students who have disabilities. Schools are mandated to provide facilities that do away with physical barriers and provide services, programs and funding that cater to these students’ specific needs.
While school buildings have to comply with accessibility codes specific to persons with disabilities, repairs and additions are restricted not only by architectural constraints and limitations but also by budget. Full accessibility for students with physical limitations such as orthopedic disabilities can only be found in a small percentage of institutions.
Schools are needed to provide full academic support to students with disabilities through course programs and support services and there is very little to be concerned about in terms of the quality and accessibility of these courses for students with special needs.
While there has been an increase in the number of students with disabilities who enroll or are currently enrolled in a college or university program, they don’t always request for special accommodations and some may not even inform other students and staff of their disability.
For this reason, most students don’t get to maximize whatever student services there are which cater to their specific needs. Conversely, schools may not also offer as many choices because of the lack of demand or proper carry outation.
Students aren’t needed to disclose their disabilities specially those that aren’t apparent. However, to get certain services or request for accommodations within a college or university setting, a student must disclose his disability and special needs. Some students, though, prefer not to inform anyone for certain reasons, mostly personal.
Disclosure remains a challenging issue not only for the students with disabilities but also to the faculty, staff and fellow students. In the end, it is the student’s decision whether he wants to disclose it or not.
Peer, faculty and staff attitudes
Campus experiences for students with disabilities can range from triumph to frustration, especially if negative attitudes from other people are encountered. This may include attitudes that can range from ridicule to condescension.
However, faculty and staff of colleges and universities are increasingly becoming aware of the influence of attitude to students with disabilities and are quite aware that understanding is key to the success of a student’s effort to attain academic and peer recognition.
Factors that can affect a faculty’s attitude towards students with disabilities can include their age, teaching experience, experience in teaching students with disabilities and professional rank. In order to maximize the positive experience of these students, faculty and staff must possess the right knowledge and skills not only in academics but also in direct service, consultation and administration.
People with disabilities are protected under the civil rights law (Sec. 504, 1973 Rehabilitation Act). Students’ rights in terms of access to facilities, admissions and testing procedures, aids and services are also covered by this law. The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, also mandates for non-discrimination not only to the private sector but also to the public sector.
These laws need that students with disabilities have equal rights and opportunities for higher education as students with normal capabilities.
When requests for accommodations are denied
Requests from students with disabilities for special accommodations may sometimes be denied if it needs the institution to change the nature of an academic course or program. It may also be denied if the school can offer a feasible alternative in response to the accommodation request. Schools can also deny requests if it needs the institution to incur expenses and additional burdens to their administrative functions.
Students with disabilities are a rising force on college and university campuses. To help them make the most of their education, the schools they choose must be able to assist them in fully identifying and understanding their unique needs and needs and help them develop the right skills to help them cope, deal and assert themselves to overcome any stereotyping and discrimination that may pose a threat to their pursuit of higher education.