Preparing for College & Finding Accessible Colleges For Students With Disabilities

Author: Sarah Perowne

Last update: 3/3/2023

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Students with disabilities may require additional support to thrive in college or higher education. While many higher educational institutions offer college disability resources, some, unfortunately, miss the mark. Still, more colleges and universities in the U.S. are moving towards accessible learning so everyone can get high-quality education regardless of individual abilities and academic objectives.

With that in mind, this guide for students with disabilities and their parents or guardians outlines some tips on preparing for college for students with disabilities, fantastic college disability resources, accessible college programs in the U.S., funding options, and scholarships that students with disabilities can apply for to further their education.

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College Preparation for Students With Disabilities

College is the next step on your education journey. Whether a student has special accessibility needs or not, college prep can be stressful, especially preparing for a smooth transition to college. No matter your accessibility needs or IEP (Individualized Education Program) plan, here are some important things you can do to prepare for college as a student with a disability.

IEP Plans & 504 Plans

If you don't already have an IEP or 504 plan, now is the time to get one. If you have one or both, go over it with your parents, guardians, and school counselor, and familiarize yourself with how your disability might affect your academic learning and what your disability is. College is a time for self-advocacy and knowledge, so check out this blog post for more tips on how to make the transition to postsecondary education smoother.


Most students in the United States are eligible for Federal Financial Aid. Begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to see if you can gain grants, scholarships, loans, or work-study jobs while studying.

Gather Documentation

Start and gather a transition portfolio of disability documentation, support letters, test results with documentation rationale for course substitutions or waivers, state assessment results, copies of past IEPs, and school records. The earlier you gather this information, the easier the transition to college will be, especially if you want to request accommodations in college. Head to College Board’s site for more information.

Outline Adaptations and Modifications 

Accommodations, adaptations, and modifications in college look different for each student. Some examples of accommodations for students with physical and learning disabilities could could be extra time on assignments and exams, financial support, grants for specific materials, Braille textbooks, teacher microphones, passes to leave class, speech-to-text programs, or extra support in the classroom; the list is endless and is individualized to each students’ needs so they can spend more time on succeeding in college and less on their disability.

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Accessible College Programs In The U.S.

Choosing the right school for you is important, regardless of your needs. There are several colleges throughout the U.S. specifically for disabled students, but many choose to opt for inclusive colleges, where students with all kinds of abilities and backgrounds enroll. Here is a list of disability-friendly colleges and universities that you can check out. The schools listed below have showcased consistent priority for meeting the physical, social, and academic needs of students with special needs, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities.

Beacon College

Beacon College is the first college in the U.S. accredited to award bachelor's degrees for students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and other learning differences. Beacon College campus is in Leesburg, Florida.

Bellevue College

Bellevue College is an outstanding higher education provider that offers a supportive environment for students with disabilities through its Disability Resource Center. They also offer an Occupational and Life Skills Associate Degree Program for neurodiverse students with disabilities.

Cornell University

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has a specialized and supportive Student Disability Service that enrolled students can use to ensure access to every aspect of their Cornell experience.

DePaul University

DePaul University, based across two campuses in Chicago, is committed to providing students with physical, learning, medical, mental health, and sensory disabilities equal opportunities through their Students with Disabilities Services.

Gallaudet University

Gallaudet University is a higher education institution that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech is committed to supporting its students with disabilities through its Office of Disability Services. They collaborate with its students, faculty, and staff to continue to create an inclusive and equitable campus environment for all its students.

Hofstra University

Hofstra's core mission is to "create an environment that encourages, nurtures, and supports learning through a free and open exchange of ideas." Their No Hate @ Hofstra initiative promotes inclusion. For students with specific learning disabilities, ADD, or ADHD, the PALS program has been successfully running for 30 years.

Landmark College

Landmark college is all about advocacy, inclusion, and teaching using a universal design approach. They were one of the first colleges in the U.S. to pioneer college-level studies for students with dyslexia.


Based in West Virginia, Marshall University offers free services to students with any documented disability through its Office of Disability Services. Established in 2002, they also have a College Program for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder that supports enrolled students with all aspects of college life.

Stanford University

Around 19% of the student population at Stanford University has a registered disability, which is why students are passionate about working with the Office of Accessible Education to improve the disability resources that Stanford offers. Stanford’s A-Hub, pioneered by students, is a community space on campus for students to meet, gather, hold events, and advocate for their access and inclusion on campus.

The University of Texas Austin

The University of Texas at Austin has greatly progressed in offering exceptional services for disabled students through their Center for Disability Studies. Departments collaborate to organize the yearly Disability Awareness Speakers Series. Students won't be forgotten as the university has many projects to support students and their parents throughout college.

University of Arizona

The SALT center at the University of Arizona is a fee-based long-running academic support program. They partner with students by offering weekly meetings with their student support specialists, peer tutors, free one-to-one counseling, and assistance to maximize the potential of educational technology.

University of California, Berkeley

UC Berkeley has been recognized nationally for its "commitment to diversity and inclusion." Their Disability Access & Compliance staff work with the Berkeley community to discuss improvement areas and provide support for students with disabilities, direct services, and accessibility assessments. UC Berkeley students can enroll in the Disabled Students Program to get help requesting accommodations and achieving academic goals.

University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut is committed to providing a safe space for all its students. Their CSD facility works with each student on outlining an individualized accommodations plan for college life, academics, and campus access. They have a few different programs available through their center. Their ASL community regularly organizes events, and the CSD partners with leading industry professionals to offer Neurodiverse summer internships.

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Funding & Disability Scholarship Opportunities

Paying for college can prove a barrier regardless of your accessibility needs or disability. This list of scholarships for students with disabilities is only the beginning of financial aid programs available, but they can be a good starting point.

P. Buckley Moss Endowed Scholarship

The annual scholarship by the non-profit organization P. Buckley Moss Foundation is for one graduating high school senior who wants to pursue a visual arts career and has a verified language-learning disability.

Lighthouse Guild College Bound Scholarship

The Lighthouse Guild annually offers 20 scholarships for U.S. high school students registered as legally blind. They offer one annual merit-based scholarship to at least one qualifying graduate student. 

Anne Ford Scholarship

The Anne Ford Scholarship is a four-year program for a high school senior who will be enrolled in a full-time bachelor's degree program and has a documented learning disability and/or ADHD through the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

INCIGHT Scholarship

For current residents in Washington, Oregon, and California,  INCIGHT awards scholarships to students with disabilities pursuing higher education. Applicants must be enrolled in a higher education program following the application and have a documented disability.

Support & Resources for College Students with Disabilities 

Students with a physical or learning disability have the right to attend and enroll in college, regardless of their accessibility needs. If you live with a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act, you are entitled to accessing accommodations in college. Here are a few resources and support organizations you can look into while at college or before pursuing higher education at a college campus that could help support you during your studies.

Be My Eyes

Blind or low-vision individuals can connect with volunteers worldwide and get instant video support. Free Download on Apple or Play Store.

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is a national civil rights law and policy center for individuals with disabilities and parents. They advocate for disabled rights and accessibility and partner with colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
Do-It Pals

DO-IT Pals is a University of Washington online mentorship and support project for teenagers and young adults with disabilities who are already pursuing higher education or want to. You don't have to go to the University of Washington to apply; you just need an email.
Dyslexia Keyboard

The Ghotit Dyslexia Keyboard for iPad and iPhone is designed to assist individuals with dyslexia or dysgraphia in writing, proofreading, and correcting their coursework. It costs around $50 for a one time download.
National Center for College Students with Disabilities

The NCCSD is a federal-funded center in the U.S. for college or graduate students with any disability, chronic health condition, or mental illness. Their Campus Disability Resource Database has information about hundreds of disability resources and services at U.S.-accredited colleges and universities.