5 Tips For Supporting Students With Disabilities To Access Higher Education

Posted by: Arnold Romaguera at 05/12/2021 3,507 views

About 19% of undergraduate students reported having a disability during the academic year, according to the NCES. The transition phase from high school to college brings about a sense of joy and fulfillment, but it can also be stressful. For students with disabilities, enrolling in college can be overwhelming. This is because they must cope with the different learning styles provided in colleges. The lack of support in learning institutions is another obstacle learners with disabilities face. While federal, state, and local laws mandate unlimited access to learning resources and services for college students with disabilities, postsecondary centers have a hard time supporting them. Colleges cite they cannot accommodate learners with disabilities due to limited resources and a lack of awareness of legal requirements to help special needs students. Below are 5 tips for supporting students with disabilities to access higher education.

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Improve Accessibility 

The first step to encourage people with disabilities to attend college or university is creating an environment that allows them to study and live without many challenges. To achieve this goal, postsecondary institutions should focus on ways to improve accessibility in learning spaces. As a rule of thumb, universities should be wheelchair-friendly. That way, learners with mobility disabilities can access classrooms using wheelchairs with ease. In addition to making learning environments wheelchair accessible, institutions should factor in other disabilities. For instance, learners with visual impairments will need improved lighting, large prints, braille worksheets, and multi-sensory learning like hands-on demonstrations. On the other hand, students with learning disabilities will require unique classroom adjustments. Some changes include building quiet rooms where students can concentrate better when studying. Note that some students with learning disabilities will need to spend time in a sensory room. Doing so improves their coordination, resulting in better engagement during lectures. 

Provide The Right Tools

Students with disabilities require a wide variety of tools to enhance their learning experience. For example, learners living with ADHD need digital recorders to ensure they keep up with the curriculum. Since students with ADHD tend to be distracted, providing digital recorders allows them to record classroom instructions. That way, they can listen to the lectures in a space where they can focus. Thanks to advanced technologies, universities can invest in different assistive technologies that support learners with disabilities. Assistive technologies come in the form of software, hardware, and systems designed to assist people with disabilities to learn without difficulties. Besides investing in digital recorders, institutions can buy speech-to-text software for learning disabilities. Auditory software is also a must-have tool for supporting students with visual impairments.  

Create Awareness Among Staff 

Lack of awareness on how to support individuals with disabilities in higher education is common among college staff. To ensure special needs learners access learning services and resources, heads of universities should create awareness within their institutions. Higher education institutions should prioritize educating staff about autism, dyslexia, and different types of cerebral palsy and how they affect learners. This step helps in creating a perfect environment for students with learning disabilities. It is also advisable to provide online training and holistic views on supporting college students living with different disabilities. During training, lecturers and other university staff learn disability accommodation considerations and advocacy. As a result, staff can assist students living with mobility, visual, or hearing impairment without much hassle.  

Prioritize Inclusivity

Living with a disability, especially if it’s not visible, makes it challenging to fit among peers. Most individuals with disabilities find it hard to open up about the challenges they experience. With this in mind, create an environment that promotes inclusivity in your learning institution. Promoting inclusivity in schools encourages learners with disabilities to enroll in courses of their choice. One way to accomplish this goal is to endorse extracurricular activities that welcome individuals with a disability. Also, allow students with disabilities to form and join support groups in the institution. Support groups provide valuable resources and advice that help individuals find solutions to the unique challenges they encounter every day.  

Provide Distance Learning For Students With Disabilities

As part of inclusivity, ensure special needs learners have access to resources like their non-disabled counterparts. For instance, if your institution provides distance learning, ensure students with disabilities can enroll in online courses without limitations. Online classes offer many benefits to students with physical impairments. One great advantage is that learners can easily access learning resources at their home’s comfort. Ideally, virtual learning for students with disabilities reduces the accessibility challenges experienced in traditional college settings. It also allows students to partake in classroom exercises without fear of being judged. 

Supporting individuals with disabilities to access higher education isn’t as tricky as it sounds. Learning institutions can create a perfect environment for special needs students by promoting accessibility. Improving accessibility in learning centers makes life not only less stressful for students living with disabilities. It also boosts their self-esteem. Colleges should also prioritize inclusivity, provide assistive technology, and create awareness among lecturers and other staff.

 

Image source: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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