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If you are a college student with a disability, whether it is cognitive or physical, it is important that you know your rights. You must learn to embrace self-advocacy — effectively communicating and asserting your rights and interests.

As a college student with a cognitive disability, I understand that there are other students, like me, who need guidance and reassurance to pursue higher education.

A few years ago, I was struck by a car while crossing the street on my bike and diagnosed with a closed-head injury. After my accident, I was placed in special education courses while still in high school. I was not diagnosed with a disability until late in my sophomore year.

Here are a few things college students need to take advantage of at their institution:

Disability Support Services (DSS)
Many students who received support services in high school can easily do the same in college. DSS is there to advocate for you and ensure the school does not violate your rights. Each department at each school has its own set of regulations, but they must be in accordance with the American’s with Disabilities Act. Some colleges do special admissions for high school students with disabilities; so contact DSS as soon as possible to prepare. Note: Your high school IEP will not be acceptable at the university level. You will need a psychological evolution.

One of the most significant differences in support services from high school and college is that colleges are not required to modify course curriculum. In high school, you probably were able to receive modified coursework and extended time on assignments. In college, the law does not require that, although, the student may be eligible for time extension on tests in an alternative environment.  If you need extra time on a lengthy assignment, try speaking with your teacher and I’m sure they will understand.

Scholarships
There are very few out there, but a simple web search may help. Stay in touch with your advisors in DSS, vocational rehabilitation, etc.  Some schools have special funds set aside for DSS students. Depending on your condition, you may be eligible for SSI as well.

Employment
Consult the staff in the school’s career center. Professionals are there to ensure your rights are protected. An employer is required by law to make a reasonable accommodation to its employees who advocate their disability.

Lastly, make the most of of all resources. Depending on the state you live in, your high school should have a liaison to a vocational rehabilitation program, which may include tuition assistance, tutoring, counseling, and even employment opportunities.

I encourage students with disabilities to be empowered. Don’t let the word “disabled” mean “unable” because you are more than able, if you learn to advocate for yourself and take advantage of the resources at your institution.

Links:
http://www.ADA.gov/
http://www.ncld.org/
http://www.ldaamerica.org/
http://www.ahead.org/

Live HOPE. Give HOPE.

Gionni Crawford
Guest Blogger

About the Author

Gionni Crawford, 18, is a first-year journalism student at Tallahassee Community College where he currently interns at the campus communications department. After earning a degree in journalism, Gionni wants to pursue a position in education administration. Gionni also enjoys theatre and snacking on frosted animal cookies in between classes. You can catch up with Gionni on Twitter @GionniCortez and on his website: www.GionniCrawford.com.

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