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Beyond Basic Access: Best Universities for Students with Physical Disabilities

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Updated on Nov 2, 2009

Most colleges and universities offer services to students with physical disabilities such as accessible buildings, note-takers, and testing accommodations. Some programs go beyond legally-mandated access requirements, helping students experience fuller and more independent college years. If your son or daughter uses a wheelchair or needs significant assistance with daily living activities, you may want to consider one of these ten schools.

  1. The University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign developed the first wheelchair-accessible bus system and competitive wheelchair sports program. An extensive array of assistive technology and personal attendant services help students succeed in and out of class.
  2. Wheelchair athletics at the University of Arizona in Tucson rivals the University of Illinois. A free transit system and cart service helps students travel across the highly accessible campus.
  3. Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio features a system of underground tunnels connecting almost all buildings on campus, so students do not have to travel outside in inclement weather. The "PA Station" in the Student Union is equipped with special transfer lifts for wheelchair users and is staffed with trained attendants.
  4. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale also has highly-ranked wheelchair athletic programs, along with a wide variety of recreation options. Student medical services have accessible examination facilities with staff trained to meet the needs of students with physical disabilities.
  5. At Edinboro University in northwestern Pennsylvania, students can access occupational therapy and wheelchair maintenance services on campus. An impressive system provides personal assistance in accessible dorms and the dining hall has meal aides to assist students there. Many students also participate in competitive athletics.
  6. For students interested in being active in disability advocacy, the University of California-Berkeley, the birthplace of the Independent Living Movement, offers an excellent atmosphere in which to learn. Students are supported in finding personal attendants and accessible housing, and the city excels at in architectural access and transportation services.
  7. The University of Wisconsin at Whitewater features a high level of accessibility in transportation and assistive technology along with adaptive athletics.
  8. Ohio State University in Columbus has a strong organization called Unity which advocates for access and facilitates understanding of disability culture on campus.
  9. At Temple University in Philadelphia, students will find assistive software and devices integrated throughout campus computer labs. All multi-level buildings have elevators and a transit system helps students get around.
  10. The ground crew at Michigan State University in East Lansing makes the campus accessible in winter with impeccable snow removal. There are even some heated parking spaces to melt ice and snow. Students can also ride the para-transit service to destinations both on and off campus.

You and your child should also investigate whether one of these schools has the major or career path she is interested in. Of course, the right choice for any student with a physical disability is the one that balances academic opportunities with services.

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