How to Help Students with Disabilities Succeed on Campus

Posted by Katie Brown on 4 October 2016 |

students with disabilities succeedNow more than ever, students with disabilities are attending higher education institutions, in part due to federal legislation such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

With the increasing number of students with disabilities, both mental and physical, attending college and post-secondary education, campuses are adapting to meet the needs of this growing student population.

About the ADA

The ADA was created to protect people of disabilities from discrimination in post-secondary education environments, whether or not the education program receives federal financial assistance.

Whether a physical impairment, learning disability or mental illness, the ADA and Section 504 provide students with disabilities the ability and opportunity to seek accommodations including:

  • Tutoring
  • More time to complete coursework or tests
  • Additional technology or equipment
  • Note takers
  • Other support systems and programs

For faculty members, understanding the regulations behind the ADA is important. The ADA requires higher education institutions to provide disability accommodations and to make reasonable adjustments to service students with disabilities.

Ultimately, disability accommodations provide an alternate path, removing any barriers that a student may experience due to his or her specific disability.

Post-Secondary Education for Students with Disabilities

According to an article from The Atlantic, “about 67 percent of students with learning disabilities enroll in some type of postsecondary education within eight years of leaving high school, which is the same as the general population.”

However, the article points out that while students with disabilities seek the same level of education as other students, the completion rate isn’t as high. About 21 percent of students with learning disabilities attend four-year colleges, compared to nearly 42 of the general population.

Additionally, only 41 percent of students with learning disabilities will graduate from a four-year college in six years, which is more than 10 percent lower than the rest of the population of college students.

In a recent survey at Oberlin University, almost 1,000 community members were polled, with 18 percent identifying as having a disability and 23 percent as having a mental illness. However, nearly 70 percent of those who responded have never disclosed their disability to the university.

For many, they are faced with obstacles throughout the process of identifying as a student who has a disability, including time and monetary costs, negative stigmas, uncertainty over qualifications, attendance policies and more.

Ways Help Students with Disabilities Succeed

It’s evident that students with disabilities seek and deserve the same type of education as other students; however, they need often need additional or different forms of support from their professors and fellow students.

In addition to providing disability accommodations such as tutoring, increasing test taking time or offering supplementary support, many universities and campuses are implementing non-traditional programs. 

Puppies. Yes, puppies. As a form of stress relief, many universities, such as Georgia Institute of Technology, bring puppies or dogs to a communal location on campus, often during high-stress times like finals.

Not only do they give students a break from lengthy study sessions, but they are there to provide affection and comedic relief. Similarly, on campuses such as Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech, students can train service dogs, allowing them to attend class and live on-campus.


For students with disabilities, the ADA provides a means to access disability accommodations and a post-secondary degree.

With an understanding of the rules surrounding the ADA and Section 504, faculty and staff can continue to help students with disabilities succeed by offering all students the same level of education and experience—even if it’s provided in an alternate way.

To learn more about Campus Answers’ ADA training course for faculty and staff, fill out the form on the right to schedule your demo today.

comments powered by Disqus

Request a Demo

We're sorry but the selected page is no longer available, we've redirected you to our How to Help Students with Disabilities Succeed on Campus page.