We know that students with disabilities face significant obstacles when seeking a college degree, but little is understood about what enables some to graduate while others do not. A recent study attempts to help more students with disabilities find college success by conducting in-depth interviews with 20 individuals who did just that. Although the study included participants with a wide range of disabilities—physical, emotional, and cognitive—three common factors were shown to play a vital role in their success stories.
- Mentors. Successful students with disabilities tended to develop significant relationships with various mentors who provided support and motivation. All of the study participants viewed these relationships—whether with college faculty and staff, family members, or friends—as critical to their success.
- Campus Disability Services. Although the Offices of Disability/Special Services at many campuses face high demand and limited funding, students agreed that dedicated staff often helped them access important campus services and accommodations. These services included technology support, quiet rooms, tape recorders, handicapped parking, extra test time, tutoring, counseling, note takers, and readers for tests.
- Self-Advocacy. According to the report, “A common thread amongst the successful SWDs [Students With Disabilities] in this study was an ability to understand their disability and advocate for the accommodations they needed to successfully engage in their education.” Participants encouraged other students with disabilities to overcome any shame or stigma associated with seeking out help.
For more information on how to thrive in college as a student with disabilities, check out our books, College Success for Students With Physical Disabilities and College Success for Students With Learning Disabilities.