Finding the Right Fit: A Case Study on Researching Colleges

Background

My name is Sara. I have a genetic disease called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is largely an invisible disability. It causes systemic health issues, including gastrointestinal issues, visual impairment, chronic pain, and joint problems that can affect mobility. Rest and self-care are my best options when my symptoms are exacerbated.

Access Issue

I began my postsecondary education at an institution with a high stress culture with a high level expectations regarding the amount of school work to be completed. My accommodations at school included extended time on tests, permission to type exams, and flexibility on deadlines and attendance requirements. I was frequently ill and needed to rest and struggled to get extensions on due dates. My professors and services were not as flexible as I needed them to be.

Solutions

Ultimately, the culture of the institution was not a good fit. I decided to seek out a school that was more welcoming of students with disabilities. I transferred to a community college where my professors and the disability services office have been more supportive and flexible. The expectations placed on me are reasonable and my health has been more stable here. As I prepare to transfer to a four-year school, I am visiting campuses to get a feel for the academic environment and overall attitudes toward disability. I will talk with the staff at accessible technology services and hope to talk to current students with disabilities to hear about their experiences.

Conclusion

Schools vary with regard to their overall cultures and environments for students with disabilities. Students may find that some schools are more welcoming and supportive. Researching schools by visiting and talking to faculty, staff, and students with disabilities can help prospective students with disabilities determine whether the school is a good fit for them.

For more information you may wish to read What are typical accommodations for students with health impairments?, How can a student with a health impairment maintain participation in classroom discussions when she is frequently absent?, and AccessCollege: A Promising Practice in Making Postsecondary Institutions Welcoming and Accessible to Students with Disabilities.