College Process Guidance for Traditional Students Using Wheelchairs

From the NACAC Listserve:

Original post: I have a bright and independent rising senior who is in a wheelchair.  She is more or less self-sufficient, however she needs help getting in and out of bed, in and out of the shower and using the bathroom.  The family is tackling the college process from a very traditional standpoint and simply asking a few more questions about accommodations and assistance along the way.  They have found schools with students who offer to be roommates to other students who need physical assistance etc., but I’m curious what else is out there.  For those of you who may have had a traditional student in a wheelchair in the past… do you have any advice?  campuses that are more accessible? ideas of how I can help prepare the family?  I suppose I’m just looking for some guidance as to how best to assist the family as they head out on college visits etc.
Thanks for any help you can give!

High Point University has been most helpful with a student of ours who is confined to a wheel chair and needs an assistant.
I wonder if there are wheelchair students on campuses willing to communicate with this family. At Whitman there’s a wheelchair student from NH, a former national class skier with a degenerative bone disease. She’s a powerhouse in her pink chair, nothing stops her, even participating in outdoor opportunities. I would be willing to contact her as a resource if there’s interest.
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Among those involved with disability issues for post secondary students it is a generally agreed upon principle that roommates NOT serve as personal assistants.  Your student will need to privately contract with an individual that can assist with personal matters.  The college has no legal responsibility to provide personal assistance but the office that provides accommodations for students with special needs would probably be of some assistance in helping your student locate and privately hire a personal assistant.
I have found state universities to have the best access and largest pool of students with disabilities to meet. Obviously, schools in warm weather climates are the easiest to navigate…..especially considering this winter…Cristiana
&n b sp;Although I have not worked with a student who has been in a wheelchair I have read that St. Andrews Presbyterian’s campus was designed to be wheelchair friendly.  I would think that a campus where most of the classes are in one building would also be a plus, as would campuses that are compact and flat.

I have had two students go through this process needing substantial wheelchair assistance once in college.  My BEST advice is to have the student AND PARENTS/CARE GIVERS be proactive and unrelenting.  Visit and/or communicate with the offices of disability services.  Find out what they can do and have done in the past – even ask for references.  Ask what transportation services are available, etc.  One of my students has bridle bone syndrome and needed assistance with everything, even getting in position to draw (she is graduating this year with a graphic arts degree), use a computer, etc.  My other student, also an artist, needed assistance getting from his dorm room to transportation, from one class location to another.  His college told the parents they offered services, a bus, but for the first week, he had to get himself from the dorm, up a hill, to the bus.  The parents had to be VERY persistent, they paid for a cab for a week until the school followed through.  And these parents had worked closely with the school before my student arrived there in August of his freshman year.

So, in short, someone must be a persistent and constant advocate for the student in order to get everything needed.  Just my experience.


Years ago when I worked in admissions at Fairfield U, I recall a very heartwarming situation where the students in the school of nursing took on complete responsibility for assisting a student with his bathing and dressing needs. I think he was less mobile than your student. The nursing students developed a schedule and fully supported him for his 4 years in college. At graduation they were given the highest honor for community service and everyone cried!

Anyway, my thought is, perhaps colleges with nursing programs should be on their radar screen. But I realize that situation was unique.
This may be more than they want: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  

They have a residential hall for students with needs that include physical assistance from care givers. They also have adapted athletics here.
I had a student in a wheelchair who went to UC Santa Barbara with much success.  Lived in the dorms in a single room and got a lot of support from the campus housing folks.  Sounds like your student may need a & nbsp;little more help than he did (although he did have permanent paralysis from the waist down). I don’t remember him needing an assistant.  But I know that the housing folks were very helpful and he had a very good experience.
You might check with the Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. They might pay for an attendant to help your student become employable. Best of luck.
St. Andrews in NC would be worthy of consideration

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