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Transitioning to Adulthood with a Disability: Preparing for Post-secondary Education

Going into post-secondary education is a big step for anyone. If you have a disability, it can be a great way to gain some independence.  However, before researching costs or courses, you should be thinking about accessibility.

When it comes to post-secondary education, accessibility involves more than just whether or not you can physically get around the campus.  Along with physical accessibility, you need to look at the accessibility of the school’s services and the accessibility of the surrounding area.

First, physical accessibility. Many colleges and universities have features to make it easier for disabled students to get from place to place. Some have elevators in every building, while others have networks of tunnels and pedways throughout the campus.  Unfortunately, due to location or age, some institutions will not meet your specific needs. If this happens, you may have to widen your search to look for other schools.

After assessing a school’s physical accessibility, you should look into the accessibility of their services, specifically those for disabled students. Colleges and universities will commonly have a centre or department that specializes in assisting students with disabilities. These centres employ counsellors that can provide students with a number of methods to aid them in their studies. (I will elaborate on some of these methods next month.

Another service provided by many schools that can benefit students with disabilities is the gym/fitness centre. The hours of studying and hard work associated with college and university courses can quickly lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Joining a gym/fitness centre is an easy way to stay active without having to leave campus. If possible, request a personal trainer who can plan a workout around your disability.

Last but not least, the accessibility of the surrounding area can be just as important as that of the campus itself. If you are planning on living on or near campus, look at what is around you. Is your residence accessible? Is it near any sort of transit? What about groceries, pharmacies, and entertainment?

Probably the biggest thing to think about with regards to the school’s surrounding area is your medical situation. Are there any hospitals or clinics near the institution of your choice, and if so, can they easily accommodate your disability? If you are living away from any of your regular physicians, can the new location access your records? This may work in your favour, or you might have to sacrifice and look for something a little closer to home.

Once you’ve looked into any and all accessibility issues, then you can move to the next step and make the regular decisions of any student.

Next article: Once you are in post-secondary, how to deal with classes and work.

DISCLAIMER: The details associated with some of the following topics apply to my personal experiences, and may differ from place to place. Consult with local professionals for specifics.

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