Picking a university to study at is a huge decision for anybody. Finding the right course and a good environment to study can be the key to a successful future. College life should be about fun as well, so finding an institution with the right type of social and leisure facilities for you is also important. For wheelchair-using students, there are further factors to consider and finding a place to study that meets your accessibility needs can be make or break in terms of your university experience. There are a few questions that any prospective student should ask:
Is the campus and local town suitable for wheelchair users?
This may be stating the obvious but decent general accessibility is essential. A campus located on a large hill may be unsuitable for manual wheelchair users but fine for students with power chairs. Some campuses in Europe are located in areas with narrow cobbled streets and little access for wheelchairs. Check out accessibility in the local town – are you going to be able to get about comfortably and engage in the local community.
What is the wheelchair accessible accommodation like?
Many campuses may have accessible libraries and lecture theatres but you need to check that there is good accessible accommodation either on a part of campus that you like or in the local area. You may need a larger room than other students to accommodate mobility equipment and you should view the accommodation to ensure that entrances are wide enough and that things such as heavy doors at the main entrance to an accommodation block are not a hindrance.
Will you have an active social life?Make sure that accessibility issues will not hinder your social life. Check out the access to the student union bar and other cafes, bars and restaurants both on and off campus. Also research the sports facilities for wheelchair users and make sure that a prospective college caters for your sporting interests.
What support is available?
Check out what support is available at the colleges you are considering. Many establishments have organisations in place to help disabled students. For example the University of Florida ADA Office gives access to a compliance officer who has responsibility for access issues while at Stanford University there is a Student Disability Resource Center committed to providing support and services to enable disabled students to participate fully in university life.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.