Visiting a college can be intimidating; trying to decide where to spend the next four (or more) years of your life is a lot to take in. You want to experience everything, and it’s easy to forget questions you may have. As a spoonie, visiting the disability office should be on your list of “must do’s”. It is important to talk to the disability personnel and get a feel for how life would be for you, as you aren’t necessarily the typical student that tours are catered to. If possible, try to schedule a meeting with someone in the disabilities office who could speak with you about the accommodations that you could receive. Even if you fall in love with the school on the tour and during the information sessions, choosing a school with poor disability services could leave you in over your head in situations that are not conducive to your health. Everyone wants to have the best experience possible, and there is no shame in getting some help along the way. I’ve divided the questions into sections, so you can skip over ones that don’t apply to you.
This tip could save you:
It is important to see how the school has accommodated people in the past to get a good idea of what sort of help you would receive
- Are there first floor dormitories available that I could be guaranteed?
- Are all buildings wheelchair accessible? If not, would I be guaranteed that my classes and activities would be?
- Do you have students with wheelchairs? Are there any specific accommodations they receive?
- Have you had students with service dogs?
- Can I be placed in a dorm in close proximity to food, classes, etc.?
- If shuttles are not available, is there a means by which I can get from class to class if distance is unmanageable? (the school will most likely move the classroom for you so that distance would not be an issue but this is an important question)
- If I’m having a bad day is there a way for me to be transported to class? Some schools may even send a security officer to pick you up and give you a lift to a sports game or any campus wide events, but you won’t know unless you ask!
- Are your cafeterias allergy friendly?
- Are there specific places on campus that I can find food suitable to my needs?
- Are your menus labeled with nutrition/allergen information?
- And of course, ask the students what they think about the food! If it’s what you’ll be having breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it better be good.
- Can I have a note-taker for my classes to ensure that I don’t miss anything?
- Can classes be recorded?
- Are flexible deadlines available?
- Is flexible attendance available? (not being penalized for missing a class, or attending another session of the same class taught by the same professor as to not miss the material)
- Would I be permitted to have food and drink in class?
- Could I have a fan in class?
- Is priority registration available so that I can create a schedule that will be conducive to my symptoms? Personally, this is a big one, because the morning and my POTS do not get along. You will not find me taking 8 am’s if I have anything to say about it.
- Could I be put in touch with a current student who receives accommodations? Promises can be made, and promises can be broken. I’ve seen too many girls withdraw medically from college last semester, their first semester of freshman year, because their illness and studies became unmanageable and the school promised accommodations that it didn’t deliver on. Don’t let this be you; find out what accommodations students are actually receiving and if what you want is a possibility.
- Is it possible to take tests in an alternate setting?
- Are your dorms air conditioned/heated?
- Are there first floor dormitories available that I could be guaranteed? (if you have trouble with stairs, even if you aren’t in a wheelchair, your school should accommodate this)
- Can I be placed in a dorm in close proximity to food, classes, etc. due to limited mobility?
Do you feel prepared?
I hope this helps you out, and at least gives you a starting place for questions to ask on visits and when speaking to admissions and disability services. Some of these questions are vital for me; and without this information I will not be able to make a safe decision regarding where I will attend next year. It can be heartbreaking to hear an answer that you know is unacceptable given your condition, but remember that if your dream school doesn’t have the right accommodations, it’s not really your dream school, and there are plenty of better options out there just waiting to be discovered.
What are some of the questions you ask on college visits? Let me know in the comments, and happy college hunting!
(PS if you want to read more of my college related posts, click here!)