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Disabilities Cannot Prevent College Students From Succeeding



By Chris Hassan
Posted December 04, 2012 11:00 AM

Disabled college students can receive help with their studies.
Disabled college students can receive help with their studies.
Some college students are hard of hearing, while others have trouble seeing. No matter what their impairment may be, it is important for these individuals to know they can still earn a bachelor's or master's degree just like their peers without disabilities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11.3% of undergraduates pursuing degrees during the 2003-2004 academic year had a disability, while the same was true of 10.8% of students during the 2007-2008 school year. Learning disabilities, deafness, visual handicaps and health impairments were among the conditions degree seekers had to contend with during these years.

Colleges Help Disabled Students Keep Pace

As no two students with disabilities are alike, it is understandable that some of them may fall behind in their studies, or have difficulty learning at the same pace as their non-disabled classmates. Fortunately, many colleges and universities are ready to assist students with special needs and see to it that they are on track to graduate.

The University of Iowa (UI) is one institution that is well equipped to service the needs of students with disabilities, as more than 500 of them have received assistance through the school's student disability services office this fall alone, The Gazette reports. Overall, UI, as well as Iowa State University (ISU) and the University of Northern Iowa are serving 1,607 students with disabilities this fall. Enrollment for members of this population at these schools has increased more than 18% since 2000.

"I think that more and more students with disabilities are feeling more confident in their ability to succeed at the postsecondary level, and I also think that they’re becoming more educated and attuned to their rights to accommodations," Steve Moats, ISU’s director of student disability resources, told The Gazette.

Students Receive Assistance Overcoming Handicaps

At 24, UI graduate student Natalie Berto has been living with a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease for seven years. Despite the fact that she is sometimes so weak it is difficult to get out of bed, she is working toward her Master's degree in Social Work, The Gazette reports. This semester, the university went so far as to convert a heavy textbook into a digital format so that Berto would not have to lug it around campus.

Then, there is Justin Wittrock, who received help from ISU while he pursued a degree in meteorology. Although he is deaf, Wittrock did not find it difficult to receive classroom assistance from sign language interpreters and court reporters.

While every institution - and student - is different, Berto and Wittrock prove that having a disability does not have to stand in the way of one's academic goals.

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