Higher education still presents barriers to students with invisible disabilities

Finding the perfect college that matches your individual needs is a struggle – and one that can be especially difficult for students with invisible disabilities such as dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD. If a university does not provide the accommodations that students with disabilities are entitled to, the academic success of the student can be threatened. College students with invisible disabilities can experience stigma, though in recent years many universities have increased their ability to accommodate students with disabilities. In fact, accommodations that student with disabilities deserve are often easy for colleges to provide, such as additional time for coursework or tests, tutoring, note takers, learning materials, etc. Community colleges can also be a good stepping stone to four-year colleges for students with invisible disabilities. However, some university administrations still begrudge students with disabilities for asking for their rightful accommodations. This attitude toward providing accommodations can be especially harmful because students may feel that they cannot disclose their disability due to fear of repercussions or discrimination.

Professor Laura Castañeda recently took a comprehensive look at how students with learning disabilities navigate higher education, in an article for The Atlantic. “About 67 percent of students with [learning disabilities] enroll in some type of postsecondary education within eight years of leaving high school, which is the same as the general population…However, students with LDs attend four-year colleges at about half the rate (21 percent) of the general population. And just 41 percent of students with LDs graduate from a four-year college in six-years, compared to 52 percent of all students,” she reported. Castañeda also emphasized that there are several United States Laws that require that students with disabilities receive equal opportunities, including The Individuals with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Emily Pate is a third-year student at Seattle University interested in Strategic Communications, learning Spanish, and working with non-profits. Her work for Rooted In Rights is focused on discussing current events in the community of people with disabilities. Her experience previous to Rooted In Rights includes writing broadcasts for KBOO radio in Portland, OR, and managing a neighborhood blog in the Seattle community. In addition to work, Emily enjoys drawing, spending time with her friends and family, and backpacking.

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