Best Online Schools for Students with Disabilities

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 11% of undergrads throughout the country report a disability. Online students with disabilities deserve equal access to the same resources, materials, and coursework as their classmates without disabilities. Federal law, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1974, mandates that all students are provided the same options, opportunities, and/or accommodations to make their education accessible, as long as said accommodations do not change the fundamental nature of the coursework, exam, project, etc.

These thirteen exemplary schools show true dedication to all of their students, and provide outstanding resources to those with disabilities. Working closely with Disability Services professionals, students are provided with the help and assistance they need to complete challenging coursework, be it: assistive technologies, readers, notetakers, interpreters, enlarged print, extra time for assignments and exams, and more! Online students with disabilities attending any one of these fine schools are given the same access to resources as everyone else.

These 13 institutions were chosen for several factors that put them ahead of other online schools—due to the: strength of the institutional mission, number and quality of resources for online students with disabilities, adequate financial availability, and appropriate verification requirements/assistance from the school’s disability services department. In developing this list, OnlineSchoolsCenter.com, chose not to list the schools in an ordered way, but instead highlighted twelve of the very best schools, all of which have their own unique strengths.

KAPLAN UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“Kaplan University may not discriminate against an individual on the basis of his or her disability. Kaplan University will provide reasonable required accommodations to a student with a documented disability, in order to afford the student an equal opportunity to participate within its programs, activities, and facilities.”

Campus Location: Davenport, IA

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
The school’s Center for Disability Services is highly committed to providing befitting accommodations for distance education students who officially report a disability, “making the online programs, activities, and facilities at the University accessible to students with disabilities.” Following guidelines set forth by the ADA and other pertinent laws and regulations, Kaplan provides students with disabilities unencumbered access to its abundant academic, financial, career, and learning services and resources. This impressive institution works closely with its students to design and implement an effective online learning platform.

Financial Aid: Numerous institutional, private, public, and outside scholarship and grant opportunities; federal loans and grants; military benefits.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students in need of accommodation must submit an Accommodation Request Form and supporting medical documentation that verifies a disability (as defined by the ADA). Students must also submit recent comprehensive evaluation results including cognitive and achievement test scores.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT KAPLAN UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

WALDEN UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“We strive to offer broad access to online higher education and provide a seamless experience for our students with disabilities.”

Campus Location: Minneapolis, MN

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
Not only is this one of the finest online schools in the country, but also the Walden University Disability Services Department offers their distance education students with disabilities a strong number of benefits, including but not limited to: extra time to complete assignments and tests; course materials offered in alternative formats, for example large text, or text electronically read aloud; and local service programs. The school provides accommodations to students with restrictions that involve sensory, physical, medical, psychological, and cognitive limitations, as well as others. Walden also provides auxiliary aids and services to students with visual, hearing, and/or speech disabilities.

Financial Aid: Federal and private loans; federal and state grants; institutional, departmental, and alternative scholarship opportunities; tuition reduction opportunities; research fellowships; military and veterans’ benefits; and various payment plans.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students are responsible for reporting their disability prior to entering into a class. Students must submit appropriate documentation outline the nature of their disability, and must communicate with their professors about the what they need throughout a specific course.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WALDEN UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“The [Harvard] Extension School is committed to providing an accessible academic community… If you are a student with a disability, we engage you in an interactive process to provide you an equal opportunity to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from our academic and residential programs.”

Campus Location: Cambridge, MA

Accreditation: New England Association of Schools and Colleges

Disability Accommodations:
The Harvard accessibility services manager works with students, instructors, and staff to create unique and individualized academic plans and accommodations. Some of these online accommodations provided by the school include extended time for exams and assignments; note-taking assistance; course materials and exams in large text; sign language interpreters and communication access real-time translation (CART); captioning; adaptive technologies; scribes; and readers. Harvard also provides numerous technological resources and software programs to aid students with disabilities.

Financial Aid: Federal and state grants; institutional and outside awards and scholarship opportunities; students employment programs; federal, institutional, and private loans.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students with disabilities must contact the accessibility services office and submit a Request for Accommodation form, as well as any and all documentation verifying their disability. “Accommodations are not student preferences; they are determined through an established review process based on documentation received regarding the student’s disability.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HARVARD UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“Disability Access Services facilitates access to [Oregon State] University programs and services for students, faculty, staff, and visitors with disabilities through accommodations, education, consultation, and advocacy.”

Campus Location: Corvallis, OR

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Disability Accommodations:
According to the OSU website, “Disability Access Services (DAS) provides accommodations, education, consultation and advocacy for qualified students with disabilities at Oregon State University. DAS works with students at OSU, OSU-Cascades, across Oregon and around the world through the OSU E-campus program.” Accommodations include captioned media, note taking cervices, coursework delivered in alternative formats, interpreters, and accessible testing.

Financial Aid: Federal and private supplemental/alternative loans; federal and state grants, scholarships, awards, and alternative funding; institutional, departmental, and private scholarship opportunities.

Eligibility and Verification:
OSU distance education students requesting accommodations must submit a DAS registration form, as well as all documentation concerning their disability. Upon acceptance, students must complete orientation in the best-suited method of delivery.”DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“Johns Hopkins University works to ensure that students, employees and visitors with disabilities have equal access to university programs, facilities, technology and websites.”

Campus Location: Baltimore, MD

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Disability Accommodations:
This impressive school offers distance education students with disabilities many different accommodations to assist them throughout their academic careers, such as audio recordings of course materials, CCTV, reading and writing software suites, screen readers, screen enlargers, and many more! The school also offers exciting online programs through their Center for Talented Youth—distance education programs designed for K-12 students with disabilities.

Financial Aid: Federal and private loans; federal grants; numerous institutional, state, private, and alternative scholarship opportunities; tuition assistance programs; student employment programs; various payment plans; veterans’ benefits.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students must submit a Request for Disability Accommodation as well as a type written report/letter detailing the medical specifics and restrictions of their disability. Students work with coordinators to arrange a personalized academic plan. Students’ disabilities are kept completely confidential in the examination and review for accommodations. Students are expected to “meet the highest standards of behaviors, both in personal department and in dedication to academic pursuits.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

POINT PARK UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“It is the intention of Point Park University to provide appropriate, reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”

Campus Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
Some of the accommodations offered to online Point Park University students with disabilities include: assistive technologies, alternative formats for instructional materials, and sign language interpreters. Accommodations are addressed each semester to establish students’ progress in their online program. The school works closely with each student, giving special attention to establish well-suited adjustments to their coursework.

Financial Aid: Federal, state, and institutional grants; institutional, departmental, and outside scholarship opportunities; federal and private loans; student employment programs; employer tuition reimbursement; tuition discount programs; institutional assistantships; and various payment plans.

Eligibility and Verification:
In order to be eligible, students must submit an Accommodation Request Form, along with any and all supporting medical documentation to confirm their disability. Working with coordinators, students receive a specialized curriculum that delivers the assessed and approved accommodations. Students are assisted “on a case-by-case basis,” to better determine the best accommodations possible.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT POINT PARK UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

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Institutional Mission:
“At The University of Texas at Austin, we embrace and encourage diversity in many forms, striving to create an inclusive community that fosters an open and supportive learning, teaching and working environment.”

Campus Location: Austin, TX

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
The University of Texas at Austin is an incredibly committed school that assists students with a huge range of restrictions and disabilities. This institution is well-prepared to offer an array of accommodations such as alternative text, adaptive testing, assistive technologies, and sign language interpreters or CART. UT understands that, “online classes offer flexibility that often works well for students with disabilities, however there are some unique considerations when thinking about taking a course online.”

Financial Aid: Federal, state, and institutional grants; federal, state, and private loans; student employment programs; institutional, private, and alternative scholarship opportunities.

Eligibility and Verification:
In order for online UT students to become registered with the department of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), they must submit a completed Request for UEX Accommodations form to an assigned disabilities services coordinator. Students must provide appropriate medical documentation to confirm their disability, in order to give the SSD the necessary information to provide accommodations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, CLICK HERE!

SUNY EMPIRE STATE COLLEGE

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Institutional Mission:
“The mission of the Office of Collegewide Disability Services at Empire State College is to offer all students with disabilities an equal opportunity for success in their college experience by ensuring that reasonable accommodations are determined and implemented in an appropriate manner”

Campus Location: Saratoga Springs, NY

Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
According to their impressive website, “Accommodations can range from increased access to the instructor to follow-up emails and phone calls to summarize and/or clarify information posted in the online course space.” This school is prepared to assist students with coursework and materials in alternative formats; participating in online discussions; extended time to complete tests and assignments; and many others unique to different cases, all of which are worked individually. This school has a strong respect and reputation for addressing the needs of its disable population and provides numerous financial and academic accommodations.

Financial Aid: Federal loans; federal and state grants; institutional scholarships; tuition assistance programs; Vocational and Educational services; part-time TAP eligibility for students with disabilities.

Eligibility and Verification:
ESC provides reasonable accommodations and assistance to all students with disabilities and restrictions as outlined by the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. While the fundamental nature of the coursework is unchanged, ESC works closely with its students to provide the most excellent service possible. Students are required to complete and submit the Disability Declaration and Request for Accommodations form in order to qualify.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SUNY EMPIRE STATE COLLEGE, CLICK HERE!

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

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Institutional Mission:
“At the University of Southern California the Disability Services and Programs staff will assist you as you learn more about yourself, interact with professors, and further develop self-determination skills. The DSP staff are an exceptional group of people who are here to assist in creating an accessible USC environment through reasonable accommodations, training and collaboration.”

Campus Location: Los Angeles, CA

Accreditation: Western Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
The department of Disability Services and Programs at the University of Southern California provides highly accessible accommodations during exams and classes. During exams, students will receive time and a half to complete the test, enlarged print upon request, and a two hour break between exams, as well as an option for a reader or a scribe. During online classes and for projects and assignments, students can use note-takers, request enlarged print, CART, sign language interpreters, and tape recorders. Other accommodations include braille text for books and course materials, and e-texts.

Financial Aid: Institutional, departmental, and outside scholarship opportunities; student employment programs; institutional fellowships and assistantships; federal and private loans; federal and state grants; various payment plans.

Eligibility and Verification:
Online students with disabilities are required to submit appropriate medical documentation to confirm their disability and must be registered and approved with the department of Disability Services and Programs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, CLICK HERE!

SHORTER UNIVERSITY

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Institutional Mission:
“The mission of Shorter University Disabilities Services [is] to ensure that students with disabilities have equal, effective, and meaningful access, and can act as full participants in its programs, services, and activities. This is accomplished through a commitment to maintaining compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the use of nondiscriminatory policies and procedures, and the provision of reasonable accommodations.”

Campus Location: Rome, GA

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
School resources for students with disabilities are determined in the following way: “Each accommodation is based on functional limitations as identified in the documentation and is designed to meet a student’s needs.” Students at this school work with disability services professionals to implement the best accommodations possible.

Financial Aid: Institutional and external scholarship opportunities; federal and state grants; federal, state, and private loans; student employment programs.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students with disabilities at this school are required to meet with the Director of Student Support Services and submit appropriate medical documentation outlining their impairment/disability, and must demonstrate that the requested accommodations are necessary for participation in University programs. It is the student’s responsibility to request particular accommodations and deliver memos of these accommodations to their instructors.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ABOUT SHORTER UNIVERSITY, CLICK HERE!

PENN STATE WORLD CAMPUS

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Institutional Mission:
“At Penn State World Campus, we want all our students to have a great learning experience. Part of our focus with course design is keeping in mind students with disabilities, whether they are vision-impaired, hearing-impaired, or have cognitive disabilities such as ADHD. And designing to improve accessibility for those students actually improves usability for all students in online courses.”

Campus Location: University Park, PA

Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Disability Accommodations:
This school is incredibly well-known for its online programs, and builds in accommodations for students within the coursework, whether they require them or not! This way, if accommodations are needed, very little extra work goes into providing them.
Transcripts are available for all course materials (videos etc.) and content is provided in multiple formats and platforms. Complex information (charts, diagrams, etc.) are all coupled with a detailed text description, or whatever way communicates the concepts most effectively. The school has invested in state-of-the-art technologies to assist students during challenging coursework in STEM courses.
When students require further accommodations, the school’s Office of Disability Services work directly with students with disabilities to refine coursework and materials so that it is perfectly accessible for all. Students with disabilities have access to assist technologies and services, and are generally provided extra time to complete exams, assignments, and coursework, and are given priority when registering for classes.

Financial Aid: Federal and private/alternative loans; federal and state grants; institutional and external scholarship opportunities; student employment programs;

Eligibility and Verification:
Students must: have a visibly obvious or documented disability as outlined by the ADA; contact the school’s World Campus Disability Contact Liaison to request accommodations; and schedule a meeting with a Disability Specialist to receive a academic adjustments letter. This must be done each semester to apply accommodations for individual classes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PENN STATE WORLD CAMPUS , CLICK HERE!

UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND

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Institutional Mission:
“Disability Services for Students works with students and all units of URI to create inclusive and sustainable learning and working environments. We facilitate access, discourse, and involvement through innovative services, programs, leadership, and collaboration.”

Campus Location: Kingston, RI

Accreditation: New England Association of Colleges and Schools

Disability Accommodations:
Disability Services and the Office of Online Education at this school work together to deliver a highly inclusive online education. Online faculty members are “encouraged and trained to develop their courses to be designed for all students.” Students work with Disability Services counselors who assist them throughout their academic careers, providing them with any program, course, or exam accommodations they need. DSS counselors also assist students through the steps necessary to receive their accommodations, which include assistive technologies, interpreters, CART, adapted books and texts, as well as adjustments to course materials.

Financial Aid: Federal, institutional, and state grants; scholarships for students with disabilities; institutional and alternative scholarships; federal and departmental loans; student employment programs; veterans’ benefits.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students must provide medical documentation outlining their disability. Students will work with URI Disability Services professionals to compose the necessary documentation in order to be eligible for their requested accommodation. Students must reapply each semester for specific accommodations as they apply to each course.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND, CLICK HERE!

CHEMEKETA COMMUNITY COLLEGE

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Institutional Mission:
“Disability Services strives to provide equal access for students to support them in achieving their academic potential and to coordinate institutional efforts to comply with the broad mandates expressed in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

Campus Location: Salem, OR

Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Disability Accommodations:
Chemeketa’s online school provides distance education students with disability the same services as on-campus students. Students work with teachers, specialists, advisors, and counselors who are employed specifically to assist individuals with disabilities. Online students have a host of resources and other tools that are provided by the school. Students are given all the assistance necessary to complete challenging coursework without undue stress related to a disability. Assistance such as adapted course materials, assistive technologies, alternative format services, note taking services, testing accommodations, and in-class assistance.

Financial Aid: Federal, state, and institutional grants; institutional and state scholarship opportunities; federal and short-term loans; student employment programs.

Eligibility and Verification:
Students must submit documentation of a disability to the Chemeketa Disability Services Department two weeks before the accommodation can be filled. Students must be aware of this fact at the start of classes each semester. Documentation is necessary to determine the most effect accommodations and the delivery of those accommodations. The school keeps student records absolutely confidential.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CHEMEKETA COMMUNITY COLLEGE, CLICK HERE!