Special PopulationsOh the Places You Can Go!


Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes, but they certainly shouldn’t limit your potential and dreams for college!  Be they learning, emotional, or physical challenges, accommodations exist to support you and your success.

Time for Tests

Unless you plan to apply only to test-optional schools (there are now more than 850 of them!) you’ll need to take either the ACT or the SAT, perhaps even both. Both testing organizations offer accommodations for various disabilities, assuming proper documentation. Here’s the complete guide to ACT Accommodations, including extra time, smaller test centers, rooms with wheelchair access, among others.

The College Board provides comparable information for those needing accommodations on the SAT, PSAT, or AP exams. There’s also a helpful list of dates to keep you organized.

What disabilities qualify for assistance?  Those covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law. It requires that all institutions provide access to programs and reasonable accommodations at no change for students who demonstrate disabilities in the following areas:

  • Learning, ADHD, Developmental Delays
  • Speech and Language
  • Physical Needs
  • Mental Health
  • Emotional challenges
  • Intellectual/Cognitive
  • Deaf/Blindness

Once you are enrolled in college a different set of rules and guidelines will apply to how you manage support for your learning disability. If you have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) certainly bring it with you, but your campus office of disability services may also want to assess your needs.

If your disability substantially limits your ability to function in a major life activity capacity (unable to walk, see, hear, etc.) you are eligible for additional support under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Your plan will place you with non-disabled peers and respect your civil rights at all times.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in having a disability and needing to manage it proactively. For example, did you know that 20 percent of the general population as dyslexia – one in five people?  Here’s a Ted Talk by Dean Bragonier who, as a dyslexic himself, talks about how your brain works different, and why you actually have the potential for genius. The True Gifts of a Dyslexic Mind . You also may enjoy learning which of your favorite stars identify as having ADHD by scrolling through their bios at Famous dyslexics and Famous ADHD Faces.

Eight Great Ways Seek Out Support Services in College

  1. You need to initiate the communication with the campus disabilities office – they won’t seek you out.
  2. Your campus visits should include a trip to the Office of Disabilities and a conversation with the director/staff.
  3. Recognize that while all colleges/universities offer some type of disability support for students, the spectrum of this support ranges from minimum to comprehensive. Here’s a list of colleges with top grades for support of LD students. Graduate students can make great tutors!
  4. Not all note takers are created equal – find one that matches your style and needs.
  5. “Disabled” doesn’t mean “Unable” – Colleges must use the word “Disability” in their office name because the ADA requires it.
  6. Don’t wait until you fail an exam to seek out help – it’s hard to catch up once you get behind.
  7. Take advantage of campus “life strategies” programs such as time management, effective note taking, and study strategies.


Contact Info


Starting Gate is here to help students peruse the College Condition Book and select schools that match their academic interests, personal goals and professional aspirations. Please contact us to start your customized plan.


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