It is imperative that students with disabilities are able to navigate a college education with the utmost ease. No student should face unnecessary obstacles to their learning, and deciding to take their courses online can be a powerful way for students with disabilities to take control of their education. Below is a handy guide to steering your way through an online course - or even a whole online degree - if you have a disability.
Why is distance learning so often a smart choice for students with disabilities?
Learning on campus can have its benefits, but it can have its drawbacks too. For instance, students with mobility issues may find it hard to access classrooms or study areas (such as libraries) unless these are equipped with adequate provisions for mobility-impaired students, including designated spaces, ramps and lifts for wheelchairs and mobility equipment.
In addition, deaf students may find it difficult to follow a lecture if they are sitting right at the back and are unable to lip read what the lecturer is saying: this becomes even worse if there are no PowerPoint slides, detailing the main points covered during the lecture. These are just two of the examples of the ways in which learning 'in person' on campus can hinder the learning of students with disabilities.
By contrast, taking a course online enables students to study in the comfort of their own home without the need to take a challenging bus ride or stair climb to the classroom. Students can also use suitable software (for instance, visually impaired students can use software which converts computer displays into large print or which converts written slides into spoken words) to aid their learning.
Another big reason why distance learning is often preferable for students with disabilities is the simple fact that it can be more effective. Disabilities can already be costly, as carers' fees, medical bills, drivers to take you from A to B, and the costs of mobility equipment or specialized software can all mount up. On top of this, the prospect of having to find the money to do a college course on campus can be a daunting one.
Distance learning courses, which are done either completely or mostly online, tend to be significantly cheaper than on-campus courses. This in itself will save you money. In addition, doing a course online will save you money for transport, meals and other costs that are associated with learning on campus when you have a disability.
Who to get in touch with
Most campuses or higher education institutions will have a disability officer. The role title may differ from institution to institution: for instance, they may also be called something like 'The Student Disability Representative'. Their job is to liaise with disabled students to ensure that they are getting the best possible experience as they study.
So, when you sign up for a course - no matter if it is online or in person - make sure to find out the name and contact details of anyone whose job it is to help disabled students specifically. They will be invaluable in helping you to navigate an online education.
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