By Sarah Bransley
Transferring to a university is a big decision but it’s even harder if you are one of the millions of people who fit under the term “disabled.” I’m not particularly fond of this term, but it is the term we use for people who have to tackle life’s challenges in a way that is different from the mainstream.
I am one of those people who fits under the term disabled, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at me. I have what is termed an “invisible illness” because I don’t have any obvious physical or mental differences from your average Jane. Deciding to attend a university was a huge decision for me. I chose the University of Illinois because I felt, along with other factors, that they had the best support system in place to help me succeed. They boast a 91% graduation rate for students registered in their disability program!
The program itself is the Division of Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) and has been around for more than 20 years. Their story, however, goes back to 1948 and includes many firsts, such as first accessible university residence halls and first collegiate adapted sports and recreation program for students with disabilities.
There are so many different accommodations, supporting programs, and services at DRES I’m sure I can’t list them all, but a few include transportation services, a fully equipped gym with a full-time physical therapist, special living quarters & services for students who need personal care assistance with activities of daily living, and two full-time clinical psychologists who work with a variety of students via coaching, individual therapy, and support groups.
DRES splits their services into two main categories: physical and mental. Students typically submit documentation after they are admitted and then meet with their access specialist to find out what accommodations the university can offer them. An access specialist is the point of contact for that student for any disability related concern during their interim at U of I.
The biggest hurdle is getting the help you need and getting those accommodations on paper. If you think you fit this criteria, contact DRES and talk to one of their counselors. One of their programs is to identify and support students who are having trouble due to having an unaccommodated or undiagnosed cognitive or psychological disability. They want students to succeed and graduate! They seem to do an amazing job at it to, so I highly recommend checking them out at the link below.