Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

There are many circumstances that can make financing college harder for disabled students. Disabilities often:

  • Prevent students from attending school full-time, making it harder to qualify for financial aid and scholarships reserved for those with full-time status
  • Prevent students from working part-time jobs to offset tuition costs
  • Require access to accommodations or support that are not provided or covered by schools
  • Require medical care that is not covered by school-sponsored insurance plans

Fortunately, there are many financing options and benefits available to disabled students. This is our guide to the opportunities out there. We’ll start with those that are available to students living with any kind of disability and then break down awards designated for students living with particular types of disabilities:

Please note that all application deadlines listed are for 2015. Each award is offered annually. If this year’s deadline has passed, check the sponsoring website for dates of the next application cycle.

If you’re a student living with any kind of disability, you’re most likely eligible for one or more of the following awards.


AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability

  • Who’s eligible: An individual with a documented disability enrolled full-time as a junior or senior in a 4-year undergraduate college or enrolled in graduate school pursuing a degree related to a disability.
  • Award: Under $1,000
  • Deadline: November 15

Disabled Person: Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college or university in the U.S. attending school full-time or part-time due to a disability. Students must be U.S. citizens.
  • Award: $2,000
  • Deadline: March 31

Additional Support

  • American Association of People with Disabilities: For individuals interested in higher education, the AAPD offers the Higher Education project, which aims to improve disabled individuals’ access to and inclusion in higher education, creating peer networks and access to resources.
  • Association on Higher Education and Disability: This professional membership organization trains personnel in higher education settings to work with students with disabilities. The group promotes policies of inclusion and equity in education for those who have disabilities.
  • This government-sponsored database provides information about services for individuals with disabilities. It is an “information and referral” web site – services are not actually available through this site.
  • National Council on Disability: The National Council on Disability advises high-ranking government officials, including the President, on matters that relate to individuals with disabilities. In the education sector, the council conducts assessments of programs and publishes research findings that they report to the government.
  • National Disabled Students Union: The National Disabled Students Union or NDSU, is a national organization meant to support all students with disabilities.
  • U.S. Department of Education: Office for Civil Rights: promotes achievement for all students, including those with disabilities. The organization promotes key educational issues and establishes policies on financial aid.

There are a wide variety of conditions that fall under the category of chronic conditions, and for a student, these conditions make attending courses on a regular basis difficult, if not impossible.

These individuals may find that online courses or nontraditional formats will help them to continue their studies when their conditions make attendance impossible. Students may want to inquire about testing accommodations or online delivery options.


National Multiple Sclerosis Society Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: First time college students
  • Award: $1,000 to $3,000
  • Deadline: January 15

Eric Dostie Memorial College Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students with a bleeding disorder or family member with a bleeding disorder who are U.S. citizens enrolled full time in 2-year or 4-year college programs.
  • Award: $1,000
  • Deadline: March 1

Matthew Debono Scholarship Fund

  • Who’s eligible: High school seniors who plan to attend college and have a bone marrow failure disease diagnosis.
  • Award: $1,000 to $2,000
  • Deadline: April 1

Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation

  • Who’s eligible: High school seniors or undergraduate students with CF who plan to or are attending college.
  • Award: Usually $1,000 per year.
  • Deadline: March 23

Elaine Chapin Foundation

  • Who’s eligible: Students who have multiple sclerosis or a family member with MS.
  • Award: $1,000
  • Deadline: April 30

Diabetes Scholars Foundation

  • Who’s eligible: Students who have diabetes and plan to study at an undergraduate program in the U.S.
  • Award: Award amount varies
  • Deadline: April 15

Beth Carew Memorial Scholarship Program

  • Who’s eligible: Students diagnosed with an inherited bleeding disorder are eligible.
  • Award: $4,000 for educational expenses (tuition, fees and books).
  • Deadline: April 15

Rimington Trophy Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students with cystic fibrosis and demonstrated academic ability are eligible for this scholarship.
  • Award: $1,000 to $2,000 for educational expenses
  • Deadline: June 24

For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, lecture-based courses can be extremely frustrating without certain accommodations. Students who are deaf or heard of hearing should contact their school’s student services coordinator to inquire about accommodations like sign language interpreters, speech-to-text services, note takers, assistive listening devices, testing accommodations or captioned audiovisual materials.


Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • Who’s eligible: Students whose primary mode of communication is Listening and Spoken Language with diagnosed prelingual hearing loss that is moderately severe to profound and bilateral.
  • Award: $2,500 – $10,000
  • Deadline: January 22

Sertoma Scholarships for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • Who’s eligible: Students with clinically significant bilateral hearing loss who are pursuing undergraduate education in the U.S.
  • Award: $1,000 for books, tuition and supplies
  • Deadline: May 1

Help America Hear Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: High school seniors who are attending college in the fall who are hard of hearing.
  • Award: $500 and a pair of ReSounding Hearing Aids
  • Deadline: March 27

Linda Cowden Memorial Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: A deaf or hard of hearing person accepted into an undergraduate program
  • Award: $1,000
  • Deadline: April 6

Travelers Protective Association Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired

  • Who’s eligible: People who suffer deafness or hearing impairment and who need assistance in obtaining mechanical devices, medical or specialized treatment or specialized education.
  • Award: Amount varies; money is for assistance in paying for devices, treatment and education.
  • Deadline: March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31

Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation

  • Who’s eligible: Students with significant bilateral hearing loss who have been accepted to or are attending a college or university in the U.S.
  • Award: Amount varies, must be used for educational expenses – tuition, fees and books.
  • Deadline: May 26

Additional Support

  • National Association of the Deaf: The National Association of the Deaf helps students to attend college and universities by pushing for policies of inclusion and equal access.

Visually impaired students have a hard time seeing or cannot see at 20 feet what others can see at 200 feet. These individuals should contact their school’s disability services department to see what accommodations are available.

Sometimes they can access raised line drawings of diagrams and pictures, 3D models, computer terminals with speech output or have notes taken on carbonless paper and transcribe them into a computer with speech output or into Braille.


Brother James Kearney Scholarship Program for the Blind

  • Who’s eligible: Legally blind student deemed financially needy, studying at one of 11 participating colleges and universities.
  • Award: Up to $15,000 a year for up to four years
  • Deadline: N/A

Christine H. Eide Memorial Scholarship award

  • Who’s eligible: Full-time graduate or undergraduate students who are legally blind who are entering or attending an accredited college or university.
  • Award: $500 for education related expenses or tools.
  • Deadline: September 2

National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program

  • Who’s eligible: Students in the United States who are legally blind in both eyes who plan to pursue a degree program full-time at a U.S. college or university
  • Award: Varies from $3,000 to $12,000 for education-related expenses
  • Deadline: March 31

Lighthouse International Scholarship and Career Awards

  • Who’s eligible: Students whose visual impairment cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contacts who plan to attend college at a U.S. institution
  • Award: $10,000 for educational expenses and materials (there are seven awards)
  • Deadline: March 31

American Council of the Blind Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Blind individuals who plan to attend or are attending college, graduate school or vocational training
  • Award: Varies from $1,000 to $2,500
  • Deadline: March 1

Council of Citizens with Low Vision International Fred Schweigart Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Full-time students with low vision who attend a U.S. institution of higher learning.
  • Award: $3,000 for educational expenses
  • Deadline: March 1

Christian Record Services for the Blind Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students who are legally blind who plan to attend college as a full-time undergraduate.
  • Award: Amount varies, but funds are to be used to pay for tuition, books and other materials.
  • Deadline: April 1

Additional Support

  • American Foundation for the Blind: Preparation for College: The American Federation for the Blind provides a short guide about how individuals who are visually impaired can prepare for college. The guide includes information on possible accommodations and how to choose the right educational setting.

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) defines intellectual disability as any condition that poses “significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills.”

Students who suffer from intellectual disabilities have trouble with critical reasoning, problem solving and interpreting social behaviors. Conditions include Down’s Syndrome, autism, and epilepsy.


Ruby’s Rainbow

  • Who’s eligible: Students over age 18 who have Down’s Syndrome and who wish to attend a class or program that will enhance their lives through education, employment or independent living skills.
  • Award: Up to $3,000 per individual
  • Deadline: July 6

OAR Scholarship Program

  • Who’s eligible: Individuals with a diagnosis of autism who are pursuing full-time education in a 2-year or 4-year college or university, trade schools or life skills programs.
  • Award: $3,000
  • Deadline: May 2

Joe Cleres Memorial Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Mentally or physically challenged students who want to attend a U.S. institution of higher learning.
  • Award: Varies from $500-$2000 for tuition expenses
  • Deadline: March 14

Additional Support

  • Autism Speaks: Autism Speaks is an organization dedicated to advocacy for individuals who have autism and autism spectrum diagnoses. The organization maintains a database of postsecondary education resources for individuals seeking college education.
  • Think College: Devoted to individuals with learning disabilities, Think College promotes higher education options along with equity for these students. The organizations works to improve public policies, engage with students and others and to help institutions change.

Learning disability is an umbrella term that includes conditions like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia. These disorders can be qualified as “intellectual disabilities”, but are usually less cognitively inhibiting. Common accommodations for students with learning disabilities include longer exam periods, allowing students to take oral exams instead of written, or having a designated reader to assist that student. According to AHEAD, 1 in 25 college students had a learning disability in 2008-2009.


Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Graduating high school seniors with a documented learning disability who will attend a 2-year college or vocational school
  • Award: $2,500 (one-time, non renewable) for tuition, books and supplies
  • Deadline: December 15

Anne Ford Scholarship (learning disability specific)

  • Who’s eligible: Graduating high school seniors with a documented learning disability who will attend a 4-year college full-time in the fall
  • Award: $2,500 per year for four years for tuition, books and supplies
  • Deadline: December 15

RiSE Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: High school seniors who will attend college in the fall with a documented learning disability (ADD/ADHD diagnosis alone will not be considered)
  • Award: $2,500 for tuition, books, room and board.
  • Deadline: February 10

Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award

  • Who’s eligible: Students under age 19 with a learning disability or ADHD.
  • Award: $1,000 for education-related expenses
  • Deadline: January 31

Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Individuals diagnosed with ADHD who are accepted to or will enroll into college or university, trade, technical or vocational school in the U.S. and who are under the care of an ADHD professional.
  • Award: $2,000 and a year of ADHD coaching from the Edge Foundation; the money should be used for tuition and related expenses.
  • Deadline: Varies

Additional Support

  • Learning Disabilities Association of America: The Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDAA) was founded in 1964. The organization offers a variety of services for individuals with learning disabilities and supports research and advocacy to better the lives of those with learning disabilities.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities: The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) advocates for individuals with learning disabilities and provides resources for the same group. Educators can find research-backed tools and professional development to better serve individuals with learning disabilities at the organization as well.

In 2011, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) conducted a survey of multiple colleges to produce College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health. Twenty seven percent of students reported that they were diagnosed with depression; 24% with bipolar disorder, 11% with anxiety and 6% with either PTSD or Schizophrenia.

Depending on the specific condition, students may find that they can’t muster the motivation to go to class, or that the symptoms of their condition prevent them from fully understanding the information. Students can find help through their campus health or counseling centers. Professionals provide services and resources to teach those living with a mental illness how to cope with academic life.


The H.O.P.E. Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or major depressive disorder are eligible.
  • Award: Varies based on financial need; must be used for tuition, books, laboratory supplies and fees.
  • Deadline: January 25

The Charles A. Olayinka Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students with diagnosed mental illness under the care of a mental health professional who are attending a community, undergraduate or graduate school.
  • Award: $1,000 for educational expenses (tuition, books, supplies and fees)
  • Deadline: Applications accepted on June 1 (rolling acceptance until filled)

J.C. Runyon Moving Forward Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students with diagnosed behavioral disorders are eligible for this scholarship
  • Award: $3,000 for educational expenses
  • Deadline: May 6

Additional Support

  • National Alliance of Mental Illness: On Campus: This NAMI resource offers information on a variety of mental illnesses that college students commonly suffer from. NAMI also provides links to agencies and support groups that can help those who are afflicted with mental illness.
  • ULifeline: ULifeline is an organization that focuses on helping college students with emotional health concerns. It is an anonymous confidential resource offered by The Jed Foundation.

For students who have physical disabilities, navigating the halls and classrooms, even transportation to classes can be difficult. Online courses can work well for these students, but if they’d rather attend college in a traditional setting, they may want to find out whether specially-designed keyboards and other equipment can be made available in the computer labs.

Wheelchair height workstations, notetakers, taped lectures and discussions and allowance for oral instead of written exams are common accommodations.


Little People of America Scholarships

  • Who’s eligible: Students in undergraduate programs who have a form of dwarfism.
  • Award: $250-$1000 for academic expenses including tuition and fees.
  • Deadline: April 22

The Independence Foundation Scholarship

  • Who’s eligible: Students in undergraduate programs who are confined to wheelchairs
  • Award: $500 for academic expenses including tuition and fees.
  • Deadline: April 17

180 Medical Scholarship Program

  • Who’s eligible: For students who have spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis and/or a neurogenic bladder who are attending a 2-year or 4-year program full-time.
  • Award: $1,000, for educational expenses
  • Deadline: June 1

The Claude S. Weiler Scholarship for Amputee College Students

  • Who’s eligible: Students with major limb amputations (loss of limb beginning at or above the wrist or ankle)
  • Award: $500 for educational expenses
  • Deadline: August 31

Additional Support

  • Mobility International USA: An advocate for disability rights on a global scale, MIUSA makes the world accessible through exchange programs for individuals with disabilities.

Photo Credit: Roland DG Mid Europe Italia