There are many circumstances that make financing college harder for disabled students. Disabilities may prevent students from attending school full-time, which makes it harder to qualify for financial aid and scholarships reserved for those with full-time status. Disabilities may also require access to accommodations or support that are not provided by schools; require medical care that is not covered by school-sponsored insurance plans; and prevent students from working part-time jobs to offset tuition costs.
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 the 2017 to 2018 academic year. 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 Can Apply: 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.
Amount: Under $1,000
Deadline: November 15
- Disabled Person: Scholarship
Who Can Apply: 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.
Deadline: March 31
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.
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.
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.
The National Disabled Students Union or NDSU, is a national organization meant to support all students with disabilities.
ED.gov promotes achievement for all students, including those with disabilities. The agency promotes key educational issues and establishes policies on financial aid.
Chronic Health Conditions
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 Can Apply: First time college students who have MS or who have a parent with MS.
Amount: $1,000 to $3,000
Deadline: January 18
- Eric Dostie Memorial College Scholarship
Who Can Apply: 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.
- Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation
Who Can Apply: High school seniors or undergraduate students with CF who plan to or are attending college.
Amount: $1,000 per year.
Deadline: March 24
- Elaine Chapin Fund
Who Can Apply: Students who have multiple sclerosis or a family member with MS.
Deadline: April 30
- Diabetes Scholars Foundation
Who Can Apply: Students who have diabetes and plan to study at an undergraduate program in the U.S.
Amount: Award amount varies
Deadline: April 15
- Beth Carew Memorial Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Students diagnosed with an inherited bleeding disorder and who have volunteered with the bleeding disorder community are eligible.
Amount: $3,000 to $6,000
- Rimington Trophy Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students with cystic fibrosis and demonstrated academic ability are eligible for this scholarship.
Amount: $1,000 to $2,000 for educational expenses
Deadline: June 23
For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, lecture-based courses can be extremely frustrating without certain accommodations. Students who are deaf or hard 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 Can Apply: Students whose primary mode of communication is Listening and Spoken Language with diagnosed prelingual hearing loss that is moderately severe to profound and bilateral.
Amount: $2,500 to $10,000
- Sertoma Scholarships for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Who Can Apply: Students with clinically significant bilateral hearing loss who are pursuing undergraduate education in the U.S.
Amount: $1,000 for books, tuition and supplies
Deadline: May 1
- Help America Hear Scholarship
Who Can Apply: High school seniors who are attending college in the fall who are hard of hearing.
Amount: $500 and a pair of ReSounding Hearing Aids
Deadline: March 25
- Travelers Protective Association Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired
Who Can Apply: People who suffer deafness or hearing impairment and who need assistance in obtaining mechanical devices, medical or specialized treatment or specialized education.
Amount: 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 Can Apply: Students with significant bilateral hearing loss who have been accepted to or are attending a college or university in the U.S.
Amount: Amount varies, must be used for tuition expenses.
Deadline: May 26
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 the visually impaired can access raised line drawings of diagrams and pictures, 3D models, or computer terminals with speech output. They can also have notes taken on carbonless paper and have them transcribed into Braille or into a computer with speech output.
- Brother James Kearney Scholarship Program for the Blind
Who Can Apply: Legally blind students deemed financially needy and studying at one of 12 participating colleges and universities in the New York City area.
Amount: Up to $15,000 a year for up to four years
Deadline: None (applicants must consult with their university and the scholarship commission)
- National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: 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
Amount: Varies from $3,000 to $12,000 for education-related expenses
Deadline: March 31
- Lighthouse International Scholarship and Career Awards
Who Can Apply: Students who are legally blind and U.S. citizens.
Amount: Up to $10,000
Deadline: March 31
- American Council of the Blind Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Legally blind individuals who plan to attend or are attending college, graduate school, or vocational school.
Amount: Varies from $1,000 to $4,000
Deadline: February 15
- Council of Citizens with Low Vision International Fred Scheigert Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Full-time students with low vision who attend a U.S. institution of higher learning.
Amount: $3,000 for educational expenses
Deadline: March 1
- Christian Record Services for the Blind Anne Lowe Scholarship
Who Can Apply: U.S. citizens who are legally blind and who plan to attend college as a full-time undergraduate.
Deadline: April 1
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 Can Apply: 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.
Amount: Up to $4,000 per individual
Deadline: April 28
- OAR Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: 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.
Amount: $500 to $5,000
Deadline: May 5
- Joe Cleres Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Intellectually or physically challenged students who want to attend a U.S. institution of higher learning.
Amount: Varies from $500 to $2000 for tuition expenses
Deadline: March 14
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.
Devoted to individuals with learning disabilities, Think College promotes higher education options along with equity for these students. The organization 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 Can Apply: Graduating high school seniors with a documented learning disability who will attend a 2-year college or vocational school
Amount: $2,500 (one-time, non renewable) for tuition, books and supplies
Deadline: November 6
- Anne Ford Scholarship (learning disability specific)
Who Can Apply: Graduating high school seniors with a documented learning disability who will attend a 4-year college full-time in the fall
Amount: $2,500 per year for four years for tuition, books and supplies
Deadline: November 6
- RiSE Scholarship
Who Can Apply: High school seniors who will attend college in the fall with a documented learning disability (ADD/ADHD diagnosis alone will not be considered)
Amount: $2,500 for tuition, books, room and board.
Deadline: January 1
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.
NCLD advocates for individuals with learning disabilities and provides resources for the same group. Educators can also find research-backed tools and professional development to better serve individuals with learning disabilities at the organization.
In 2011, the National Alliance on Mental Illness 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.
- J.C. Runyon Moving Forward Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students with diagnosed psychiatric disorders with at least one instance of inpatient hospitalization are eligible for this scholarship.
Amount: $2,000 per semester for up to 8 semesters
Deadline: March 2
NAMI offers information on a variety of mental illnesses that college students commonly suffer from. The organization also provides links to agencies and support groups that can help those who are afflicted with mental illness.
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 halls and classrooms, and 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 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 Can Apply: Students in undergraduate programs who have a form of dwarfism.
Amount: $250-$1000 for academic expenses including tuition and fees.
Deadline: April 30
- The Independence Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students in undergraduate programs with a noteworthy physical disability.
Amount: $500 for academic expenses including tuition and fees.
Deadline: April 17
- 180 Medical Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: 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.
Amount: $1,000 for educational expenses
- The Claude S. Weiler Scholarship for Amputee College Students
Who Can Apply: Students with major limb amputations attending an accredited university as a full-time student.
Deadline: August 31
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