Have a Disability? A College Education is Still Within Your Reach

Graduates throwing hats into the air

Image courtesy of the School of Business and Management of Technology


Education is important. It grants access to a larger world of knowledge. It opens doors that would never be open to us otherwise. Education, in a very real way, is opportunity. Everyone should have access to further education.

“Everyone” includes people with all kinds of disabilities. People come in all shapes and sizes, and so do disabilities.  The most important thing anyone can do, disability or not, is to prepare for the future.

For some people, that means learning a trade; for others it can mean internships or apprenticeships. No matter who we are, our future is never certain and we should do all we can to prepare for it. Getting as much education as possible can help prepare for an uncertain future.

For many people, continuing education means going to college. Attending school at a university or college is a great goal, but can be a huge financial challenge with today’s prices. Also, people with disabilities often have additional expenses that other students may not have. Because of the cost, some people rule out gaining more education entirely.

Don’t rule college out

University of Utah logo set in the sidewalkThankfully, there are resources available for people with disabilities to help offset the cost of college; grants and scholarships are just two systems that can help those with disabilities pay for schooling. In fact, our law firm offers a $1,000 scholarship every semester for a college student living with a disability. We have seen the way education can enrich lives, lift people out of poverty, and help them overcome limitations. Because of this, we want to help make education more accessible to those who are already struggling to overcome a disability. To apply or for more information about our scholarship, check out our scholarship page.

Scholarships can come from many places, and many are even designed and maintained for people with disabilities. For example, the University of Utah has a number of scholarships available to those with disabilities–you can find out more about those here and here.

By filling out a “free application for federal student aid” or FAFSA, you can apply for government grants like the ever popular ‘Pell grant’ as well as the TRIO program designed to help students afford college who would otherwise not be able to attend.

There are also specific programs designed for people with disabilities, like help centers. For example, Utah’s vocational rehabilitation center (or USOR) helps people with all kinds of disabilities find and keep jobs, as well as provides further education assistance.

As you can see there are plenty of resources available to people with disabilities who want to go to school. Still, we know that many people who want to attend college may have other hesitations. Some other concerns are addressed below.

You may qualify for help without realizing it

Recently, we spoke with Dr. Scott McAward, director at the center for disability services at the University of Utah. We asked him why some people with disabilities never attend college who could otherwise go.

Dr. McAward explained that there are many reasons why people don’t continue their education. The biggest one is that they aren’t aware that they qualify for help with their disability. He told us that the biggest segment of people the disability services center helps have psychological disabilities–including learning disorders, ADD, post traumatic stress, or autism. Many people with psychological disabilities qualify for help and don’t realize it.

While some people with disabilities are unaware that they can get help tailored to their needs, others who do realize they qualify for help often feel that they don’t want an unfair advantage or to be treated differently. But Dr. McAward demonstrated that no students receive an advantage, unfair or otherwise. The disability center provides help tailored to each student and is designed to help them get the most out of their education, despite disability.

Become an advocate for yourself

According to Dr. McAward, the biggest challenge college students with disabilities face is learning to be an advocate for themselves. People with disabilities often come from a K-12 education where help was provided automatically. This can make the transition to college difficult, where students need to seek out help on their own. American Sign Language translators, Braille accommodations, and note taking services (among many others) are available, but it’s the individual’s responsibility to ask for and schedule those services.

Successful college life comes from learning to take charge of our future, whether we’re disabled or not.

Get the help you need for financial independence

If you or someone you know with a disability is trying to prepare for the future, we sincerely hope that you haven’t ruled out continuing your education.

As a law firm, we have had the privilege of working alongside many incredible individuals with disabilities. We make it our priority to help them succeed in every avenue of life–from education to financial independence and emotional support.

As always, we make it our business to help you.  We help many clients with disabilities obtain the Social Security disability benefits they have earned. Unlike some Social Security programs, Social Security disability insurance works as just that–an insurance. Every pay period the government sets aside money from your paycheck in FICA taxes that you can then access upon retirement or in the case of disability.

We understand that Social Security disability (SSDI) can be very difficult to understand. If you think you might qualify for SSDI, we’re happy to help you in any way we can.  You can stop by and meet with us for a free consultation, and we’ll do our best to answer any questions you have.  Just give us a call at (801) 890-1030 to set up an appointment.