College Education for Disabled Adults
by Shirley Lopez
Legislation for disabled students is a lifeline of
hope for older adults who find that they no longer can
continue in their present profession because of a disability
or impairment and want to return to college.
It is so easy to just sit back and collect disability
checks after being involved in a isabling accident.
After all, no one really wants to hire a person that
is disabled for a position when they can hire an individual
who is capable of doing the work without aid. This hard
reality makes it hard if not impossible for people who
once had a good profession and lost their ability to
continue due to an illness or accident return to work.
Americans with Disabilities Act helps the disabled
adult student to learn new skills with hard work and
endurance if they need to go back to school.
Some years ago, after my accident leaving me legally
blind, I knew I no longer could keep my profession as
This fact did not deter me from wanting to be a productive
individual. But after much research and many inquiries,
I discovered that entering college at my age seemed
impossible, especially with my disability. Learning
this did not stop me; it only made me more determined
to return to college. We had in our small community
at that time one college with a great English writing
program. I had always wanted to write a book about my
family, and was also interested in writing articles
for the magazine industry. I thought that with the right
education I would be able to break into the writing
field and make a good income.
I found that I was very badly mistaken. Instead of
all doors being open there were no doors open. At first,
everybody patronized me, gave me their sympathy, and
even laughed because of my desire to return to school.
I did not give up nor did I let the disappointments
keep me from trying to get entry. At last the head of
the enrollment department gave in and told me that,
if I could pass the SAT tests with at least a C to C+
that I may enter college and take two classes at a time.
Remember back at that time the Americans with Disabilities
Act was just becoming law and no set regulations concerning
college for the disabled existed. My only resource at
the time was the my state Commission for the Blind.
I used whatever information they had and also asked
administrators from the college to find out what it
took to be admitted.
My first step was to attend the school for the blind
and learn how to read and write in Braille. The next
step was to go to Pilot
Dog in Columbus, Ohio and work with a very well
trained guide dog. I had graduated with very good grades
from Ohio State when I was younger, but now too many
years had passed and too much had happened to me along
with aging, so Hope College was not about to give up
an opening to someone who probably would get frustrated
and quit after the first term. My job was to prove that
I had the capability of attending and getting high grades.
My next job was to assure the head of enrollment that
I would not be a person expecting everyone to give in
to my demands. To myself I needed to prove that I had
not taken on more than I could handle.
After taking refresher courses at a local community
college, I then applied for my SAT tests. The Commission
for the Blind located in Kalamazoo, Michigan had
a school for blind children that helped them take their
SAT tests in able to help them attend college. I stayed
one week at the center and I went daily over to the
computer science room at the school for the blind. This
was a very trying week and the months to come seemed
very hard as well. Testing now over, my husband picked
me up and I went home. I would have been a terrible
wreck if my husband had not been by my side and would
never have gotten through the process. He encouraged
me to keep trying and assured me that it was not the
end of the world if I did not pass the tests.