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College Education for Disabled Adults
(Continued)

The next day the sun always shines brighter and things always seem better. When I returned I got a notice to report to the admissions office. This made me anxious, as there was no information about my test results. I went in the next day and waited patiently in the lobby until the head director of admissions became available. The director stood up and congratulated me, and I could not believe what I was hearing. I asked him to repeat what he had just said. It seems that I scored the fifth highest in the whole state! The state of Michigan agreed to give me some grant money along with a scholarship that made my admission much easier, as the tuition was $20,000 for my first year. However, I still needed $10,000 to cover the rest of the cost of my education.

It was in the summer so I knew that I only had a few months to obtain the rest of the much-needed money. That evening I had made some microwave popcorn by Orville Redenbacher, and I had used a magnifier to read the box. I was surprised to see that on the box it read plainly that the company had a special fund for older people who wanted to return to college. The directions told how to apply, so I did. Afterwards I started checking other boxes and products, and began calling local businesses in the area to see if they offered any scholarships. I applied to Kellogg’s, Heinz, Lifesavers, WalMart Foundation, Rogers Department Store and a few others that offered programs. In this way I found that I was able to raise more than the $10,000, so I did not have to borrow money leaving me with a large debt. My college tuition funded by grants from a variety of places eased my mind about finances. Each place offered so much money per year that I found I had raised enough money to pay for all four years of college!

Since I had raised enough money for college my financial worries were over, but faced with actually returning with all those young people and the routine of studying, homework, and socializing, I felt a little panic-stricken. But when the first day of school arrived I was ready. I had my books, calculator, magnifiers, and guide dog Magnum. With the help of the local bus service, away I went. When I graduated from Hope College in 1997, my career was ready to get off the ground!


Shirley Lopez was 50 years old when she returned to college. She is now 60 years old and recently celebrated a ten year reunion. Shirley is also an ordained minister, a proficient writer, and strives to help others who are blind by accident. Other articles by Shirley Lopez: Legally Blind: How to Overcome and Life a Full Life and Easy Exercises to Relieve Stress.

Help for Adult Students with Disabilities

  • Be knowledgeable about legislation that advocates and protects the rights of students with disabilities (The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.) These laws require schools to have accommodations at no cost to the disabled. Some examples: giving the disabled extra time to complete tests, test proctoring, and providing course or degree program modifications, substitutions, or waivers of requirements on an individual case basis.

  • Many colleges and universities have on campus programs for the disabled to help them complete their curriculum. Students should call schools and and ask if these programs are offered, or check reference guides like The Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities by the Princeton Review.

  • Visit your nearest state Vocational Rehabilitation Agency. Vocational rehabilitation agencies offer many services for the disabled (testing, tuition assistance, and vocational assessment). Some states offer a rehabilitation agency assisting individuals with visual impairments or blindness.

  • Investigate national organizations like the Learning Disabilities Association of America. These organizations offer support and information about special programs.

Financial Aid for Disabled Students

Creating Options: A Resource on Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities.
PDF file (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing.) Provides information about federal financial aid programs, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, and organizations that offer disability-related grants and scholarships. Also available from Heath, Postsecondary Education for Adults with Intellectual Disabilites.

Financial Aid for the Disabled & Their Families, 2006-2008.
by Gail Ann Schlachter, R. and David Weber. Details more than 1, 100 awards, grants, scholarships, fellowships, loans, and internships especially for the disabled. Includes developmental disabilities, hearing impairments, learning disabilities, multiple disabilities, and visual impairments. References state offices and agencies for the disabled as well as 75 additional directories for help finding financial aid.

See alsoSee also Help On Campus for Adults with Reading Disabilities and Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education: A Profile of Preparation, Participation, and Outcomes.

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