How to Choose a University for Wheelchair Users

Did you know that 11.2% of adult wheelchair users have graduated from college, compared to 21.6% of the general adult population? While many wheelchair users desire to achieve educational goals and finish college, there are a variety of issues that deter their achievement. Causes include too many obstacles getting around campus, non-wheelchair friendly classrooms and financial strain. Today, there are options to either attend college on campus or online. Check out our guide on how to choose a university for wheelchair users.


Below are some estimated statistics from Cornell University and American Community Survey (ACS) on the highest degree of education a disabled individual ages 21 to 64 years has completed in the US for the year 2012.

  • 22.2 percent have an educational attainment of less than a high school education
  • 34.4 percent have an educational attainment of a high school diploma or equivalent
  • 31.0 percent have an educational attainment of some college/associates degree
  • 12.4 percent have an educational attainment of a BA degree or higher

Sources: Disability Statistics from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Employment and Disability Institute (EDI). Retrieved Jun 27, 2015 from

Attending College on Campus

Some benefits and negatives of attending college on campus for students in wheelchairs.


  • Access to professors
  • In-classroom debates, discussions and Q&A sessions
  • Socialization
  • Attending campus events
  • Participating in clubs
  • Easy access to the campus library


  • Dealing with non-wheelchair friendly campus’
  • Obstacles in the hallways, pathways and classrooms
  • Transportation issues
  • Harsh weather obstacles on open campus’
  • Lack of one-on-one teaching and learning

Attending College Online

Some benefits and negatives of attending college online for wheelchair-bound students.


  • Learn in the comfort of your own home
  • Easy online access to discussions, lectures and Q&A sessions
  • Quiet, comfortable environment while studying
  • Less risk of being late to class
  • Direct contact with professors and guidance counselors
  • No worries about transportation issues, pathway, sidewalk, hallway and classroom obstacles and limitations on campus


  • Lack of socialization with other students
  • Not able to attend club meetings and events
  • No access to campus library, business centers and computers

How to Select a School

First consider the pros, cons and benefits list above when making your decision to either attend college online or on campus. Once you make that decision you will want to check to see if the school of your choice is accredited on unaccredited university.

Accreditation and Unaccredited Universities

Accreditation is the process in which validation for universities, colleges and other educational institutions of higher learning are evaluated. Standards for accreditation are by a specific review board that includes faculty members of various accredited colleges and universities.

The term unaccredited means institutions such as colleges, universities, tradeschools and seminaries do not have formal educational accreditation. Depending on local laws, some educational institutions may not be required by law to obtain independent accreditation. Always make sure that the university you want to attend is accredited and licensed institution. 

Visit the Website Campus

If you have chosen to attend school online you will want to browse through the college or university online campus or website. Details such as applications, admission requirements, academic support, financial information, courses, degrees, calendars, events and more can be found on the website. You can contact a member of the staff or a counselor for questions and assistance with admissions.

Visit the Physical Campus

If you have chosen to attend school on the physical campus, you will want to visit during the day and explore the grounds and buildings. This is the best way to test the campus and learn if it is truly wheelchair friendly or if there will be obstacles. During your visit pretend you are already a student and go to a variety of classrooms, eating areas, study areas, the library, the offices, bathrooms, sports arena, parking garages, parking lots and more.

Disabled Grants and Scholarships

There are a variety of disability related scholarships and awards that are available. Inquire with the school of your choice if they offer any specific opportunities. You can also visit the following websites for further details about the most common disability related scholarships.

Tips to Avoid Online School Scams

While attending school online is convenient and allows you to reach your goals, there are also scams out there. Beware of diploma mills, life experience degrees, fake degrees and misrepresentation. When researching a specific school beware of the following, due your research and be savvy consumer before enrolling into any online school.

  • The website doesn’t have a phone number
  • Tuition cost is a flat rate per degree, instead of being charged per credit hour or by each class taken
  • School names are similar to popular universities
  • The school has negative online reviews
  • It sounds too good to be true
  • Promises of earning a degree faster than other schools
  • Aggressive sales tactics from school representatives 
  • Opportunities to earn an entire degree based only on your life experience
  • The school is accredited by an accreditor or organization that is not recognized by the U.S Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation
  • Bad rating with the Better Business Bureau

For further confirmation if the school of your choice is accredited, contact the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Search for accredited institutions 

Always do in-depth research when choosing any school to attend, regardless if it is online or on a physical campus. Know your opportunities by looking into available scholarships and grants for individuals with disabilities. Remember to think long term, you will want to feel comfortable with your choice, wheelchair lifestyle and schedule. Using these tips above and guidelines will help you choose the best university for a wheelchair User. Whether you are attending school online or on campus you will want to assure you will make it through the number of years required to earn your degree.

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