People with Disabilities in Higher Education

One students experience living disabled at the University of Houston and other student relationships with resources.

by Carlos Uribe,, Jessica Mendoza and Jeremy Amorin

With millions of students enrolling into universities and colleges from secondary level education, higher education students are becoming a larger group within the population. In fall 2018, 19.9 million students were expected to enroll into higher education.

As student enrollment increases every year, there are questions whether or not all universities can guarantee success for their students.

Students with disabilities are among the highest groups of higher education students with the lowest enrollment, retention and graduation rates. This raises the question if universities actually cater to the needs of students with disabilities?

Most universities offer support services to students who have physical, learning, or health limitations, and at the University of Houston, we find that support services are offered to students who are disabled.

Although what we have found that while students with disabilities face struggles, the University of Houston accommodates for only some of their needs.

While the University of Houston seemingly offers to cater to the necessities of their students, with a resource center that most students who are disabled. Most students don’t find themselves using the center or relying on their services to proceed through their academic career.

One University of Houston student, Mady Chidester finds herself living with a medical condition that requires accommodations. Chidester has a condition where she has a lack of collagen which in turn makes her bones brittle and can be easily broken; Although she is a native Houstonian, she decided to live in the University dorms to make her classes more accessible.

As a disabled student Chidester knows first-hand the challenges that are faced by having physical, learning and psychiatric disadvantages; We asked Chidester how these difficulties impact the ability to be successful in higher education courses.

Daily sights of a handicapped student.
Meet Mady Chidester, one of the handicapped students on the University of Houston campus.
Despite being disabled Mady goes above and beyond as a UH Coog.
“A lot of people don’t realize that I’m just a normal person too, I like to do the same things that everybody else does.”

As a University student Chidester does not expect any special treatment for being handicapped she wants others to know that her disability does not hold her back from achieving her goals.

Chidester agrees that seeking help from the DisABILTIES center is difficult.

“Being handicap makes getting my education a little bit more of an obstacle.”

Chidester explains that she doesn’t find many issues with the center or the current amenities on campus such as ramps, but her main problem in relation with the center is that overall they do not respond in a time-sensitive fashion and do not have real outreach among students who are disabled.

While most people find that trying to use the DisABILTIES center for frequent help as inconvenient or untimely, students do find serious accommodations or requests to be fulfilled. Though the requests are limited, requested regarding test accommodations, transportation to important events or classroom reservations are found reliable in their promise.

Along with these significant requests fulfilled, the center for students with DisABILITIES center does provide theoretically useful assistants to students. The center offers the resources for students to apply and participate in internship opportunities, earn scholarships from the center or other organizations, leadership/social programs, and academic accommodations.

Even though the University provides easier accessibility to these program that other students are provided, it still doesn’t promote success as the center has limited outreach and requires students to gain access. Besides the enrollment in their center, follow up is also required from students with appropriate documentation, that can be seen as a barrier to some given certain circumstances of economic, familial or validity.

In order to receive access to the services and support offered by the Center for Disabilities students must register by submitting appropriate documents provided by their healthcare provider.

With these implications, students who don’t have disabilities have a good impression of the University of Houston when it comes to catering to disabled needs; many students believe that UH is doing an adequate performance to provide accessibility assistance to handicapped students.

“For every staircase I see, I see a ramp with it,” says Roland, a UH student. “I don’t think it’s a problem”

However, is only part of the truth. The center does provide important and integral services to the students they engage with, they are inefficient with assisting students. The programs they offer are only surface level and while they currently cater to some needs of students with disabilities, the center must improve before it can be said that UH promotes success for their students with disabilities.