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Newly published book ranks Edinboro University among nation’s top five ‘disability-friendly’ colleges

03/05/2012

Edinboro University’s decades-long commitment to disabled students is again being recognized, this time in an independent book ranking Edinboro among America’s top five for providing full services to disabled students.

According to Chris Wise Tiedemann’s College Success for Students with Physical Disabilities, published last month by the Prufrock Press, Edinboro University and four other American Universities are considered the nation’s best when it comes to offering support and services to students with disabilities living on campus.

The continuing recognition and new designation of Edinboro as a top-five school that makes independent living possible for disabled students came as no surprise to Dr. Robert McConnell, Director of  Edinboro’s Office for Students with Disabilities.

“For decades, Edinboro University has embraced the richness that diversity brings to the campus, including students with disabilities,” McConnell said. “As a University, we have not only provided opportunities for students with disabilities to study and actively participate in all that the campus has to offer, but we have also expanded awareness for all the other students that having a disability does not have to limit a person’s success.”

As for the new book, Tiedemann provides profiles of the top five schools, as well as providing strategies for disabled students for adapting to college, obtaining necessary services, and even college planning guidance from students with physical disabilities.

The book grew out of the author’s search for a college for her son, Tommy, a current student with cerebral palsy (who once attended Edinboro prior to moving back to Georgia to be closer to his home).Tiedemann, a freelance writer from Atlanta, became interested in disability-friendly colleges when Tommy began the college application process. The lack of available information on college services for disabled students led her to create a website (http://www.disabilityfriendlycolleges.com) dealing with the issue and later to authoring the current book to bridge the information gap.

Besides Edinboro, the other four schools listed in the book as “Full Service Colleges” serving physically disabled students are the University of California at Berkeley, University of Houston, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio). “Full Service Colleges” are defined as those “that provide such services as personal care, special transportation, independent living or disability management training, wheelchair repair, adaptive sports … ” Six dozen additional American universities are listed as ADA-Plus colleges. According to the author, those schools go beyond the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act in providing services to students with physical disabilities.

In recent news releases, Prufrock Press, Inc., a publishing house that specializes in providing readers with information about Gifted Education, Advanced Learning and Special Needs Learning, said that “with increasing numbers of students who have disabilities attending post-secondary schools, colleges and universities need to go beyond the letter of the law in serving this growing population of students. The new book … addresses the most pertinent concerns of students with physical disabilities on college campuses, including living arrangements, transportation, classroom necessities and more.”

“We know that planning for college represents a huge undertaking in the lives of teens and their parents,” said Edinboro University Interim President James D. Moran. “You have to find a place where you feel comfortable and a place that is committed to the personal growth and the career and life successes of each and every student. Edinboro is such a place. We are so pleased to be recognized as one of the nation’s best schools for helping students with disabilities succeed in their college careers and, even more important, beyond.”

Moran pointed out that students at Edinboro characterize the university as a place where everyone "fits in" because "people care about each other; faculty care, staff care and fellow students care." Moran said Edinboro is honored to be nationally recognized as a top five school for those with disabilities as well as being recognized as a repeat “Military Friendly” school.

"We strive for diversity of background, culture and experience. We’re proud to offer full services to the disabled. Yet to all of us, everyone here is simply an Edinboro student.”

Added OSD Director McConnell, “For many students with disabilities, the opportunity to attend a university and just be a regular student is something that few universities offer. Edinboro University allows students with disabilities the opportunity to choose their own direction for academics and extra-curricular activities. Our job in the OSD is to be in the background, removing barriers and letting students grow to become who they choose.”

Under McConnell’s leadership, Edinboro has long been recognized as a national leader in providing services to disabled students.  Just last year, the online publication education.com reported in a story titled “Best Universities for Students with Physical Disabilities,” that Edinboro was ranked in the top 10.

“At Edinboro University in northwestern Pennsylvania, students can access occupational therapy and wheelchair maintenance services on campus. An impressive system provides personal assistance in accessible dorms and the dining hall has meal aides to assist students there. Many students also participate in competitive athletics,” according to the education.com recommendation.

Author Tiedemann’s new book teaches prospective students their rights under the laws governing education and disability, self-advocacy, choosing a college, how having a physical disability affects admissions testing, the increased responsibilities in college, and how to make sure students receive everything they need. College Success for Students with Physical Disabilities contains forms, checklists, interviews with other students, advice from college disability services personnel, and profiles of the disability-friend colleges across the United States, including Edinboro.

Writing about the transition from high school college, Tiedemann believes “ … all students must adjust to a brand-new environment there, according to a 2008 report by the National Council on Disability (NCD).Yet students with disabilities often enter college unprepared for the new responsibilities and challenges they will face, the report noted. This is because they are often poorly informed about the dramatic differences between their prior educational experiences and the realities of college life – higher academic expectations, greater personal responsibilities, and much different services for people with disabilities, to name a few. Often, too, they have not been prepared to meet the changes they will encounter upon reaching the college campus.”

Tiedemann draws directly from her own experiences, and those of her son, to better inform others of the process.

“Our family experienced this firsthand when my son Tommy, who has cerebral palsy, began searching for a college in 2003 and eventually attended three very different types of American colleges. We found information about college success for students with physical disabilities remarkably limited. No books, websites, or college guides. We learned, too, that existing college guidebooks and websites were not written specifically to answer the questions of students with physical disabilities, and even school guidance offices had little information relevant to their special needs. Filling this information gap became an urgent priority for us two years before Tommy’s high school graduation.” She noted that “Tommy did his senior project in high school on ‘colleges that accommodate people with disabilities.’”