Students with Disabilities

1. Who is a person with a disability?

If you have a physical or mental impairment which, for you, constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment, then you may be considered disabled by most publicly funded rehabilitation programs. An impediment may involve your ability to see, hear, walk, speak, learn, breathe, or work.

2. Where can a person with a disability go for help to obtain financial assistance for college?

Regardless of issues of disability, nearly all financial aid for educational expenses is administered and distributed by colleges and schools. Contact your school’s financial aid office for information on financial aid opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

3. What does a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agency do for a person with a disability who wants to go to school?

A public VR agency can provide financial assistance to eligible persons with a disability whose Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP) includes college or technical school training as a means of achieving a vocational goal leading to competitive employment. VR agencies can provide a variety of assistance depending on your financial needs. State VR agencies require college-bound clients to apply for financial aid from the school or college they plan to attend.

4. Who is eligible for VR services?

You must have a physical or mental disability that constitutes an impediment to employment. It also must be determined that you will benefit in terms of an employment outcome from vocational rehabilitation services which will prepare you for entering, engaging in, or retaining gainful employment.

5. Is it realistic for a person with a disability to borrow money to pay for college?

Yes, and most people will have to do so in order to cover all their costs.

6. How does financial aid affect SSDI and SSI benefits?

Grants, regardless of the amount, have no effect on SSDI. Grant funds which exceed tuition, fees, and books are considered unearned income for SSI recipients, and so SSI benefits are reduced by that amount. Loans do not affect SSDI or SSI benefits. Federal work-study awards are considered employment, and so may affect both SSDI and SSI benefits. To determine how federal work-study is treated in each situation, the student should contact the local Social Security Office. A federal work-study award may be an excellent opportunity for students with disabilities to test the employment market and to build a resume.

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