Students with disabilities face unique challenges in their pursuit of higher education. Disabilities put a financial strain on families, tapping resources that might otherwise have been used for higher education. Students with disabilities may also require special studying and living accommodations, which can be costly.
There are a number of governmental assistance programs, including federal and state grants and grants from the social security administration, which aim to reduce the barriers to higher education for people with disabilities.
There is also a wide range of private foundations and non-profit organizations that grant need-based assistance to individuals with specific disabilities, ranging from vision and hearing impairment to paralysis.
While most of the programs listed here seek candidates with promising academic records or other special interests, all of them consider the student’s degree of financial need.
This guide presents some of the most promising grants for individuals with disabilities, subdivided by challenge area.
- The Associates to the American Academy of Allergy offers $1,000 scholarships to at least eighteen graduating high school seniors with asthma. Awards may be applied to the cost of tuition, books and fees at any accredited two- and four-year college or university.
- The American Council of the Blind administers more than two dozen scholarships and grants for outstanding, legally blind, full-time students. A minimum GPA of 3.3 is generally required, but made be adjusted under extenuating circumstances. The application deadline is March 1.
- The American Foundation for the Blind maintains a number of scholarship and grant opportunities based on financial need. For example, the Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship awards one $500 scholarship to a full-time graduate student. The Ferdinand Torres Scholarship awards one $2,500 grant to a full-time undergraduate or graduate student, with a strong preference for new immigrants in the New York City area. The application may be completed on-line. The deadline is March 31.
- The National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program provides need-based assistance in varying amounts to legally blind students enrolled in a full-time degree program. The application deadline is March 31.
- The Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired sponsors the William & Dorothy Ferrell Scholarship, a $500 annual award to two legally blind students pursuing a career in service of blind or visually impaired persons. The application deadline is April 15.
- The Association of Blind Citizens awards seven $1,000 general education grants for blind students. The Association’s Assistive Technology Fund provides grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of adaptive devices and software for blind and visually impaired students. For more information about application deadlines and eligibility requirements, please see the website.
- Christian Record Services awards $500 to ten legally blind students pursuing an undergraduate degree. The application deadline is April 1.
- The Jewish Guild for the Blind awards 12 to 15 $15,000 annual scholarships to college-bound high school students who are legally blind. The application process must be completed on-line. The application deadline is September 15.
- The Cystic Fibrosis Scholarship Foundation (CFSF) awards $1,000 grants to young adults living with CF who are pursuing higher education. Award decisions are based on academic promise, leadership, and financial need. The application deadline is March 21.
Hearing Impairment and Deafness
- The Alexander Graham Bell Association’s George H. Nofer Scholarship for Law and Public Policy provides $5,000 awards each year to three full-time graduate students. Grantees must be attending law school or be enrolled in a masters or doctoral program in public policy or public administration. The application deadline is May 1.
- The Minnie Pearl Ear Foundation Scholarship awards $2,500 annual scholarships to high school seniors with significant bilateral hearing loss. The scholarship is renewable for three additional years. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Look up info about this award on the website.
- Little People of America provides up to $1,000 in scholarships to promising college students with medical dwarfism. For more information, visit the website.
- The Pfizer’s Epilepsy Scholarship Fund awards 25 one-year, $3,000 grants to students under a doctor’s care for epilepsy. The application deadline is April 1.
Immune Deficiency Disease
- The Immune Deficiency Foundation Annual Scholarship Program awards scholarships to undergraduate students living with a primary immune deficiency disease. The application process may be completed on-line.
- The Anne Ford Scholarship is an initiative of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, awarding $10,000 to one college-bound high school senior with an identified learning disability. The application deadline is December 31.
- The Lilly Reintegration Scholarship supports students who receive medical treatment with bipolar disease, schizophrenia, schizophreniform disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. Awards range from $1,500 – $6,500. Grantees may apply their awards to the cost of their tuition, books, lab supplies and fees.
- The Gore Family Memorial Foundation Trust provides tuition assistance to full-time, physically impaired students with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Award amounts vary, but may only be applied to the cost of tuition. Applications must be requested in writing between April 15th and June 15th. For more information, contact the Gore Family Memorial Foundation Trust, 4747 North Ocean Drive, Suite #204, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308.
- 1800wheelchair.com is an on-line source for discount mobility equipment. The site sponsors an annual $500 scholarship for one undergraduate student with mobility disabilities. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0. The application deadline is June 1.
- The Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation (ELA) (Note 2/7/13 – Website down) – awards $2,000 each year to two female graduate students with physical disabilities. For more information on eligibility requirements and application guidelines, please see the ELA website. The application deadline is June 1.
- The Lucent Pioneer Organization offers scholarships to assist physically and mentally challenged students in the pursuit of their college education. The application deadline is in January. For more information, call 1-888-999-5877.
- The United Student Aid Funds’ Access to Education Scholarship provides $1,500 to students with a physical disability whose annual family income is less than $35,000 per year. The application deadline is March 15.
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