Scholarships and Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), approximately 19% of undergraduate students have a disability. Considering around 20 million students are enrolled at U.S. colleges, it's estimated nearly 4 million students are likely living with some type of disability. This may include a visual impairment, a specific learning disability, an orthopedic impairment, hard of hearing/deafness, or a speech disability, among others. Many of these students receive federal financial aid through grants and loans, while some work part time and/or receive financial assistance from their families to help pay for college. As medical and tuition costs continue to rise, more scholarships for students with disabilities are being made available to fill critical financial gaps.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for colleges and universities to discriminate in any way against students with disabilities. While colleges and universities are not required to provide financial accommodations through disability scholarships to students, most do. There are many scholarships for students with disabilities from outside sources, but these can often be difficult to find, even by using popular online scholarship locator tools.

All colleges are required by law to provide certain reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities.

We’ve created a list of the current disability scholarships offered by various foundations and organizations.

Read on to find a list of general scholarships for students with disabilities, as well as those specifically aimed towards students with learning disabilities, hearing or visual impairments, psychological disabilities, or mobility impairments.


Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Scholarships for Students with Learning Disabilities

Types of learning disabilities include dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dysphasia, visual processing disorder, and auditory processing disorder. Numerous scholarships are offered specifically for students with learning disabilities, and can help alleviate some of the financial strain associated with pursuing a postsecondary degree.

Scholarships

AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability $1,000

Who Can Apply: The AAHD Scholarship Committee and Board of Directors welcome applications from U.S. citizens or legal residents who are at least a sophomore in college with a documented disability. Applicants must be full-time undergraduate or part-time/full-time graduate students at an accredited U.S. institution.

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Google Lime Scholarship $10,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants should be an undergraduate or graduate student for the 2018-19 academic year and plan on being a full-time student during 2019-20. They should have a strong academic record; a disability; and a desire to pursue a career in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related field.

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'Business Plan' Scholarship for Students With Disabilities $2,500

Who Can Apply: This merit-based award is for undergraduate or graduate students with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher and a documented disability. Applicants must write a 500-1,000-word essay outlining an original business plan. The award goes to the applicant with the best original idea and clearly written essay.

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Rehabmart Disability Scholarships $250-$25,000

Who Can Apply: Rehabmart offers this generous scholarship for students with disabilities who are in the health sciences or majoring in special education. Applicants must submit a personal biography and a short, thoughtful answer to the essay question provided. This scholarship typically awards multiple recipients per year.

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NBCUniversal Tony Coelho Media Scholarship $5,625

Who Can Apply: Offered by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), this scholarship is for undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who wish to pursue a career in communications, media, or entertainment. Eight scholarships are available in total — each totaling $5,625.

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Microsoft disAbility Scholarship $20,000

Who Can Apply: This award is to empower enable high school students with disabilities to go to college and pursue a career in the technology industry. Applicants must have a promising academic record and demonstrate financial need. Scholarship winners receive $5,000 per year, up to $20,000.

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Scholarships for Students with ADD/ADHD

The number of scholarships for students with ADHD and ADD grows each year, as foundations continue to recognize the importance of providing students with these disabilities options for financing their college educations. The following ADHD scholarships are awarded to students based on factors like academic merit, community involvement, and financial need.

Scholarships

Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarships $2,000

Who Can Apply: This award is for graduate or undergraduate students with diagnosed ADD or ADHD. Applicants must see a licensed healthcare professional for their condition and attend an accredited university, college, or trade school. Students may be in two- or four-year programs.

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Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship $2,500

Who Can Apply: Offered by the the National Center for Learning Disabilities, this scholarship is for students with a learning disability or ADHD. Applicants must outline their career goals, articulate their learning challenges, and demonstrate perseverance. They must also be U.S. citizens with financial needs.

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BMO Capital Markets Lime Connect Equity Through Education Scholarship $5,000 or $10,000

Who Can Apply: U.S. and Canadian students with a disability or ADHD majoring in business, computer science, or a STEM field can apply for this award. Applicants must be full-time students and have a letter of support from an adviser, professor, or supervisor.

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RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc. Awards $500-$2,500

Who Can Apply: This funding is for current high school students planning to attend college the following school year. Applicants must have a documented learning disability or ADHD. Students must submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor along with their application.

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Anne Ford Scholarship $10,000

Who Can Apply: This scholarship is for graduating high school seniors with a documented learning disability, including ADHD. Recipients must be enrolled in a full-time bachelor’s program the following fall semester after graduation. Funds are dispersed as $2,500 per year over four years.

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Scholarships for Students with Hearing Impairments

Hearing impairment can be mild, moderate, severe, or profound. There are several disability scholarships for students with hearing impairments of all levels to help them finance their time in college. The following scholarships may be of interest to qualified students with bilateral hearing loss.

Scholarships

Sertoma Scholarship for Students Who Are Hard of Hearing or Deaf $1,000

Who Can Apply: Applicants must have a minimum 40 dB bilateral hearing loss and be a citizen of the U.S. Recipients must plan on earning a bachelor’s degree as a full-time student at a college or university in the U.S. Graduate studies, community colleges, and vocational programs do not qualify.

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Graeme Clark Scholarship $2,000

Who Can Apply: This award is for graduating high school students who have Nucleus Cochlear implants. Prospective recipients should plan on enrolling at an accredited college or university the following year. Competitive applicants have at least a 2.5 GPA. Up to five recipients can receive this award per year.

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National Help America Hear Scholarship $5,000

Who Can Apply: Offered by the Foundation for Sight and Sound, the scholarship is available to high school seniors with hearing loss who use hearing aids daily. Applicants must submit a hearing evaluation no more than six months old; two letters of reference from a teacher, guidance counselor, or coach; and the required essay. Recipients also receive two state-of-the-art hearing aids from ReSound Hearing.

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Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired $100-$500

Who Can Apply: Presented by the Travelers Protective Association, applicants for this award must require specialized hearing aids or special education to accommodate their hearing disabilities. Students must demonstrate a need for financial aid. Students may apply during each quarter, with application deadlines at the end of March, June, September, and December.

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Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: The scholarship is for undergraduate students enrolled at a non-profit college located in the United States. Applicants must have at least a 50 dB unaided hearing loss in both ears and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Required documents for the application packet include a copy of the applicant’s high school transcripts, transcripts from any college courses, three letters of recommendation, medical documentation of the severity of their hearing loss, and tax information.

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Linda Cowden Memorial Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: Students who are deaf or hard of hearing and plan to pursue a profession serving hearing impaired communities may apply. Applicants must be an undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate student at a university, four-year college, two-year college, or vocational tech school in Tennessee.

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Scholarships for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities

Mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder are considered psychiatric disabilities. The scholarships listed below were created specifically to help students living with psychiatric disabilities ease the burden of tuition as they pursue their degree.

Scholarships

Ann Denardo Memorial Scholarship $500

The Doyon Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers this award to part-time or full-time students in college. Applicants interested in education, advocacy and removal of stigma regarding mental illness, counseling, psychology, social work, or related fields receive first consideration. Prospective recipients must be enrolled at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

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Baer Reintegration Scholarship $1,000

This award is for people with schizophrenia, schizophrenia disorder, or bipolar disorder pursuing a degree in higher education. Applicants must be actively involved in a rehabilitative program, be a part-time or full-time worker or student, and a U.S. citizen. Students at all levels — high school to graduate school — may apply.

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The Bipolar Lives Scholarship $500

This merit-based scholarship is for students with bipolar disorder or manic depression. Students attending college or a university, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, and those in community college or vocational school may apply. Applications must include a one-page essay highlighting one’s struggles with the disorder and any overlooked aspects of the disability they wish to bring to light.

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J.C. Runyon Moving Forward Scholarship $3,000

This financial award is for undergraduate students in the U.S. with a documented psychiatric disorder, including bipolar disorder or substance abuse issues. Prospective recipients should have one official stay on record at an accredited psychiatric facility or treatment center. Applications should include two letters of reference, high school transcripts, a three-page essay, and a letter of acceptance from your college or university.

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Joe Cleres Memorial Scholarship $500-$1,000

Graduating high school seniors and college students suffering from mental, physical, or emotional impairment. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal residents, or planning to enroll at a college or university. Prospective recipients must submit documentation of financial need and their diagnosis.

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Lilly Moving Lives Forward Scholarship Varies

This award is for college students diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizophreniform, or schizoaffective disorder studying in any field. Prospective recipients must be U.S. citizens currently receiving treatment for the disease and involved in reintegrative processes for consideration.

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Scholarships for Students with Visual Impairments

Those who are legally blind or who have other visual impairments can apply for scholarships provided by foundations and organizations serving them. The following list of scholarships for visually impaired students provides financial assistance to help empower them on their college campuses and beyond.

Scholarships

National Help America See Scholarship for a Blind Student $1,000

This award is for high school seniors who are considered totally blind and plan to attend a college or vocational school after graduation. Applicants must submit an essay in braille or print form. Additionally, applications should include a letter signed by one’s ophthalmologist or optometrist stating the applicant’s level of blindness; a letter of determination of legally blind status from the state or federal government; and two letters of recommendation from a teacher, coach, or guidance counselor.

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Lighthouse Guild Scholarship $10,000

Each year, the Lighthouse Guild helps up to 10 outstanding high school students who are legally blind and planning to pursue a college degree. The award is merit based and usable for the students’ tuition, room and board, books, or travel. Prospective recipients must have proof of their legal blindness, be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, and submit three letters of recommendation.

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National Foundation for the Blind Scholarship Program $3,000-$12,000

This foundation offers up to 30 merit-based scholarships each year. Applicants must be legally blind in both eyes and reside in the U.S., the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico. Prospective recipients must be pursuing a full-time, postsecondary course of study at a U.S. institution, and should have a history of community service and leadership.

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Brother James Kearney Scholarship Program $15,000

The Lavelle Fund for the Blind, in association with the American Foundation for the Blind, offers this financial award for undergraduate or graduate students. Applicants must be U.S. residents, legally blind, and demonstrate financial need. The award is for those students living in New York City who plan on attending one of 11 designated colleges or universities.

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ACB Scholarship Varies

The American Council of the Blind presents this award to approximately 20 students per academic year. Applicants must be legally blind and enrolled at a two- or four-year institution. The amount per recipient varies and is merit based. Financial aid may be used for living expenses, tuition, or to purchase a computer.

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National Help America See Low Vision Scholarship $1,000

Offered by the Foundation for Sight and Sound, this award is for high school seniors who are legally blind, have low vision or are visually impaired, and rely on visual aids other than eyeglasses. Applicants must include a personal essay highlighting the student’s creativity, research, and life experiences.

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Scholarships for Students with Chronic Illnesses

Chronic illnesses, including diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, immune deficiency disorders, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease can take a serious financial toll on college students in terms of medical expenses. The following scholarships for students with chronic illnesses can help lower academic costs and provide relief from financial strain.

Scholarships

Diabetes Scholars Foundation $1,000-$5,000

This award is for incoming first-year college students with type 1 diabetes who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents at an accredited four-year university, college, or vocational school. This merit-based award gives preference to applicants actively involved in the diabetes community and other extracurricular activities.

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Taylor Huth Memorial Scholarship $2,000

Presented by the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Cincinnati and Columbus, this scholarship is for students residing in the foundation’s service region. Prospective recipients must be under a doctor’s care for epilepsy and either a high school senior or college student. Those applicants already in college should have plans to attend graduate school for consideration.

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Breathe for Bea Scholarship $500

This award is for students diagnosed with cystic fibrosis under the age of 26. Applicants should be seniors in high school and continuing to higher education at two- or four-year colleges or universities. Prospective recipients must have a 2.5 GPA or higher.

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Cystic Fibrosis Standard Scholarship $1,000

Any student with cystic fibrosis in an undergraduate program and enrolled in nine credits or more per semester may apply for this award. Single- and multi-year scholarships are available. Approximately 60% of the applicants receive an award roughly $1,000 per year.

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This Is Me Scholarship $500

Each year, the This Is Me Foundation awards scholarships to graduating seniors in the U.S. Recipients must currently have, or have a history of, an autoimmune deficiency or alopecia. Applicants must have plans to pursue an advanced level of education.

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Scott and Kim Verplank Foundation $10,000

High school seniors who have type 1 diabetes and plan on attending college can apply for this financial award. The scholarship is merit based and requires applicants to have at least a 3.0 GPA. Additionally, prospective recipients must participate in an organized sports team.

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Scholarships for Students with Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities can be the result of many types of injuries and conditions, including muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, scoliosis, kyphosis, spina bifida, and transverse myelitis. The number of scholarships for college students with disabilities like these increases each year. Below, is a list of some current scholarship opportunities.

Scholarships

Mobility Scooters Direct Scholarship Program $1,200

MobilityScootersDirect.com offers one $1,500 scholarship per academic year to an undergraduate or graduate student. Applicants must at least be part-time students, have proof of a declared major, and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. The application requires documentation of a disability limiting their mobility and at least one letter of recommendation.

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Karmen Healthcare Mobility Disability Scholarship $500

Karmen Healthcare offers two $500 scholarships for students currently enrolled in a college or university. This scholarship is for students who have a mobility disability, a strong academic record, and a desire to improve disability awareness in the U.S.

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Wheelchair Success Foundation Scholarships Varies

This financial aid helps students transition from high school to college or earn their GED. Those applicants in college must take at least nine credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.5 minimum GPA to be eligible.

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Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation Scholarship $2,000-$4,000

Each year, this foundation awards two or three individuals with neurological disabilities resulting in mobility issues. Priority goes to individuals with spinal cord injuries or diseases causing paralysis, spina bifida, strokes, or aneurysms affecting the spinal column. Applicants must be in their last semester of high school or the beginning of college with a 2.5 GPA or higher.

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AbbVie Rheumatology Scholarship $15,000

This award provides financial support for academically exceptional students who have inflammatory diseases affecting their mobility. Applicable diseases include, but are not limited to, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Recipients must be accepted or enrolled at an accredited college or vocational school and be a U.S. resident.

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PATH-WAY Providing Access to Happiness Scholarship $1,000

Applicants for the PATH-WAY scholarship should have a physical disability, including neuromuscular disorder or musculoskeletal impairments like muscular dystrophy, osteogenesis imperfecta, a spinal cord injury, or spinal muscular atrophy. Prospective recipients must also reside in Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts.

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Scholarships for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism spectrum disorders include autism, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Autism scholarships can be a valuable resource for college students who need help financing their degree programs. Below is a list of autism scholarships for students to choose from.

Scholarships

The Schwallie Family Scholarship $3,000

The Organization for Autism Research presents the Schwallie Family Scholarship for undergraduate students at four-year universities. Applicants must be enrolled full time and working toward a degree or certification. Applications must include proof of one’s autism diagnosis from a licensed medical professional.

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KFM Making a Difference for Autism Scholarship $500

All high school students with autism who plan on attending a postsecondary program upon graduation may apply. Additionally, students currently enrolled in college in the U.S. or internationally are also eligible. Applications must include a cover letter, short biography, college acceptance letter, autism diagnosis, and an essay.

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Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship for Autism $1,000

This merit-based award is for an outstanding student with autism or those students with a close family member who suffers from a form of the disability. Applicants must currently be enrolled in or plan on attending an accredited university or college at the undergraduate or graduate level.

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ASAN Autistic Scholars Fellowship Program $5,000

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network presents this scholars fellowship program, which provides four to six students with a $5,000 tuition scholarship each year. Prospective recipients should have an interest in civil rights advocacy and activism for the disabled. Recipients are required to participate in a student organization and work to promote autistic awareness.

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Percy Martinez Autism Scholarship $5,000

Students in high school, special autism schools, an undergraduate program, or graduate school may apply for the Percy Martinez scholarship. Applicants should have an interest in education and a history of community service and volunteering. Applications must include two letters of recommendation and a video or short essay answering the questions provided.

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The Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship $3,000

Another scholarship offered by the Organization for Autism Research, the Lisa Higgins Hussman Scholarship is for students attending two-year universities, vocational or trade schools, or postsecondary programs. Applicants must outline the daily challenges they face due to their autism. Prospective recipients should also have a recent history of taking skill-building and job-readiness classes.

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Scholarships for Students with Cerebral Palsy

Scholarships

ABC Achievements and Abilities Scholarship $1,000

American, Baby, and Child Law Centers present an annual $1,000 award for one high school, undergraduate, or graduate student with cerebral palsy. Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA and plans to earn a college degree.

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MCPA Achievements and Abilities Scholarship $1,500

Michigan Cerebral Palsy Attorneys presents this achievement and abilities award for students affected by cerebral palsy. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and full-time undergraduate or graduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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AmeriGlide Achiever Scholarship $2,500

AmeriGlide, the leading distributor of home accessibility products, offers this award for full-time students who use a manual wheelchair, powered wheelchair, or scooter. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and attend a two- or four-year college in the U.S. Recipients may be undergraduate or graduate students.

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Dorothy and Jerome Lemelson Scholarship Varies

The New School in New York offers scholarships through the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts. Incoming students at the New School can apply for dozens of scholarships and financial aid, including the Lemelson scholarship. This award is for needy students, with preference given to those with cerebral palsy.

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United Cerebral Palsy of MetroBoston College Scholarship $1,000

UCP of MetroBoston offers the scholarship for students with cerebral palsy residing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Prospective recipients must be entering or currently enrolled at an accredited college or university. Applicants must fill out the provided form and include a short essay, a letter from their doctor indicating the physical disability, transcripts, and a college acceptance letter.

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CHASA College Scholarships Varies

The Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association awards college and vocational school scholarships for students with cerebral palsy or other disabilities as a result of a pediatric stroke. Prospective recipients must be under the age of 26 and plan on attending college during the fall of the year in which they apply.

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Scholarships for Students with Disabled Parents

Those who have a parent or parents with a disability, including mobility impairments, physical disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities, are also eligible for several different scholarships. The scholarships for students with parents with disabilities can help cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses, and can help students focus less on finances and more on academics.

Scholarships

UCB Family Epilepsy Scholarship $5,000 or $10,000

Students living with a family member or parent who has epilepsy may apply for this award. Applicants must be seeking an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree at a college or university. This is merit based and awards multiple scholarships at $5,000 and $10,000 each year.

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The Paula Kovarick Segalman Family Scholarship Fund for ALS $25,000

This award for up to $25,000 is merit based and for students who have a parent or legal guardian battling ALS or who has passed away from the disease. Perspective recipients must reside in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; or Virginia with an annual household income of less than $50,000. Applicants should be enrolled in or accepted to a two- or four-year college.

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ENF Emergency Educational Grants $4,000

This program provides financial assistance to the children of deceased or disabled Elks, or members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. The deceased or disabled member must have had at least a one-year membership in good standing when their child applies for assistance.

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Wings Over America Scholarships Varies

This award is for students who are dependents of service people who died while serving as a member of the U.S. Navy. Each year, the foundation offers up to 50 awards for tuition-based fees for undergraduate students.

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Alabama Scholarships for Dependents of Blind Parents Varies

Any Alabama resident whose head of household is blind and has a family income 1.3 times the current poverty income level may apply. This need-based award is good for those students attending a college or university in the state.

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The Rick and Sherry Murray Medical Futures Scholarship $5,000

This financial aid is for students who have a spouse, parent, or grandparent diagnosed with ALS. Prospective recipients must be legal residents of Florida with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants must major in any medically-related field at an accredited two- or four-year college or university.

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Scholarships for Veterans with Disabilities

The GI Bill® often covers most of veterans’ educational expenses, but it does not necessarily cover all costs, particularly if students are attending private colleges or if they have other important financial obligations. Scholarships for veterans with mental and physical disabilities can be of tremendous help. Below, are some current scholarships for veterans with disabilities.

Scholarships

Paralyzed Veterans of America Scholarship Program $1,000-$10,000

Paralyzed veterans, their spouses, or unmarried children under the age of 24 may apply for this financial aid. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen and enrolled or accepted as a full-time or part-time student at an accredited U.S. college or university.

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Disabled Veterans Scholarship $500

Offered by the Feldman Law Firm, this award is for veterans of any branch of the U.S. armed forces with a disability rating of 30% or higher. Applications should include a personal statement outlining one’s educational goals and may include an optional essay discussing how one’s military service made an impact on their life.

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Disabled War Veterans Scholarships $2,500

Presented by the Armed Force Communications and Electronics Association Educational Foundation, this award is for members of any branch of the service who sustained an injury in Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom and are currently disabled. Current students in an accredited online learning degree program at an accredited college or university in the U.S. may apply.

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Ankin Law Office Disabled Veterans Scholarship $1,000

This scholarship is for veterans with disabilities who are enrolled full time in an accredited Institution. Prospective recipients’ disability rating must be at least 30%. Applications must include an essay and a link to the applicant’s public blog.

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Liberty University’s Heroes Fund Scholarship Varies

Liberty University offers a scholarship for service members and honorably discharged Gulf War veterans pursuing an undergraduate or master’s degree. Applicants must be purple heart recipients or 50-100% disabled from a combat-related injury or illness. Spouses of service people killed in action during one of the Gulf Wars may also apply.

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Colorado Technical University Wounded Warrior Scholarship Tuition

This award is for active service members or honorably discharged veterans who receive medical treatment for service-related disabilities. Applicants should have a disability rating of 30% or higher. Spouses and dependents are also eligible to apply. Scholarship recipients receive full tuition to CTU, a new laptop, and required textbooks.

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Scholarships for Other Disabilities and Conditions

Scholarships

Lawrence Madeiros Scholarship Fund Varies

Students with virtually any kind of disease or chronic medical ailment may apply for this award. Typically the committee gives preference to those students suffering from attention, blood, central auditory processing, and blood clotting disorders. Additionally, disabled students with Asperger syndrome, autism, cystic fibrosis, dyslexia, Lyme disease, and diabetes are also eligible. Applicants should be in their senior year of high school with concrete plans to attend an accredited college or university.

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Marianjoy Scholarship Program Varies

The Northwestern Memorial Foundation presents this scholarship to help students with disabilities pursue college degrees. The award is for individuals with a permanent physical disability or internment which may include, but is not limited to, brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or Guillain-Barre syndrome.

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Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation Scholarship $500-$2,000

This award is for women with disabilities who are in an accredited graduate school in the U.S. Prospective recipients must be active in their local, state, or national disability organization, provided it raises awareness and advocates for people with disabilities. Applications must send in a typed essay, unofficial college transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

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Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation: Scholarships for Students with Disabilities $1,500

This award is for students with financial need who have physical, psychological, learning, or medical disabilities pursuing a degree in higher education. Multiple recipients receive awards from this foundation each year. During the 2015-16 academic year, the foundation awarded 387 scholarships.

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Buckfire & Buckfire P.C. Disability Scholarship $1,000

The Buckfire Law Firm offers an annual scholarship for students with a documented disability. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen enrolled at an accredited college or university. When the recipients submit their application, they should be in the middle of their freshman year or higher.

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Claude S. Weiler Scholarship for Amputee College Students Varies

The National Invitation Foundation presents scholarships to college students with major limb amputation. Applicants must be attending an accredited college or university as a full-time student. The amount of the award depends on the number of applicants and recipients. Applications must include a letter from an attending physician confirming the amputation and a written statement from the school documenting the applicant’s full-time status.

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Social Security Disability Benefits for Students

Individuals who are unable to work due to a disability or medical condition are sometimes eligible for Social Security benefits. These benefits are available through two programs. The first is the Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) program, which provides benefits to disabled people who have worked and paid a certain amount of Social Security taxes. The second is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which is available to disabled adults and their children based on financial need.

Individuals who apply for disability benefits must meet strict eligibility requirements, and those with short-term or partial disabilities are typically not eligible. Students who are capable of attending a college campus, completing coursework, and going about day-to-day activities are therefore not always suitable candidates for disability benefits. However, some students are eligible for SSDI and SSI.

Students who are receiving SSI may exclude grants, scholarships, and other types of financial assistance from their countable resources for a nine-month period or longer. For example, any type of financial aid received from the Title IV Higher Education Act or BIA assistance programs will not be considered when the SSA calculates a student’s resources.

These types of programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Pell grants
  • Byrd Scholars
  • Academic Achievement Incentive Scholarships
  • Federal Educational Loans
  • LEAP, SLEAP, and work-study programs

You can learn more about SSI and SSD support for young people with disabilities or children of disabled parents by visiting the Social Security Administration website.


Total Permanent Disability Loan Forgiveness

Legally, an individual who has a Total Permanent Disability (TPD) is unable to work due to injury, illness, or a disability that has become more severe over time. A TPD can dramatically affect a person’s ability to pay off student loans and may significantly impact how he or she pays for other expenses. The federal government acknowledges this, and offers federal student loan forgiveness to qualifying individuals to help them better meet their basic financial obligations. The government offers what is called TPD Discharge to those with severe disabilities limiting their ability to work.

A TPD Discharge is essentially forgiveness of money owed to the federal government through loans. The following loans are eligible for forgiveness for those who provide proof of permanent disability: Federal Perkins Loans, William D. Ford Federal Direct Loans, and Federal Family Education Loans. People with permanent disabilities can apply for loan forgiveness for these loans through the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

People who have disabilities can qualify for TPD Discharge in numerous of ways. One option is to provide appropriate documents from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certifying the inability to work as a result of a disability caused during military service. Another option is to submit a notice of award of disability insurance or supplemental security income from the Social Security Administration. The final option for approval of TPD Discharge is to have a physician provide a document certifying permanent disability. Please keep in mind documentation from a physician must show the disability has lasted for a period of at least 60 months and will continue to affect the individual’s ability to work for at least 60 additional months. For more specific information regarding qualifications for TPD Discharge, consult this resource.


Utilizing Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Each state in the U.S. has a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) office. VR offices provide assistance to people with disabilities to help them find jobs and develop professional skills and qualifications. These offices can also help high school students with disabilities prepare for the transition to college and work with colleges to help students with disabilities find part-time and summer jobs. Many students are able to find on-campus jobs with the help of VR offices who have connections with local college employment departments.

Recent college graduates can additionally use the help of VR offices to launch their post-college careers and ensure they have the assistive technology needed to excel in their professions. College graduates can also benefit from VR technical training programs to equip them with highly technical skills they may not have acquired in college. This can be particularly useful if college graduates with disabilities decide to change fields during some stage of their careers.

Along with the services outlined above, many VR representatives work with college students with disabilities to help them find on-campus and off-campus housing and to adjust to independent living. VR independent living training programs are often designed specifically to help recent high school graduates adjust to living on their own. College students with disabilities and recent high school graduates who have entered the workforce can take advantage of these programs. If interested in any of the assistance VR offices provide, college students can find their state’s office here.


Financial Aid Resources

  • Federal Student Aid Website This website, powered by the U.S. Department of Education, is one of the first places students should visit online when looking for financial aid opportunities. Students can use this resource to submit their Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSAs) to apply for federal grants and loans.
  • Disability.gov Guide to Student Financial Aid This guide is a comprehensive portal of information about obtaining financial aid, types of financial aid available, paying off student loans, and college funding available for students with disabilities.
  • College Funding for Students with Disabilities Published by the Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology (DO-IT) Organization at the University of Washington, this resource contains information for students with disabilities about federal financial aid, scholarship opportunities, vocational rehabilitation, social security benefits, and more.
  • Student with Disabilities College Guide This is the Virginia Department of Education’s guide to attending college for students with disabilities. It contains information regarding picking out a college, financial aid options, and other resources students can consult to help set themselves up for success.
  • Office for Civil Rights The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights website provides information about laws that affect college students with disabilities. It also explains what students should do if they believe their college or university is violating a law.
  • National Association of Blind Students This website provides information about mentoring opportunities, networking options, and scholarship possibilities for college students who are visually impaired.
  • Navigating College A product of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Navigating College offers a blog written by contributors who have autism and have completed college. It provides tips for navigating college life and insights into what it is like to have autism in college.
  • College Resources for Students with ADD/ADHD The Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s college resources page provides students access to virtual peer support groups and workshops, professional networking opportunities, and general information about what to expect about having ADHD/ADD in college.
  • Fast Web Application Tips Fast Web offers some useful information about finding scholarships, applying to them, and increasing the chances of winning them. This website also provides a helpful list to help students better their chances of receiving scholarships by avoiding common mistakes.
  • Self-Advocacy Handbook for Students with Disabilities This resource, published by Colorado State University, is a thoughtful and informative online guide to planning for college, reaching academic goals, and learning self-advocacy skills.