Studying with a disability - do I belong?

Chronic or mental illness, partial performance disorders such as dyslexia, autism, or other long-term impairments are also forms of disabilities - as are sensory and movement impairments.

For 11% of students, studying is made more difficult as a result of physical or health impairments - according to the results of the 21st Social Survey of the German Student Union (DSW). This group includes in particular students with:

  • Mobility impairments
  • Visual impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Speech impairments
  • Mental illnesses (e.g. eating disorders, depression)
  • Chronic diseases (e.g. rheumatism, Crohn's disease or diabetes)
  • Dyslexia and other partial performance disorders
  • Autism and AD(H)S

Special situation of students with non-perceptible impairments

Only 4% of affected students have an impairment that is immediately noticeable. Almost two thirds of the disabilities at our universities, on the other hand, remain unnoticed unless students themselves point them out. At least, this is the self-reporting of students who participated in a DSW study on the situation of students with disabilities and chronic illnesses in the summer semester of 2011.

Uncertainties among teachers, advisors and students

Chronic and mental illnesses as well as partial performance disorders such as dyslexia, however, have no less of an impact on studies than physical and sensory impairments. But just differently. Recognizing this and acknowledging the consequences is often not easy for teachers, advisors and fellow students. Nor, by the way, for those affected, as the results of the study "Studying with Impairments" show.

Students do without counseling and rights

Most of the students with a non-visible impairment do not perceive themselves as "disabled", although they are according to the legal definition. This has consequences: Many do not know that they are entitled to disadvantage compensation and do not feel addressed by existing counseling services. Others, especially in an environment where performance and elitism play a special role, do not want to come out as impaired, as a person with special needs, as "disabled". They prefer to waive their rights - often to their own disadvantage.

Definitions of disability

The basis for the fact that, for example, partial performance disorders, mental and chronic illnesses are also included under the term disability are the definitions according to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Book 9 of the Social Code.

Law, policy and data

By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD), Germany has committed itself to comprehensively realizing the participation of persons with disabilities and chronic illnesses. This continues the paradigm shift already initiated several years ago: away from welfare - towards genuine participation.


Studies and examinations

Study is generally possible for students with disabilities and chronic illnesses at all institutions of higher education. Reasonable accommodation, which takes into account the individual needs of the students, should ensure equal opportunity study conditions.


Everyday student life

Students can only concentrate on their studies if everyday student life runs smoothly. This is especially true for students with disabilities, who often have to organize much more than their fellow students without disabilities.



How do I cover the costs of studying and living? - Students with disabilities and chronic illnesses very often have additional funding issues to address in addition to the usual student funding questions.


Application and admission

Impairments can significantly limit the choice of where to study and what to study. Disadvantages often arise during the school years. With the help of various special applications, disadvantages or hardships for impaired prospective students are to be compensated for in the admission process.



Comprehensive advising tailored to the individual needs of students with disabilities and chronic illnesses is a key factor in ensuring that students can begin and complete a degree program with equal opportunity.