megan image

Let’s Celebrate: Inclusive Post-Secondary Education

Begun in 2020, Inclusive Post-Secondary Education (IPSE) Day (May 1) emphasizes college options for disabled and underserved students. Intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs), as well as the more “extensive” physical disabilities (e.g., deaf-blindness and quadriplegia), mean extra challenges.

In today’s post, one family shares their story.

young adult woman in wheelchair

Megan Fry

Megan is currently completing her bachelor’s degree in Digital Media at the University of Houston (UH). She has “spastic cerebral palsy,” a disconnect between brain and muscles: the muscles have normal feeling, but the brain cannot direct them in normal physical movement. Megan uses a power wheelchair and an eye-gaze communication device as assistive technology for working, speaking, and getting about.

It was never a question of if I should go to college, just of how. It’s normal to go to college, and I’m a normal girl. My muscles may not perform typically, but there is nothing wrong with my thinking capabilities.

It definitely took a village to figure out how this would work! But everyone was so supportive: my parents, teachers, therapists, counselors, tutors, and administrators. The school superintendent wrote a letter of recommendation; my SAT tutor helped me think “out of the box” on how to complete the test with accommodations; and I had a wonderful case manager from Texas Workforce Commission, who still helps guide me in empowering myself. I love living on campus and being responsible for myself.

The biggest challenge was having to start from scratch every semester with new professors, many of whom did not understand how I could be a success in their classrooms! While I knew how to accommodate the classwork, at first I often had to ask the disability department to back me up. Now, I am confident enough to advocate on my own, and people don’t question me.

Another challenging experience: finding and keeping reliable team care assistants to stay with me 24/7. [Megan uses consumer-directed services, meaning she hires and manages her own assistants with state-government support.]

It’s all been worth it. The rewards of college are epic:

  • The skills I’ve learned within my digital media degree program, like graphic design, video editing, and managing social media.
  • Newly developed skills and abilities that have prepared me for my next step in life, as an independent adult.

After graduation, I plan to go on a cruise. … and, oh yeah, get a job. My ultimate goal is to support myself financially as a social media manager/graphic designer, as well as having a successful blog and YouTube channel that highlight the triumphs and tribulations of my life.

Andi Fry

Andi (Megan Fry’s mom) is also the BridgingApps Coordinator for Montgomery County Outreach.

When Megan first talked about her wish to go away to college, I had huge reservations. It was never about being successful in the classroom: we knew accommodations were available. The biggest challenge was how she would navigate living outside our house; neither of us wanted “ME” to go with her.

However, every time I came up with what I thought was a mountain too high, she would come back with solutions; and I finally ran out of mountains. 

There were a few things that were absolutely critical:  

  1. Being close enough to home that she could keep up her weekly medical appointments and I could get to her fast in an emergency. 
  2. Accessible on-campus housing that fit her needs.
  3. Accessibility around the rest of the campus, inside and outside of buildings.
  4. Curricula that fit her plans for the future.
  5. Accessible social activities.
  6. Affordability.
  7. And a college Department of Disability that could advocate for her if she needed assistance. We visited the UH Department of Disability before Megan was even accepted. Our appreciation can’t even begin to be enough for their support.

Besides helping with coursework accommodations, the department assisted Megan in qualifying as a “full time” student, which approved her to live on campus. (Because of necessary extra time completing tasks, Megan was only able to keep up with three classes per semester, which would classify most students as “part time.”)

Megan found out early that no professor had worked with anyone who had similar challenges. She had to approach professors before each semester, and prove she was committed to learning in their classes. The Department of Disability helped her become versed in advocating for herself. Never did we think that UH didn’t take Megan’s success seriously. 

Megan is committed to showing each person who had a hand in her journey, that their efforts were not taken lightly. I look back at her experience with true pride. Challenges will always be in front of her, but she now has the tools to make a difference in her future and others’ futures.


See also: Think Higher. Think College. website and campaign video

Leave a Reply