four students standing together

Access:Ability Scholars

Building a World for Every Body

Do you want to be involved in creating an accessible and inclusive world? Maybe you are curious about...


- How disabled people are represented in the media
- New products that enhance the health and well-being of people with disabilities
- Ways to support people with disabilities in reaching their goals
- Other issues affecting the disabled community


Whatever your interests, as an Access:Ability Scholar you will have opportunities to expand your knowledge of disability, integrate academic and community experiences, and engage with issues you care about.

How to Apply


The fall 2024 application is now open. Incoming freshmen and transfer students admitted to UD's Newark campus can apply by completing the program’s required essay on their student portal, My Blue Hen Home. Students may apply to multiple programs, but will only be admitted to one.


The priority deadline for Scholars & Fellows applications is March 15.


This program was the perfect fit for me. Surrounding myself with a group of people who shared the same passion as I did for making the world around us more accessible. Adding this program to my college life was an opportunity to learn more about the community, reflect personally, and create positive change.

- Paige Johnson, Kinesiology major, class of 2022

Program Highlights


The Access:Ability Scholars program combines a low number of course credits with a variety of non-credit learning opportunities across scholars’ time at UD.


What have UD’s Access:Ability Scholars been doing?

  • Created disability-focused student organizations (All Ears, Disability Alliance). 
  • Established an accessibility senator position in student government. 
  • Designed a beach-accessible walker 
  • Monitored accessibility of polls on election days. 
  • Piloted an interactive accessibility map 
  • Completed independent studies on a variety of topics, for example:
    • Inclusive Club Sports
    • Computer Science and People who are Blind/Low Vision 
    • Disclosure of Autistic Identity 
    • Stuttering and College Experience 
    • Accessible Music Venues 
    • People with Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System 
    • Sex Ed for Youth with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

What careers have UD’s Accessibility Scholars pursued?

  • Physical Therapy 
  • Human Resources 
  • Entrepreneurship 
  • Medicine 
  • Education 
  • Disability Advocacy 
  • ... and more!

Specialized Coursework


  • DIST 100 Access:Ability Introductory Seminar
    (required, 1 credit in fall of first year): You will be challenged to think about disability from multiple perspectives and identify opportunities for exploring, designing and advocating for inclusive responses to disability.
  • DIST 200 Access:Ability Experience (optional, variable 1 – 3 credits, repeatable): Design your own course to engage with disability through research, service learning or leadership activities.
  • DIST 301 Disability Studies: Special Topics (optional, 3 credits): Topics vary for this course, which is usually part of a study abroad program (e.g., Disability and Diversity in Thailand).
  • DIST 400 Access:Ability Senior Project (optional, 3 credits) Complete an independent research or service-learning project that engages people with disabilities and individuals that support them.

Everyone in Access:Ability Scholars must complete the Access:Ability Introductory Seminar (one credit) and three credits of another DIST course or equivalent hours of research, service learning or leadership activities. Up to six credits of Access:Ability coursework can be applied to the 15-credit disability studies minor.



  • Social Events: Each semester, you will attend one event especially for Access:Ability Scholars. Two recent favorites included a workshop on autism and mental health and a conversation about being a disability ally. You will have a choice of three or four topics each semester.
  • Community Events: Each semester, you will attend one event for scholars that is open to the community. Examples include a screening and panel discussion of the film, Intelligent Lives, and a community discussion about current issues in the disability community.

Participation in social and community events is noted on your transcript as DIST 150 (0-credit) Disability Community Engagement.



  • In your first year, peer mentors will meet with students individually and in small groups to help you make connections on campus and in the community.
  • The faculty coordinator is available to meet with you throughout your time at UD to help you plan an independent study, identify other campus and community opportunities and discuss career interests.

Related Programming


You can customize your Access:Ability experience by connecting with other disability-related student groups, study abroad, conferences and other campus and community activities that interest you.

Scholars often choose to add the disability studies minor, the most popular minor at UD.



With support from the faculty coordinator and peer mentors, you will create an e-portfolio on your experiences, highlighting:

  • what you learned personally and professionally about disability issues
  • what you observed about disability and other aspects of human diversity
  • what you learned about different approaches to disability issues and the ethical implications
  • how you engaged with people with disabilities and allies in transformative ways

Completion of your e-portfolio will be included on your transcript as DIST 450 (0 credit) Access:Ability Scholars Portfolio.

Frequently Asked Questions

Access:Ability Scholars is open to incoming freshmen and transfer students admitted to Newark campus.

Admitted students can access the application essay prompts through their student portal, My Blue Hen Home. Students may apply to multiple Scholars and Fellows programs, but will only be admitted to one.

The priority deadline for Scholars & Fellows applications is March 15, but students who apply after the priority deadline will be considered on a space-available basis.