College With a Disability

Blog post
[Header shows three spoons on a laptop keyboard with clipart of torn white notebook paper with a red paperclip. On the paper reads “College  With a Disability” and a red symbol of a stick man in a wheelchair. In the bottom left corner is Thee Crohnie Grace blog logo]

College can be hard enough on the average person. It is a strenuous full time job of writing papers, studying, reading the material, re-reading the material, studying some more, and praying that you pass the midterm tests.

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[Image shows notes featuring details about the skeletal system. There’s a blue gel pen and a set of highlighters on top of the paper.]

For people with disabilities or illness, this can be especially hard. Previously on here I discussed the issue of accessibility in college. I discussed how some lecture classes were nothing but stairs, how some class rooms were so cluttered you couldn’t fit through, etc. This semester has made it apparent that there is still more to discuss: absenteeism, testing, pain management and fatigue management while at college.

It is important that regardless of severity of your illness or disability that you know help is offered, though some colleges are more accommodating than others.  Some colleges allow extra test time, or taking the test at a different time alone to make it more accessible, while some colleges have better things to offer such as text-to-speech options, transportation from classes (at larger colleges), and in some cases omitting the 3-absentee rule.

This is why it is important to talk to the disabilities office at your college to see what types of accommodations can be made for you. Of course some will require notes from doctors and proof of diagnosis before you get accommodations, but in some cases simply talking to your advisor or talking to the disabilities office about your concerns for the semester can help them find a way to help you out.

In my case, I have preferential seating (even though in college there’s very rarely assigned seating), but after I had an issue with one professor assigning seats and trying to put me in the top row (of stairs), we talked with disabilities and got it all sorted out. I can take my lab practicals by myself while the teacher switches out the slides for me, because after the first practical we discovered that her testing style was not very accessible. You had to move around the class room, you only had a minute to answer 3 questions per slide, and people were not pushing in their chairs, which makes it a bit hard with a mobility device.

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[Image shows me standing with my walker, I’m wearing jeans and a white t-shirt with sign language spelling out “Bruh” and carrying my backpack over my shoulder hooked up to my feeding tube.]

Some professors can be really accommodating on their own if you talk to them. For the changing of lab practical style for me, I didn’t even have to go through the disabilities office. I simply messaged the professor and explained how it was difficult with up and down movement due to my POTS and that without people pushing in their seats I couldn’t maneuver around to the stations easily.

But the biggest issue is attendance at college, most colleges have a rule that after 3 missed classes, they can simply fail you. While some professors are lenient on this policy, others will dock your grade a letter for every time you miss.  Talk to your professors and the disability office. Sometimes they can make accommodations so that absenteeism isn’t held against you.

Being in college all week can be hard when you also have doctors’ appointments throughout the week almost every week, not to mention surgeries, unplanned ER trips, and not to mention just being too exhausted or in too much pain to make it to class some days.

I think colleges tend to forget this. It is hard to keep up with everything and also keep up with all the college work. I am only taking 4 classes this semester but am still struggling because I also had to have surgery, deal with pain and exhaustion, brain fog from medication, etc.

And then some colleges decide the best way to deal with people struggling in college is to guilt trip them. My college sent out emails to students saying their grades reflected on them, their family, their significant others and could negatively impact the rest of their lives.

This is not the way you deal with students when 1 in 2 Americans now have a chronic condition of some kind whether it be something like Asthma or something more severe like Cystic Fibrosis. Regardless of severity, there is an increase in chronic illnesses and diseases, which means an increase in disability. Which is expected to only increase as the years go on.

With this in mind, you think schools would be more equipped to handle the students out of nearly 133 million people struggling. And while some people can manage their illnesses and have zero interference with college, many struggle with controlling symptoms and side effects of their illnesses.

Perhaps this stems from the fact that the majority of illnesses are invisible illnesses.

“Notably, 26 million persons were considered to have a severe disability; yet, only 7 million persons used a visible device for mobility. Thus, 19 million of the people who were defined as severely disabled, did not use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walkers. In other words, 73% of Americans with severe disabilities do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses visible assistive equipment.” -National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week

So with the facts, why are colleges still lacking a lot of accommodations? I have been thankful that my college has worked so well with me, but I know others who attend my college and have disabilities or illnesses who receive limited to no accommodations or support from professors. I think it’s important to talk about these things in order to see a change.

With statistics showing that chronic illnesses are on the rise and will continue to rise, it’s important for the world to take the steps to make sure everyone has a chance to receive education.

Is your college accommodating to your illness/disability? If not, what would you like to see be changed?

To quote Malala Yousafzai, “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

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[Image shows the edge of a laptop and the top of a notebook with a handful of tabs reading things like “Intro”,  “Ch. 2”, “Lang.”, and various other tabs.]

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