I made the huge leap and went to the Disability Services office at my University. I had no idea how they might be able to help me, or if I even really needed help, but I decided that it was better to ask, then to wonder. Before, I went I downloaded their forms and did a little research on common accommodations, to get an idea of what I could ask for. Schools and employers are required by law to give reasonable accommodations for those who are disabled. Of course, what is reasonable, and what is available are going to vary. As are the attitudes of those providing them. I’d read some horror stories, but I was hopeful that it would be worth my time. My main concern going in was that one of the instructors I will have this fall is known to be a bit of a hard-ass. So, I figured that if anyone was going to give me issues over little things it would be her.
Before I visited Disability Services I knew I needed to ask for permission to wear my sunglasses in class. I know this is something that some instructors (and students) may look at and see as disrespectful, assuming I was trying to sleep behind them, or that I had a hang-over (as I’m sure may be the case for some students). I also asked for the ability to take long written exams on a computer. This is for them as much as me. If they want to be able to read my responses they want me to type them. Also, after about two lines of hand-writing anything my arm and hand cramp up into a position that looks like I have RA (even though I don’t). I also asked for leniency on attendance. I have no plan to take advantage of this, but again I know that my instructor this fall has a really strict attendance policy, and if I absolutely can’t make it to class, I can’t make it.
When I first met with Rebecca at the UAH Disability Services early in the summer, I found her to be super sweet and sensitive. Not only was she understanding, but she practically knew my reasons for things before I even explained them. As we talked she asked me about other areas I might need help in. How do I take notes? Do I need someone to do that for me? I explained that I use my tablet or laptop to take notes, and she responded quickly “Oh we need to add that to your list then.” I had no idea that in 2014 at an Engineering University, there are instructors that don’t want students using tablets to take notes, or even allow students to record the lectures. For a technology school, the instructors are so terribly afraid of technology!
So now it’s the first week of school. Tomorrow I will go in and meet my instructors and have them sign my Letter of Accommodations. I’ll see which ones take issue. I know I’m good with one (I had her over the summer for speech – she’s awesome!). My worry is really with that one instructor, but I have no idea about my third. For all I know, he may turn out to be the problem. We’ll see. I’ve already emailed the scary teacher and briefed her on my needed accommodations.
I really just wanted to share this for those who are considering asking for disability accommodations either at school or work. Stop considering and just do it. If there is something that will make your life easier, that they can do, ask for it. If they can adjust lighting, allow different break options, provide you with speech recognition software, let you telecommute, or even just let you wear your sunglasses when you need to. Let them know. You never know what they can do for you until you ask. So, please don’t be afraid to ask.
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I know for many that the hardest part about asking for accommodations is admitting that you are disabled. It was hard for me, too. But, we are disabled. We are do not have all the abilities that we once had (or that other healthy people have), so we have to work with what we are given, and that means asking for what we need.