04 October, 2010

I just want to say this because it makes me so angry and I feel like not enough people have said it: disability services at college are fucking super, incredibly ableist. There was an FWD/Forward post last week where people started talking about this in the comments. But I just sometimes get so pissed off I can't stop thinking about it.

It's fucked up to have for example an entrance for wheelchair users that the wheelchair user has to actually make a phone call to have opened. (The other day I saw an elevator in the art building at school which said exactly that--there was a little phone next to it that said "dial [this number] on this phone if you need to use the elevator.") I think that most people who work in disability services would understand this is fucked up. But that's exactly what disability services are like, if not worse.

People have to prove they're disabled. They often have to have documentation stating that they are disabled that's less than five years old, or sometimes even less than one year old. For one thing this costs money, but for another thing, a lot of people with disabilities like ASD and ADHD don't find it super easy to run around getting a lot of documentation together.

We also don't find it easy to do things like apply for accommodation for every individual test we take, which is often a rule. On the FWD/Forward thread, a person with ASD and Tourette's was talking about how she basically never gets accommodation for her tests because she can't do all the things they require her to do in order to get accommodation.

First of all, why do people have to have recent documentation? Have there been many cases of developmental disabilities, like ASD, just disappearing? Do people with for example dyscalculia just suddenly get better, and then continue to try to get accommodations because they're just a shitty person who wants to get a leg up on everyone else?

Second of all, explain this kind of bullshit (this particular bullshit is from here): Colleges and universities have no responsibility to identify or seek out students with disabilities. It is the student's responsibility to make his or her disability known to the proper individuals, to provide correct and current paperwork documenting the disability, and to request accommodation personally. In addition, the student's documentation must support the need for a service or accommodation in order for it to be approved.

Even though the person is paying to go to school and the disability services office and the professors are paid to help the person learn, the student must: find the proper individuals, have conversations, request accommodation (even if this kind of stuff is hard), find all their paperwork, bring it in, and most importantly initiate everything. Even if all this thought and travel is physically or emotionally wearing on the student. Even if the student just can't do this stuff at all and it never happens, because of the nature of the disability. Who cares.

I feel like there's almost a sense of glee. I feel bitter saying that, but that's how it feels: "come on you little wuss, it's not our responsibility to help you, it's your responsibility to jump through a billion hoops in order to be worthy of our help. And if you're too disorganized or tired or anxious to do that stuff, well, fuck you, we only want to help disabled people who have certain kinds of disabilities that don't affect their brains or their energy level very much. Special, magic, just-like-everyone-else disabled people (actually, we only want to help disabled people who are better than everyone else). So go fuck yourself."


  1. Yeah, that's bullshit indeed.

    Requiring documentation is also hard for students who are from working class backgrounds and can't necessarily afford a formal diagnosis just for the sake of accommodation. So it's classist as well.

  2. Oh btw, I'm curious, what kind of accommodations do you need?

  3. I don't get accommodations. I don't have a current diagnosis--but also my accommodations tend to just be for anxiety and stuff so I wouldn't be able to get them officially probably because they're too weird. but this is something I asked for last term and got under the table.

    and yes, definitely classist.

  4. Maddening. (as is a lot of the material in Extra Homework).

    If universities have no particular responsibility to seek out those with disabilities, then why are programmes for those with (for example) intellectual impairment mushrooming all over the place, which offer the university experience and qualifications?

    (For example: Clemson LIFE, Shepherds' College, and there's [at least] one in Canada too.)

    But, yes, these programmes do tend to have ableist rhetoric which is important to challenge, and which spoons would quickly run out.

    And the whole "better than everyone else" construct hurts people.

    There is at least one woman of my acquaintance who wants (wanted) to be a disability services director at her university, or somewhere else.

  5. That professor sounds like a cool guy.

    From what I remember of college, I just had the damndest time getting stuff done on time. But then, I tended to blame it all on myself.

    I guess I asked about accommodations that you needed because I've heard about disabled students being able to get accommodations and even though I'm pretty sure I have undiagnosed NLD, I'm not sure what kind of accommodations would have helped me. One thing would have been if all math teachers had taught like this one calculus teacher I had, because she actually wrote out all of the steps to problems, way more than math teachers usually write out. Which made it a lot easier for me to follow along because I didn't have to worry about doing the math partially in my head, which is very hard for me to do even when I'm not trying to absorb new material at the same time.

    But then, I don't think that's the kind of thing you can even ask for as an accommodation.

    Sorry, I totally went off topic and rambled in your blog again. This is really because I have nobody to talk about this kind of stuff. I hope you don't mind too much.

  6. Of course I don't mind.

    That article annoys me Adelaide but it might be the writing style, not the woman who's the subject. But like "she doesn't complain she adapts"? Well...maybe she would rather not have to adapt. And maybe some people can't adapt.

  7. Personally I think if you're trying to go to college with a disability you have the right to bitch every so often.

    I mean yeah, obviously complaining rather than dealing with your situation isn't the best way to go about things, but everyone needs to let out steam now and then. And if things most people consider basic are really hard for you, then yeah, you'd have more steam to let off than most.

    This is why 'positive thinking' rhetoric tends to annoy me.

  8. On: "She doesn't complain, she adapts..."

    "Well...maybe she would rather not have to adapt. And maybe some people can't adapt."

    Well said and very true.

    The people who can't adapt should have a chance at higher education too.

    Deal + complain = very good.

    I like the idea of having the problems written down. I find that for mathematics, science and technology subjects, there is a lot of writing, and a lot of language to go with the concepts.

    Being nearly human: smile or die [22nd July 2010]

    Spellwright Blake Charlton writes about accomodations in his medical school life


    It reminds me of my last job, where I tried to explain to her "hey, I can't work closing shifts one night and then an opening shift the next morning, and here's why *shows old paperwork*" and she basically told me that the paperwork was too old, that I needed something more recent and she couldn't give me such accommodations because of it.

    And I still (and probably always will) worry about getting accommodations for school because all of my diagnoses are old and I haven't had access to followup care for them. The only thing I have for them is this old paperwork that erases the fact that my condition is disabling (it even specifically says it's not) and old psychiatry records that I don't have access to anymore.


    I wish disability services and companies and schools would be more willing to work with people instead of paperwork. Isn't that what they're supposed to be doing? The paperwork comes from the people - but the people are the ones presenting it, the ones with needs, the ones with emotions and concerns and difficulties. Paperwork doesn't have that. So why focus on the paperwork instead of the person handing it to you and the reason why they're doing so?!

    *more flailing*

  10. YES. I was just talking to a professor about this last week. I don't have the emotional reserves to go to therapy right now, to get the letter stating that I don't have the emotional reserves to hand in my work on time sometimes. I can't engage a therapist just like sometimes I can't engage in class. I get anxious about the idea of therapy just like I get anxious in class. I'm willing to explain this to the disabilities people and, like my professor said, "I can tell this is true not only because you are saying it, but because I can see it looking at you," but they don't care if I don't have someone (else) with a degree certifying that I am, in fact, bone-crushingly sad.

    Where are the accommodations for getting the accommodations?

  11. another-constellation said...
    Where are the accommodations for getting the accommodations?

    On the moon I'm guessing.

  12. By the way, I'm the woman with TS and ASD from FWD! *waves*

    I feel that one of the main driving forces behind the need for "current" documentation for accommodations is the idea that, as disabled people, we should all be in constant contact with our physicians trying to cure or at least ameliorate our disabilities. If we're not then we can't really be THAT disabled, can we be? Besides, if we're not going to be doing our part to try and be more normative for their convenience then why should they extend accommodations to allow us to remain freaky outliers?

    Why should the university go out of their way to help us game the system for accommodations when we can't even try to be normal? (that's sarcasm, by the way)

    The other part of that, of course, is the idea that "real" disabled people can not be independent and non beholden to the medical industrial complex. We can be, especially when we know what we need to get through the day.


  13. Our school has similar rules. It's so frustrating! They also have a system where they schedule exams that will be written in their centre, and today, they scheduled an exam before the prof had finished the last lecture that was going to be on the exam. What I am supposed to do? Just use my intuition to answer those questions? Also, last year, when I wanted to go on a study abroad program, they told me I'd find it too hard and stressful, when I did not think it would be and neither my family or friends. I did go on the program, and had a great time!