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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Burden of Accommodations

As a college student with a disability, making sure you have the appropriate accommodations is one of the most important things there is. Lately I've been really thinking about this for several reasons. First off, this relates to my assistantship where I am assisting one of my faculty members with her online course by providing technical support. One of the students in the class has a disability and requires accommodations in the class. We, the professor and I, had suspected they might need accommodations because we had heard rumor of their disability. The professor had tried contacting this student a number of times to find out exactly what accommodations they might need. The student never responded. This particular student missed the first of four online conferences, I honestly don't know if it is because of his/her need for accommodation or other reasons, there were other mitigating circumstances for several students for this conference. However it is now the third week of the semester and he/she finally contacted the DSS office on campus to arrange accommodations for the class. The problem is that we are now scrambling to try and make this class accessible to them when if he/she had the forethought to contact the needed people before hand all this would've been done. I mention this partly out of frustration and partly because it is a sore spot with me.

Being a student with a disability myself I realized the importance of “having all your ducks in a row” before the semester begins. As a matter of fact I remember expressing to several of my professors how I was kicking myself and feeling guilty that I was getting such a late start on preparing for this semester by only contacting them and arranging my own combinations of couple days before the semester began instead of my usual week or two. I think one of the reasons, and a pretty major one at that, for my success at the postsecondary level is my self advocacy. One of the main changes between high school and college for a student with a disability is the level of self advocacy needed. You see in high school laws are there to protect students with disabilities so it is the teacher's responsibility to make sure they get all the combinations they need, it's not as simple as that but that's the gist of it. Whereas in college student first must disclose their disability before any accommodation arrangements can be made. The student also has to take the first step by contacting the DSS office every semester to receive accommodations for their classes.

As far as my own combinations go, today presented with a little glitch that I hope I worked out. The DSS office sent me e-mail today with questions regarding a course reader I given them to scan and provide electronic text for me. When I spoke with the professor about this e-mail he cleared up some of the confusion in the discussion he mentioned a change in the syllabus. Now ordinarily this would be a big deal, except that the DSS office uses the syllabus as he tried for when and which ordered to stand with readings from this reader. It occurred to me that the professors’ thought behind what the DSS office would do is they would just take the tire readers scan it be done with it. However having worked in a DSS office myself I know this is not a practical option, I am not the only student who is requesting materials to be scanned. So the office needs to prioritize and order what gets scanned when. Basically today I met with the counselor in charge of providing the electronic text and gave her the new syllabus timeline. However I'm sure I'll be needing to contact her again as the semester progresses to keep changing the order of things. I just hope they can get as much of the scanning done as soon as possible so the fluidity of the syllabus does not become too much of a burden.


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