This is a subject that needs to be discussed. Most think this is a problem for grade school or high school students. Well, it’s not. I am an adult learner with MS and severe RA. I was really concerned how I would handle the college life having these life altering diseases. I found that it was not a problem. My University often made special arrangements for me if I had a relapse with my MS or my RA made it difficult to move around. I still had to attend my on campus classes but if it was a really bad day, my professor always worked with me and would take the type to Skype or email me that days class information. I could take tests on another day if I needed to. I began to check out other colleges and universities as well and found that they too were meeting the needs of students with disabilities. They provided handicap parking, handicap entrances to the buildings, the classrooms could easily accommodate wheel chairs and the bathrooms as well had handicap accessibility. Most colleges and universities now offer distant learning programs for students whose disabilities are too severe to attend classes on campus. Distant learning gives the student a great deal of freedom and a sense of accomplishment knowing they do not have to give up their dream of an education because they were disabled.
During a recent graduation I witnessed what I considered an amazing woman. This woman was completely paralyzed from the neck down and was in a wheelchair. The best way to describe her is she looked exactly like Stephen Hawkins only in the female form. She was graduating with her MASTER’S DEGREE! She was unable to write or use her hands. She did all of her work from a computer with a tool she used in her mouth. The kicker was, she also graduated with HIGH HONORS! WOW I was astonished. The university had completely revamped its program to assist this woman in achieving her ultimate dream. I must be honest and say that it forced me to take inventory of myself. I am still able to walk and talk and write without much difficulty. I can also type on my computer without having to use a tool. It put it into perspective for me and now when I am having a “feel sorry for me day,” I reflect back on this amazing woman.
Universities have come a long way in working with disabled students. They can always improve and I believe that with the American Disabilities Act, they are making changes when necessary. Universities also offer tutoring for students that struggle in a particular are. Like mine is MATH (it’s like a foreign language to me). When I need it, I contact the school and they set up tutoring for me with either another student or professor. Many schools offer study groups which in my opinion is critical for us that need help.
HOWEVER, in discussing all of this, I have to add that it is the students responsibility to advocate for themselves. If your needs are not being met, go through the process of getting what you need. You cannot expect people to feel sorry for you and read your mind. DON’T USE YOUR DISABILITY AS A CRUTCH OR AN EXCUSE, it’s a disability not a life stopper. Take control of your education and the colleges and universities will work with you.
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