I’m a disabled person, and I also work at the Disability Services Office at a college.
Not very long ago, a professor rushed into our office flustered and angry because
1. She had a blind student in her class.
2. She asked us how we planned to communicate graded papers to her student, since her habit was to write corrections on printed papers.
3. To which we replied, “Just send her an email instead of writing your corrections on the printed paper.”
How DARE we burden HER with so much extra work? More about how busy she is. More about how that gives an “unfair advantage”. (???) More on how could we possibly expect her to make such a drastic accommodation, which wasn’t fair to her or her other students.
How many emails do you think you send to your sighted students every semester? Dozens? Hundreds? How many classes of 25+ students do your teach every semester? How do you communicate with them?
This problem was entirely created in this professor’s mind by her own assumption that anything a disabled student could need was unacceptable, and a waste of her time.She returned to our office to complain several times over this.
She threw an actual tantrum over something she did for her non-disabled students every single day without even considering it.
Because “everyone knows” disabled people, whatever we might need, that need is too much. It’s a burden on abled people. It’s “unfair to everyone else (read: non-disabled people).
Many disability activists say things along the lines of “our needs aren’t more, just different”. Well, I have to say that even when are needs are the same, they’re still, apparently “too much”.
Year and a half ago I had a class with this professor I’ll call Dr. Smith. The student who sat next to me, who I’ll call Abby, used a wheelchair. (Not entirely a coincidence - I always sit in the front row so I can hear the professor and she had to sit in the front row because the room had auditorium seating.)
The two of us came to be pretty friendly with each other and I got to hear all the horror stories she had about Dr. Smith refusing her accommodations. Things like, on exam day she passed out papers to everyone including Abby. The rest of us start writing, Abby calls Dr. Smith over and reminds her that she can’t use a pencil, she has to take exams on the computer.
First Dr. Smith was like, “You have to tell me these things ahead of time.” After Abby reminded her that the disabilities office had emailed her before the class started and Abby confirmed her receipt of the email on the first day of class, the professor switched to, “You have to remind of these things the day before.” Abby said the professor should have told her that on the first day when they were discussing Abby’s needs. Then Dr. Smith was like, “Anyway it’s not on the computer now, I’ll put it on there later today and you can take it at home tomorrow.”
So everything’s worked out all hunky-dory. Except we get our exams back and Abby’s been docked late points. So the disabilities office gets involved. And Dr. Smith’s excuse changes, now they’re not late points, now she retroactively graded it harder because Abby wasn’t supervised and might have used her textbook. This disabilities office was like, “We told you we proctor computer exams here, there was no reason to have Abby take it at home.” The professor says, Abby agreed! Abby says, I wasn’t given any other options!
Last I heard from Abby she was dropping out one class shy of her bachelor’s because complications due to ableism meant she couldn’t afford tuition.
Next semester I have another class with Dr. Smith. Next semester is also the first semester I’ll have officially registered with the disabilities office and utilizing official accommodations. Depression and anxiety are illnesses people are often accused of faking, that I’ve been accused of “psyching myself out”. And I have trouble getting accommodations for my Autism because I fake being allistic so well people can’t see how hard it is for me to do that.
So my invisible disabilities and I are definitively looking forward to cooperation from the professor who refused accommodations to the student in the wheelchair. </sarcasm>
wow. That is a fucking disgrace.
Also: this is really important to demonstrate that people with visible and/or physical disabilities do not “have it easier” and it’s NOT a case of “everyone just understands”.
There’s a woman at my college who uses a wheelchair, and she’s had to campaign pretty vocally about having the buttons that open the flipping DOORS working properly! (I spoke with her on a disabled women’s history month panel and I admire her style).
This makes me so angry.
LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY ASSHOLE SPANISH TEACHER.
I can’t remember exactly how it started, I think it was that he wouldn’t let me make up a test I’d missed since I was out sick. I went to my counselor and asked her for advice, and it turned out she had to email him because not accommodating someone with a 504 plan is, yanno, breaking the law.
Anyhoo, I notice a few weeks later that three homework assignments I did (late) aren’t in the online gradebook thingie. I love the online gradebook thingie. So I wait, because maybe he’s just busy. After about a week, one of them finally goes in, and my grade goes from a D to a C. Hooray! Except for the part where I’m trying to maintain a 3.8 GPA. So he doesn’t put the other two assignments in, even after I email him. I talked to him in class, and it turned out he hadn’t even looked at the email. I figured okay, I’ll give him a little while now that he’s looked at the email to grade the other two assignments. He doesn’t do it, so I go to my counselor and she emails him. The next day, she pulls me out of my sixth period class and says that he emailed back all but saying he wasn’t grading those because he wanted to punish me for not going to class. So then she had to get the principal involved. Turns out my Spanish teacher never actually read my 504 plan in the first place. The 504 plan, mind you, that specifically states I can turn in work late because I am sick all the time, not just the days I stay home from school. So finally, he puts in one of the assignments, an essay. But he still hasn’t put in the other one, which was some routine homework that we’re supposed to turn in online. I was really sick the weekend it was due, so I turned it in late. But finally my counselor gets him to put it in, and my grade goes up to a C+ because I’m totally failing a lot of the tests since he doesn’t tell us when they are until the day before and I’m quite frequently gone then. But hey, I have a presentation to do and some new homework, it should go up to a B- by the end of the semester!
Then he marks the presentation as missing. I’m back to a C-.
Oh, the tales I could tell you about my experience with ableist teachers and professors. I think high school was the worst because even some of my favorite teachers learning-wise were still really stinking shitty with handling me being disabled. There was one teacher who kicked me out of a class because he couldn’t handle me being sick. Another teacher was so jumpy around me, I nicknamed him “twitch” because every time I so much as reached for my water he’d jump and demand if I was okay. Another teacher told me I needed to see a psychologist. Quite a few of them told me I was up to date with homework and tests only to tell me two weeks before the final grades were inputed that I was missing half my assignments and if I didn’t turn them in, I’d fail the class. I was literally told I didn’t even have go to school for three classes and I’d still graduate, only to be told a week before finals that I needed to drop two classes because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to pass. No one ever told me when I was falling behind or warned me that I was in danger of failing the class, even when they were assuring me I was keeping up with the class and my grades were all above a B-.
A friend and I were both (in totally different schools, but at about the same age) kicked out of class by teachers who accused us of being on drugs, with no basis whatsoever (and we weren’t on drugs, and had never done drugs). Mostly because we were autistic and doing weird things — in my case when he kept changing the schedule on me I backed up against the wall and had a full-blown panic attack and then couldn’t do the test that he’d promised would be on a different day. He publicly accused me of drug abuse, then privately told me I was ‘too immature’ to be there, and threw me out of his class. His treatment of me did nothing to help my bullying by other students at that school.
And don’t get me started on the environmental studies professor at community college who didn’t want to accommodate me on anything. Not my trouble with fluorescent lights (which she had a personal beef with because fluorescent lights were more energy-friendly). Not my inability to understand a damn thing during group work because a class of over a hundred people were all talking at once and I couldn’t hear, so I kept either interrupting people or talking over them or not talking at all and couldn’t hear what anyone said and therefore didn’t get along with anyone in my group at all no matter who was in it. It took a protracted argument with my disability counselor to get her to allow me to do group work in a separate room. And group work still wasn’t easy, but at least I could hear what people were saying.
Then there was when I tried to go to university — a completely failed experiment overall. But the disability office wouldn’t help me at all because they told us at the outset that only people with cognitive disabilities that had to do with basic stuff that required note-takers and stuff were to be accommodated. If our cognitive disabilities involved self-care, organizational skills, or anything else at all, we weren’t accommodated because “you’re adults now and have to learn that stuff on your own”. This included a woman with schizophrenia whose only accommodation was that she needed someone around to ask whether voices she heard in class were real or not. I had severe problems with organization and self-care and was repeatedly told I didn’t belong on a university campus. (Which turned out to be true, but not for those reasons.) The autism center on campus was a complete joke. They’d help with social skills problems but they didn’t give a crap that I was starving and couldn’t take care of myself on even a minimal level. They also didn’t understand sensory issues and believed that meltdowns are manipulative behavior to get out of having to do things. I found that out later in a book written by the “expert” who ran the center. That was my first direct experience where I learned that autism “experts” don’t necessarily know shit about really basic things about the autistic experience. It scares me that people look up to them for information about autism and disregard what autistic people say about ourselves because we’re not educated enough.
I’m thankful that I haven’t had any problems nearly so bad as some of the people above me, but of the three semesters I’ve been at college, I’ve had to drop a total of four classes. Two of those were because I over-loaded myself and went through some really bad emotional shit and just couldn’t handle my physical and mental health and a 15 credit work load. Two of those, however, were because I had teachers that refused to work with me. I had a math teacher who pretty much told me I was on my own for the class. I had missed a few classes and went to after hours to ask him to explain a few concepts that I was not getting (as evidence by failing a quiz on my part). He point blank told me he wasn’t there to reteach the entire class periods to me and that he wasn’t going to make exceptions for me. The other teacher was one who told me I couldn’t make up in class quizzes because they were in a clicker format (you get a few seconds to click the button of the correct answer). I was going to fail her class, when I got an A on the midterm, because she wouldn’t let me make them up WHICH IS A PART OF MY ACCOMMODATIONS.
Over-all my college’s ODS is really quite good though, or at least they are from my experience. It’s just teachers that suck.
I keep reblogging and boosting these stories because everyone has them. And that’s when you start to see the big picture, which is systematic discrimination in the form in individuals creating barriers, shaming those who dare to ask for help, and just plain not helping.