DRC speaker’s bureau question

I had a very interesting question posed to me today.  If anyone is curious here are my thoughts…

Q: What would you like faculty and staff to know about receiving accommodations or about students with disabilities?

A: I am visually impaired and This may sound a bit obvious, but I have received this reaction from some faculty while I was here at UGA.  A student receiving accommodations is asking for these accommodations so s/he can do the same work as the rest of their peers.  Since I was born with a visual impairment, I never consider myself disabled, I just consider myself as someone doing the same work in a different way.  I had someone coin this as “alternate ability”, which I think works for me because if I have trouble accessing something (i.e. print disability), I usually just find another way around it (i.e. magnifiers, screenreader, etc.).  My “ can do” attitude does not fit this model for the stereotype and stigmas that are associated with individuals who happen to be disabled.   Whether it be extended time, alternative text, etc., the accommodations are designed to “level the playing field” for the student, allowing them to participate in or out of the classroom and be just as successful as their non-disabled peers.  For example, I have noticed that there are instances where people do not believe I am disabled because I “function” very well for someone with poor vision.  I’ve had faculty mentions to be that my vision is “much better than they thought” or they don’t “see anything wrong with me”, it is offensive and ignorant for several reasons.  First, not everyone with a disability is the same.  Vision, like many other disabilities, are a spectrum and no two people are alike. Furthermore, as I said above, students with disabilities are capable of doing the same work as their non-disabled peers.  And most importantly, it is not one’s place to determine the nature of a student’s disability.  The only person that should be able to diagnose and suggest accommodations based the nature of a student’s disability is a physician.  Disclosure is also a huge issue.  If a student discloses their disability to faculty or staff, this does not give faculty/staff the right to disclose to others.  That is the students right and it violates confidentiality.  It is not only a violation of confidentiality, but it can also make the disabled student feel extremely uncofmrortble.  If you have to talk to the student regarding disability-related matters, it should be done with the student privately.

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