While at BYU, I had two temporary disabilities. I tore my labrum and had a sling for a few months, and I tore my ACL and was on crutches/ in a brace for several months. Between these two experiences, I learned a lot about disabilities.
Initially, I thought that a torn labrum and sling would not impact my academic experience much. However, I struggled extensively in classes to take notes, reach desks, and fit my bulky sling behind the row of students in front of me (in a way that I could still reach my notes or laptop). It was a constant struggle to position myself in a way that I could take notes, avoid dropping things, and not bump into the students desks in front of me. There really was not adequate space for me to get between desks and fit myself into desks in a sling and this experience would be further aggravated (I imagine) by a boot, cast, or wheelchair.
Furthermore, at BYU, students with temporary disabilities do not qualify for most accommodations, particularly accommodations in the testing center. A friend of mine broke both of his feet and had to take tests in the testing center at a normal testing center desk because he was told he could not get testing center accommodations for a temporary disability. He needed help to get to the testing center room, desks had to be moved, and he had to squish his broken feet behind the rows of desk in front of him to take exams. With my torn labrum, I had to take tests with my non-dominant hand because I couldn't reach the desks in the testing center with my brace and did not qualify for accommodations.
After tearing my ACL, getting around campus was a nightmare. Crutches on campus in the winter were difficult, and I found the ice on the way to campus a significant safety hazard (I didn't mention that I initially partially tore my labrum slipping on ice on the way to campus - though later completely tore it in a BYU intramural game). Additionally, I noticed while on crutches how difficult it can be to find elevators, locate ramps, and how much further students with disabilities have to travel to access accessible entrances, elevators, etc. This is not only difficult when moving slower than traffic (and exhausted from extra effort required to move), but is socially awkward when you suddenly have to break away from a group to find an accessible entrance.
BYU also does not have enough handicapped parking. When I had a torn ACL and when my friend was in a wheelchair, we learned that we had to be at campus bright and early if we wanted to get a handicapped spot. There simply are not enough spots to accommodate the students that need them. While a handicapped pass at BYU qualifies students to park in any parking spot, parking on the far end of a parking lot is completely disheartening when you know you have 8 minutes to make it to class, and a whole lot of ice and snow to crutch over.
My professors at BYU were all incredibly helpful during my experiences, particularly when I had to have surgeries. Most professors were willing to give me extended time on projects, papers, and even tests. That being said, I kept my professors in the loop about my medical situations and this is not something that all students think to do. For students who struggle with this kind of thing (on top of the added struggle of an injury), a professor unwilling to extend a deadline when the student forgot to ask before surgery amidst stress might be the final straw that causes unnecessary struggles for the student.
I would recommend:
1. More handicapped parking spots
2. An effort to remove ice in areas surrounding campus, particularly in residential areas surrounding BYU
3. A "temporary disability" accommodation policy
4. A policy requiring some leniency for students who have surgery or other injuries during the semester.
While unrelated to my thoughts above, I also believe that accommodations for pregnant women and mothers at BYU could be greatly improved. For a school that supports family, there are far too many professors who have no sympathy for pregnant mothers. I had professors tell my close friends long-winded stories about their wives pregnancies and how, as a result, said friends should have no problem completing assignments despite pregnancies. This ignores 1) the male professors ignorance for the female experience of pregnancy. and 2) The fact that not all pregnancies are the same. On the other hand, some professors are incredibly understanding of pregnancy, but the rules in regards to pregnancy could be better developed to ensure understanding across the board.