I feel like with admissions, there are certain requirements for how many people in each demographic the school has to accept, but they don’t have similar requirements for the accommodations that are made for those students after they are accepted. It’s almost like a false promise in some ways. If you’re going to accept this many students with a disability into your school, you need to be able to accommodate them.
I wish could say I had a better freshman experience than I did. I was living in on-campus housing and was taking more credits than I should have. At first, I could handle the challenge. Then my anxiety started to creep in. I would have depressive episodes that lasted for days, skipping classes, sleeping in, not being able to eat. It was terrible! My grades and my mental health suffered greatly.
I originally didn’t know that there were accommodations for people with mental illness until my friend at BYU-I suggested it, because she got some for ADHD. I made an appointment, but it took me weeks to get in. By the time I got in my mental health was a wreck. I came in crying and hyperventilating with doctors’ notes and he still tried to push me into having less accommodations. I was at a breaking point, and I finally got the accommodations that I so desperately needed.
This meeting I asked if I could receive any testing accommodations as I had recently had a panic attack in the Testing Center. This meeting was not as productive. When attendance was brought up again she said something to the effect of "I don't know exactly how this works but from what I can understand you can get yourself up if you try so keep trying" in response to continuing my attendance accommodations.
My main complaint is with BYU Parking. It took me over a year to figure out BYU's policy on where students with disabilities can park, because only until about a year ago was the information clearly displayed on the website. For over a year, I was never sure where I could park, even though I have a handicapped placard. Now I know that I can park in any parking lot, in any slot (excluding those reserved for service vehicles, deans, or specific placard numbers) as long as I have my placard up.
I assumed that they were just processing the paperwork, but when I reached out to them several more times, they admitted that they had just forgotten about me. And all that time I had gone without services. Since my hearing loss is only moderate, I was still perfectly able to be successful in my classes, but it was such a great help when I was able to start having transcribers join me in my classes.
I wish that there was a place I could go on campus. There's nowhere to go to say I think I've been treated unfairly with my landlords. Because they haven’t technically kicked me out or said I cannot have a service dog, I can’t raise my concerns because they have the upper-hand. I also don't want to raise my concerns because I do not want to be evicted from my apartment on account of whatever they say I did wrong. At the same time, I feel this strong sense of injustice.
When I became disabled, I felt I became worthless to both BYU and church. I have contributed so much to both. Feeling forgotten and cast aside has been the foundation of my faith crisis.
I was refused accommodations when I became wheelchair bound. Which, I know is absolutely illegal, but it’s hard to know which fights to choose.
There is virtually no training for faculty members about accommodations and accessibility. Many of my good experiences with professors involved me doing that training myself and them being willing to learn from what I was saying. Many of my worst experiences with professors involved me being accused of asking for special treatment and denied accommodations. At the time I didn’t know enough about my rights to identify this for the discrimination that it was, and even if I had the power dynamic in confronting a faculty member for that is impossible to grapple with.
I only had one professor that pushed back when I asked for help. But I wish that all of my professors would have recognized that my truancy and incomplete assignments were a red flag and reached out to me. But the University Accessibility Center did their job. I do wish they had followed up with me.
I asked them, “What can I do from here?” They said, there wasn’t anything I could do. As getting copies and doctors notes are a long process, I asked them if I could get them and bring them back later in the semester. They replied that it would probably be too late by then. They only let me to talk with a secretary while all this was happening, I never got referred to anyone else. As a freshman, I didn’t know what to do or how to advocate for myself, and so I just took their authority to be correct.
Accessibility allows us to be more inclusive because it helps people who have a disability feel like they can participate like everyone without being singled out.
The most difficult part about this journey is feeling accepted by others. I once heard a professor in my major say, "I don't even get why students need these accommodations. Back in my day we just sucked it up." That really made me feel small and I just kinda brushed it off. I have also had professors look at me like I'm lying or making up my sickness - whether that be emotional or physical.
I did notice that my map of the campus became very different and I became accustomed to remembering where the elevators were instead of stairs. Whenever an elevator would be broken I would have to go out of my way to find another one that would get me to my destination
I believe I was very lucky that I was extra motivated at the start of the semester so I got ahead of all my classes so when I needed to take 2+ weeks off to recover from surgery instead of having to withdraw from classes
Most people don’t know I have this hidden disability, and though I make it work, plenty of things slip through the cracks and can be really hard to recover from… I feel like I am unable to take care of my mental health needs without seriously harming my academic record, and as a student fully supporting myself financially, scholarships are pretty important. I wish there were better ways to communicate such things with teachers, that don’t take months to years of medical documentation and jumping through hoops.