Statements were collected through many channels including in-person interviews, audio recordings, e-mail, and social media. This is a living document and new statements will be uploaded as we receive them. On social media, students were urged to contact the Commission if they identified as disabled, temporarily disabled, invisibly disabled, had disabled family members, a chronic illness, a mental illness, or were connected with disability in any way. When students or alumni reached out to the Commission, they were asked to speak about their experience at BYU and if they had any solutions they felt would benefit BYU. Participants were advised to avoid demeaning the university. Other disabled students were contacted on campus by commissioners. With the student’s consent, they would either email their statement to the Commission or participate in an in-person interview. Interviews were recorded and commissioners transcribed each recorded statement before emailing the transcription to the students for clarification. All participants were informed that their statements would be published. They were given the choice to remain anonymous or to have their name published with their statement. All statements consist of current BYU students and alumni. These statements are alphabetized by first name for an unbiased organization.
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The push buttons to open automatic doors are broken about half of the time, which is really annoying especially when they’re for heavy doors. I think they break quickly because students just use them a lot even when they don’t need to.
The absolute worst time to be handicapped on campus is during the winter!! I can’t count the amount of times I’ve slipped and fallen on ice while walking to class. In addition, I often slip when I walk into buildings where there’s no mat or anything and the floors get wet from students walking around with wet shoes. Sometimes on especially snowy days, I can’t get to campus at all and I’m forced to miss class.”
Lastly- the LSB bathroom doors are so heavy it’s insane. Not sure why that’s even a thing!!”
I did not get connected with the UAC till after my mission. Most of the time I was at BYU, I did not know about the accessibility center. After my mission I had hip surgery. I went to accessibility center because I knew I needed help. I could not get across campus, was on crutches, and in severe pain. They said there was nothing they could do for me. I asked if they had anything, a golf cart maybe, to help me, because I had seen that BYU had many golf carts, and they just used them to bring people around for tours. I had also heard of many other universities that provided this service to their students. My surgeon told me most campuses have a system that they give students rides if they need them. I was shocked. BYU did not help me and I was forced to go on foot. My experience with the UAC has shown me they do not give any help at all to people with mobility issues.
I also have mental health issues. I struggle with reading and they don't have a lot of options for that either. I went in because I saw on their website that they had programs that could help me immensely. I went in to ask about them and they said I could only use them in the office and I needed to schedule a time with them everytime I needed to read. It was really impractical for what I needed. I would be at home, and if I had an emergency, I couldn't get to campus because of my mobility issues and I would have to get a ride. They have been largely unhelpful.
They are super willing to provide extra time on assignments, but I feel like that's their one “specialty” and everything else they say, “Yeah, we don’t do that.”
It's not something that affects just me. My fiance had to pull a lot of the weight, trying to help me get assignments done when I wasn't able to read, and making sure I don't fall on my way to class by walking with me. This disrupts what he needs to do and takes a lot of time out of his schedule.He is a full time student and he works and doesn't have time to walk with me to all my classes and then walk to his classes too. The fact that I have been ignored effects everyone who loves me. It's not just effecting everyone who is disabled, it is effecting everyone who loves them!
My professors have been very helpful. I had to withdraw from a lot of my classes and they've been really kind and saying that I just can't get it done when I need to and come talk to me and we'll work through it. It's going to work out. The professors have been more helpful than the UAC. Looking back on my time, i would definitely put my professors way up there and the UAC lower. I am so grateful. They want me to succeed. I am not just a number in the system. The UAC is helpful for seeing you as a human for some of your needs, not all of your needs. For example, if you have depression and anxiety, they see you as a person. But if you have any other problem, they say, oh we can’t help with that, we can't see that, and they cover their eyes. For instance, when I went into the UAC when I was 5 wks post op, it was not even far enough into recovering that I should have even been walking that much. They just brushed it off and said “that's too bad.” I had all of the paperwork that I was told to bring. I had my surgeon's notes, that had specific info detailing what the university should provide for me. I also had medical documentation of what had happened. They just held onto it, and didn't give it back. But also didn't give me accommodations. They took the records and didn't help me. They gave me other accommodations down the line for my mental health, and it felt like they were giving me accommodations that they wanted to, to make up for what they ignored.
I have so many comments and I’m sure you probably understand a lot of this cause you’re in a wheelchair. I used to be in a wheelchair. People think that a flat surface means its accessible. But the thing is that they don’t consider the fact that a lot of people with mobility issues can’t walk as far or they can’t walk uphill. I struggle a lot with balance and I’m not supposed to take slopes so it’s super tricky. And the distance between buildings in enormous and I feel like a lot of the time the more accessible paths are longer than the non-accessible paths. Sometimes I don’t know how I’m going to get to my next class. Even the doors, the accessible door is always the farthest one from me. The handicap button is twenty feet away and I have to go over there so I can get through that door. Sometimes I’ll be with my fiance and he doesn’t want me to fall cause I have before. I’ll have to just stop and lean against him cause I’m so exhausted and in pain that I can’t keep going. It’s ridiculous. I’ve fallen quite a few times. Part of it is because they don’t clear the ice. That’s another thing. When you’re on crutches, the rubber doesn’t do super well on ice. I ended up getting cleats for the bottom of my crutches cause I was so scared to walk anywhere. It’ll be snowing outside and I’ll go inside and the surface is super slippery. I’ve fallen in the Wilk and on the walkway next to the library, in between there and the JFSB. It’s rough because I’m not supposed to fall. I just had bone surgery. My bones are super brittle right now and if I fall they are a lot more likely to break than most people’s cause they’re healing. And I have muscles that are healing. Falling right after surgery is really bad, not to mention that you can’t get up by yourself sometimes. I’ve fallen quite a few times because the doors are really heavy. When I was in a wheelchair, I had so many cuts and stuff all over my hands cause I would always get my hands smashed in the door.
People will walk through the doors and not see you behind them and the doors will smash into me. I don’t have good balance and I don’t weight a lot and I just fall. The people just keep walking. They don’t know that anything happened. The buttons are usually too slow and some of them don’t work. Some work for the first door and then the second door won’t open. With the buildings I’m using, they’re just too slow so I’m just standing there and there’s a line of people behind me. I’m not strong enough to push the door open myself so I can’t help it. Either that or there isn’t a button and there aren’t any ramps or its a building where there are just stairs. I’ll have to go up the stairs and push open the door. Sometimes they are so heavy that I can’t do it myself. I’ll just have to wait for someone else to help push the door open and it’s really awkward. There are a lot of problems with doors. The bathrooms are the heaviest doors. I’ll try to use the bathroom on the second floor of the SWKT and I can hardly get it open. I’ll push it enough for me to squeeze inside and then I’ll just sit down and breathe cause I’m so tired from pushing the door open. I have to do the same thing when I leave and that’s harder because you have to pull it. When you’re pushing you can push it and then shimmy inside, but if you have to pull it, you have to find a way to maneuver your body around. Things that I notice with bathrooms is they’ll have a handicap stall, but sometimes they have the doors open in such a way that you can’t actually get inside. It’s big enough for you if you just had the wheelchair and it was a permanent residence, but getting in and out is ridiculous. It’s also like that on crutches. There are some bathroom stalls that I can’t even get in on crutches. It’s ridiculous. Even if there is a stall I can get into, there’s only one and there is always someone in it who has no issues. I have to stand there and wait for like 10 minutes when it’s hard for me to stand. Sometimes I’m so exhausted that I can’t get to a bathroom. They’re not clearly marked and when you’re dealing with a lot of pain and fatigue and you don’t know where the bathroom is, you’re not going to go around the entire building looking for it, for one you can actually use. Because then you just made things worse for yourself cause you’re in more pain and more exhausted. I would really appreciate it if they had maps of where accessible bathrooms were on campus cause there have been times that I’ve held it for 3 hours cause it’s easier than finding a bathroom. That and BYU doesn’t have any accessible housing. That just came to me because I was thinking about stairs. I was thinking about it because to get to the Wilk from the JSB, I can either go towards the stairs or I can go around all the buildings and take the ramp and it’s like twice as far. My apartment has 3 flights of stairs to get to the top so I have my fiancé help me get up and down every day. As far as I’m aware, the only accessible housing is Heritage. I don’t like it when elevator doors close on me. That happens a lot. There are some elevators on campus that every time I’m not fast enough. I think it’s the JFSB where one of the elevators always closes on me. I think sometimes it because someone is inside and they close it, but other times it is just fast. They’re fine if you walk in quickly at a normal pace, but if you walk in slow because of problems with your hips, they close on you.
They have like 2 parking stalls for people on campus. I have a handicap parking pass, but I there aren’t any handicap parking spots. There are a few that are assigned, but I don’t have one of them. I’m stuck with whatever is left if there is one left, which oftentimes there isn’t. My fiance will have to park in various different locations in order to work with his parking pass and then I have to walk to wherever it is. A lot of the parking that we can park in is really far away from any of the buildings that I need to be at. No matter where it is and no matter how close to campus it is, I still need to walk 20 more minutes than I should be walking just to get to a building. They have those security gates, so he can go past them to drop me off closer. The security people always say: “You’re not supposed to go past there.” They don’t even consider the fact that some people need to walk less or can’t walk as far. Some of them are nice and some are kind of snide. Even with the handicap pass, they still stop us. Usually, he’ll drop me off at the JFSB and then he has to go park somewhere else. I feel like sometimes they pit people against each other to see who is the most disabled to get the parking spots. I don’t like that. Every time I’m in a group of people who start to get almost boastful about how their disability is worse and so they deserve more. Anytime you have that happening, you’re removing some of the BYU aims to create a spiritual environment where people are serving each other because you are making people focus on themselves more and it’s problematic. I felt that way when I didn’t get a parking spot on campus. It shouldn’t be that only some people get parking passes. Different people have different needs at different times. You can’t quantify who needs it the most. 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’m sure a lot of people find out about their disabilities after they come to school. It was like that for me. That needs to be accounted for too. I’m thankful for BYU, but it’s been really rough as my disability needs have gotten worse. I don’t get help except from people who aren’t with the university. It’s sad. Have you ever heard of the wilderness trek class? I was TAs for the class with a friend of mine who has similar health problems. The instructor for that course was pretty irresponsible. He’s not connected to the accessibility center, but he is connected to the university. He had us doing all kinds of things that we shouldn’t have been doing for our health stipulations, like lifting heavy things, carrying heavy things long distances, walking long distances in the dark, trying to jump over things, all sorts of crazy things that we didn’t necessarily agree to. We actually went to the department over him, probably about a year or two ago. I think he’s probably the only professor that I’ve had that has been crazy, a health hazard.
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 noticed a shift in my roommate's attitudes towards me around this same time. I couldn't handle the mess our apartment was in and was tired of cleaning up after them. I took my kitchen utilities back into my bedroom so they would stay clean. I tried to take control of everything that I could, because I felt like my life was so out of control.
My roommates lashed out at me for "not serving them" and "taking everything so personally". They told me I was psycho and crazy and that they didn't respect me. They were upset that I wore earplugs to bed because my anxiety kept me awake and any small noise would disturb my sleep. They bullied me, and I couldn't escape it. I reached out to our RA to see if she could move me to another room after I had done everything to be nice to them and try to mend our friendships that took a terrible turn for reasons unknown.
My RA recommended a Roommate Mediation which did NOT work. My RA basically told me to suck it up, stop taking things so personally, and try not to assume that my roommates are thinking poorly of me. I was treated like the problem. My RA neglected to refer me to CAPS or help in any other way. She was terribly unqualified to mediate the situation. I was blamed for being bullied. I moved home with my parents shortly after, almost a week before finals even started.
My parents finally accepted that I was dealing with something much more than just freshman adjustment. We discussed going to therapy but I pushed back. It took a year and a half for me to realize that this was something that would continue to be a problem unless I saw someone. I filled out paperwork to meet with a counselor at CAPS, only to discover that there would be over a month's wait to be seen. I couldn't wait that long. I literally felt like I wouldn't survive for that long if I didn't get immediate help.
I went to the Student Health Center and was prescribed an antidepressant that changed my life. I still haven't been able to get into CAPS, and probably never will. I still have hard days, and sometimes wish I had more resources to help me. The long process of applying for accommodations from the UAC is extremely intimidating for someone suffering from similar things as I am. I wish that BYU would be more accessible, vocal, and transparent about those accommodations, host exclusive therapy groups, offer mental health classes, better train RA's to recognize the signs of mental illness and not to victimize those who are suffering, but really get them help before it's too late.
“My experience as a disabled student at BYU was not one I was anticipating. I started BYU as a very excited, driven, all honors classes freshman in fall 2011. That semester was hard, but I survived. A couple days into Winter Semester 2012, January 7 to be exact, I woke up with a bad migraine. I took some Advil and went back to sleep—fully expecting the migraine to be gone when I woke up. Except that it wasn’t.
I still have that pain more than seven years later. It’s called migraine disease. Since January 7, I have had a 24/7 headache that often is at the migraine level pain.
Despite my disease, I wanted and needed to finish school. My goal since I was very young was to attend BYU, and that is what I was going to do.
Until my last two semesters at BYU, I never took a complete class load. I was always half or ¾ time … but generally half time. I went home from school the semester I first got my migraines and before, during and after my mission (I was only able to serve four months because of my disease). Other than that, I took classes all semesters and terms. Including my breaks, it took me seven years to graduate.
Mostly because of how long it took to graduate and a bit because of the LDS culture/dating experiences I had while at BYU, I honestly have a bit of mini PTSD surrounding Provo/BYU/campus/etc. I hate going back. I moved to Sugar House right before graduation and lived there for six months. I LOVED it. Unfortunately, I had to move back to Provo for a job. It was so difficult living back in a place I felt so trapped. I always felt like I would never graduate because of everything that was against me. I mean, my body was against me graduating.
I never felt that I fit in because of my migraine disease. And the hoops I had to jump through to finally graduate separated me further from the general student body. I knew that many other students were struggling with family things, money, faith issues, dating, school stuff, jobs, depression and anxiety, etc. Just like me. But I didn’t know of any of them that had 24/7 physical pain in addition to those problems.
That first semester with the disease, the only option I (or my parents) could think of was dropping my classes. Thankfully it was before the add/drop deadline. I was in so much pain. I didn’t know about the disability office at that time. I don’t think my professors that I reached out to mentioned the office to me either. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve dropped a few classes and gone to the disability office. But I was a clueless freshman. I didn’t know about my options. Dropping classes and going home should never be the first resort.
I honestly don’t remember when I first discovered the disability office. I’m willing to bet my mom discovered it online or by calling people. She’s the best nurse I’ve ever had. She’s my angel. I’ve had a great experience with the accessibility office (I think that’s what it’s called … maybe it used to be called the disability office?). I like that they have online forms now. I don’t like the location of the office, however. I hated walking through the smelly, crowded CougarEat down a “secret” corridor to go to the office. It further alienates you. It’s like BYU is ashamed of you. Maybe they’re trying to make things private for the same reasons as the location of the counseling center? But it’s hard to keep a disability private … even an invisible one. I’m not “proud” of my disability but I’m certainly not ashamed of it. Or wanting to hide it.
A lot of my problems with my disability really began once I started getting into smaller classes—when I couldn’t hide. Thankfully, with bigger (and sometimes easier) classes I skipped class occasionally and no one needed to know. That’s when attendance didn’t affect your grade. When it did, sometimes I would email the professor and told them I had a migraine and sometimes I wouldn’t. Occasionally there would be semesters that were so bad health-wise that after a while, it just got so embarrassing to email to professor that I just stopped. I felt so ashamed. And then even when I did feel good, sometimes I couldn’t get myself to go because it had been so long since I’d been to class. I was ashamed and embarrassed and afraid. My accommodations letter stated that the professor needed to be lenient with absences and that the student and teacher needed to decide on a specific number of absences that would be appropriate. However, when you have a disease that makes you so sick you are bound to your bed for hours, and sometimes days, you just can’t pre-determine how many days that semester, for that specific class you’re going to be healthy. That’s just not how it works. I can’t tell you how many classes I accepted a less than perfect grade in because of this policy. I’m not bitter about it, but there should be a way for disabled students to attend good schools like BYU and have the option of getting good grades. I didn’t have that option.
This story still irks me. I was in the prerequisite class for the public relations major. I believe it was Fall 2014 with Professor Ogden. Each day there was a quiz at the beginning of the class. I believe his policy was that he dropped everyone’s lowest two quizzes. I talked to him at the beginning of the semester about my accommodation letter and explained that I very well might be missing more than two classes (and therefore two quizzes). He told me that he wouldn’t let me make any of the quizzes up that I missed in order to make things fair for the other students (????). I knew I would never be able to get a good enough grade in his class to get into the PR program so I withdrew and took the class later on. I secretly roll my eyes whenever I see Ogden. Still bitter.
Speaking of withdrawing from classes, I have SO MANY W’s. I could never get into grad school even if I want to (I currently DO NOT WANT TO, let’s be clear), but I don’t have that option. My GPA is also a hindrance. It does make me sad. I know without my disease and with better accommodations and understanding, my GPA would have been so much better. It’s disappointing.
The same thing that happened in Ogden’s class happened in another class once I was in the major. Because I was in the major at that point and had to take that class that semester (the way the PR program is set up is so tricky), I couldn’t withdraw. I was in unbelief again. I just don’t understand how the accommodations paper can literally say one thing, and the professor can say “no.” I knew enough about my accommodations and the office at this point that I could’ve had them contact this professor and fix things, but I knew this professor from my on-campus job (and worked with him daily) and didn’t want to make things possibly hellish at work for me. So I decided to suck it up and get a B grade when I could’ve gotten an A. Lots of those stories.
Another story. I was in a class (that I actually really liked … a lot of classes (especially generals) were especially hard to take when you’re interested in the subject school is already difficult. Anyways.) during a semester that was bad health-wise. I did the work and readings but didn’t attend as much class as I could. Towards the end of the semester I was getting behind and asked the professor if I could do an Incomplete. He looked into the nitty gritty details of an incomplete and apparently, I did not qualify because I had not attended class for the amount of time I needed to to qualify for an incomplete. Previous professors have granted me incompletes in these situations but he would not. I ended up getting an E in that class. It was disappointing. Some professors are willing to do things, and lots aren’t. It’s professor-roulette, really. Hard to deal with when you’re sick and begging for some empathy.
Despite those stories and more … I have had some AMAZING professors who truly went above and beyond for me. They deserve a very, very big shout out. They know who they are. I have also had some wonderful, wonderful on-campus bosses who have allowed me to work which has been a huge, huge blessing. At the end of the day, I feel like the actual accommodations need adjustment, there needs to be more communication AND training between the accommodations office and professors and I would love to see students with disabilities—especially invisible ones—given more of a voice.”
First of all I am so glad that you are doing this. I have been able to go to many campuses across the country and I have to say BYU is probably one of the least accessible campuses I have been on. It is also the one that I have been on the most so I have more time to notice things that would be helpful if available.
First of all the UAC is in a very difficult to find place and not the easiest to navigate to using a chair. I only went there one or two times the entire time I was on campus because I never really needed accommodations. The majority of the accommodations offered by UAC I felt like were geared more towards people who need help with notes in class or extra time on assignments. Very few options were offered for physical access to buildings and getting around campus. There were very few times I used a wheelchair on the main part of campus but when I did it was very difficult to get around. Particularly getting from lower campus by the RB and the iPF up to the main part of campus. There is no good way to get up the RB stairs in a wheelchair unless you go to the opposite end of campus and through 3 different buildings.
As far as housing I never worried about my housing being handicap accessible but I know several people who have looked and there are 1 or 2 options for handicap accessible housing outside of on campus housing which is geared almost solely to freshman and sophomores. The options that are there are very expensive and do not have any parking.
Another huge problem that I had was parking which is a problem for every student. Whenever I would try to park on campus near my classes all of the handicap accessible spots were taken and the closest ones that were available were on the opposite end of campus as my class. There were many times I drove around for 30-40 minutes trying to find a spot available and was late to class. Most days it isn’t a big deal for me to walk a lot but there were times that my prosthetics hurt or I would have to go spa lot of hills that made this a huge hassle and made getting to class very difficult. Many of the buttons to open handicap accessible doors are also broken and the doorways were not wide enough or bare wide enough to fit a wheelchair through.
I never really had my chair on campus unless I was playing wheelchair basketball so I never really paid attention to the handicap accessible bathrooms but I can tell you that very few buildings had bathrooms that were handicap accessible and the ones that did they were in very weird places and difficult to find.
OK that is most of the things I have seen with getting to and from classes and accessing the campus.. Now onto athletics.. Sorry this is going to be long.. I have a lot to say
OK so I was a swimmer and wheelchair basketball player before coming to BYU and competed at the national level in both sports. Coming to BYU and I had communicated with the head swim coach and worked out a plan so that I could continue training and competing in swim once I came to campus. I came my freshman year expecting a lot of different things and none of them worked out. I was essentially kicked of the team because I couldn’t keep up with the collegiate swimmers and was stuck training by myself. I had no options to train or continue athletics of any kind. I decided to stop swimming and after that I just swam recreationally and played wheelchair basketball on campus.
So, a lot of this I could be pretty biased on because of what I have seen at other campuses but, the most accessible campuses I have been to all have an entire building dedicated to adaptive athletics. Now these schools also have collegiate wheelchair basketball programs, rugby programs, and many different options for adaptive athletics. I don’t know if that is the most practical thing for BYU. However, As I would come and try and use the weight rooms and basketball courts the courts were taken over by intramural and pick up games. I very rarely have a court that I could go shoot with by chair that I wasn’t in the way of putting someone else in danger. If I would find a court to play on many times it would be taken over by a bunch of guys trying to play a pickup game and would get kicked off. I was trying to get ready to try out for the national team and I really had nowhere to go while all of the other students athletes had teams and designated places to train. I don’t know if I have a solution. I think this was a pretty unusual thing that I had to deal with that a lot of other students with disabilities may be didn’t. Oh , also IF the RB was full I would go to the smith field house to shoot around and play but many times the ramps to get onto the court were put up and not placed in a way that I could get onto a court. I would have to ask people to help me get the ramp down or get out of my chair to get on to the basketball courts in my chair. That is definitely something that can easily be fixed. If the collegiate teams move the ramps (which they shouldn’t anyways) they need to put them back right away so it is accessible.
Now the weight room. The weight room is complete inaccessible. Student with physical disabilities have no way to use the equipment. It is all ellipticals, treadmills, and things to high for someone in a wheelchair to reach. It would be very helpful to have some hand cycling machines and weight benches with more stability to allow student with balance issues to use the weights and exercise. For long time BYU had adaptive intramural programs such as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby and I talked to the intramural program extensively while I was there and they refused to do them stating that they would not get enough support but I now lots of students that would be interested in playing.
My daughter, Kendra Muller, and I had a very difficult time working with the BYU Accessibility Center. We were surprised in the lack of willingness to work with us to give accommodations for her. We went to several other state universities and were given much more personal attention and willingness to work with us on different needs for her accessibility. This was ironic considering the fact that BYU’s mission centers around Christlike love and service. When we arrived to visit BYU and its Accessibility Center, we were told that we could not receive any information until Kendra started school, while every other university was happy to sit down with us and discuss Kendra’s wellbeing. Providing cordial and welcoming treatment would really go a long way.
One of the strained situations included the insensitivity of the students who staffed the office for the Accessibility Center. Also, we struggled in getting her books to be processed to be eBooks for her accessibility. We could have had more help from the Accessibility Center. Thirdly, figuring out her ceiling track system that allows her to get in and out of bed independently was an almost impossible task. After a heated debate with the Accessibility Center and the BYU On-Campus Housing Office, we were eventually able to get approved, but only by coming up with our own solution: a freestanding frame. This required us to pay an extra $2,500 on top of the $8,000 already spent on the device.
Kendra also had to pay $775 more for than other students simply because she needed her more space for to accommodate the turning radius of her wheelchair. There is not room in Heritage Halls accessible rooms for a manual wheelchair to be turned easily with two beds/desks in the room. Because of this, she had to have a room usually occupied by two. Also, the accessible room’s bathroom has a roll in shower that is actually very difficult use in a wheelchair. The showers should have a rubber bumper to prevent water from going out of the shower instead of a large tile line that is difficult to get over.
Another difficulty was the fact that Kendra was forced to move to another building after her freshman year. It was very difficult to have to move all her equipment to another building. Accessibility office should check with a student with high accessibility needs, before assigning a them new room. Moving a hospital bed, ceiling track system, and all her equipment should not be done unless the student requests. This caused extra stress on our daughter. These are just a few of the difficulties on campus that we have experienced. We hope that BYU will make experience easier for future students who find themselves with similar needs.
I was a freshman at BYU in 2010. One day during my first semester, I was riding my bike home to Wyview Park on University Parkway. A car cut into the bike lane and I was unable to stop, I hit the back of the car and flew over it, landing in the street. The car drove off, but luckily the farmer's market that takes place in the stadium parking lot was in full swing and some good Samaritans came out and directed traffic around me and helped me and my bike over to the sidewalk.
I got out of the whole scenario largely unscathed. I had some road rash and a bruise on my forehead, but the greatest impact on my life was from two severely sprained wrists with small ligament tears. No breaks, but I was advised by a doctor to wear wrist braces for about 6 weeks. Gripping things was very hard, even taking off the braces to try and pinch something caused sharp pain. So, as you might expect, the doctor told me not to do so. I'm stubborn, so I kept trying, but eventually learned that if I didn't want to break all of my dishes I should probably ask for help.
One form of help I asked for was from the University Accessibility Center. I requested a notetaker for my classes, as I was unable to type or hold a pencil. I explained that I needed the help starting ASAP but would only need it for six weeks while my wrists healed. I was under the impression that they would be fully able to meet this need.
I was never contacted by anyone and apart from a few friends I had made and some begging, I did not get any help with note taking. At about 5 weeks into my recovery, when my wrists were just about healed, I received a number of emails telling me that there was someone in my classes in need of a note taker. I toyed with the idea of responding that, once my braces were off in a week, I would be happy to volunteer! Then I suddenly realized that the emails were for each and every one of my classes, and that the student needing notes was me.
I requested that the University Accessibility Center rescind the request, because at 5 weeks, it was far too late to be helpful. It was baffling to me that it took 5 weeks for them to process my request and send out an email, I would think the process could easily be done within a day or at least a week of my request. I doubt it would be that hard to write a program that would automatically send out a basic form email for notetakers. I’m pretty sure that type of program could be written in a couple of days, and it shouldn’t take more than a day or so to process that request. It was pretty crazy to not receive any help for so long.
I still have those emails if you have any need for them!
The other great struggle that stuck with me was the testing center. I only needed to take one test during this 6 week ordeal, and I had asked for help from my professor to communicate to the testing center my need for an aide to fill in the bubbles on the test or for another means of reporting my answers. I was happy to do all of my own thinking and work, all I needed was to be able to say or type "The answer to number 5 is C" and have someone else do the pencil gripping and precise, fine-motor-skill-needing task of filling in the bubble.
The testing center set me up alone in a room with a computer. I asked if this computer was able to report answers on the test for me, if I was somehow able to submit my answers on it through typing. Nope. It was just a computer. I re-clarified my need with the employee–I didn't need help understanding or processing the test material. I just needed someone to fill in the bubbles. He said they couldn't do that.
I answered the 20-or-less questions by typing them out on the computer in the Notepad app. It probably took me 45 minutes or so to answer the questions. It took me the remaining time limit of the test (probably 1hr 15 minutes) to painstakingly fill in the bubbles, taking breaks often to massage my wrists and praying that I wasn't damaging them and setting myself back in recovery. It hurt! The biggest perk of having a room to myself was that I didn't disrupt others with my wincing and hissing through it.
I think that the university accessibility center may do decently well with students with long-term disabilities. But for short term needs for a short term disability I was left high and dry.
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.
Anonymous (Name Redacted)
I am a Senior in Political Science with an emphasis in political strategy and minor in communications. I have been diagnosed with a million things, but the latest is Major Depression Disorder, Severe Generalized Anxiety, Moderate social anxiety, and ADHD. I also have moderate scoliosis in my back and degenerative disc disease, I am also currently going through the process of being diagnosed with a neurological disorder. And I am replying to this, in hope of helping someone else. I also release all my words for publication. Also, please let me know if you need anymore information.
It felt like BYU didn’t WANT to help me. Until my husband or I pushed for something, then BYU HAD to help me.
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.
Not at first, but as time went on yes. I initially saw an “intern”, who tried to tell me it was in my head and wasn’t following my health very well. Then I requested a change to an actual counselor, that’s when things get tricky. At this point my health digressed and I was only able to get an appointment once a month or sometimes every other month. He also didn’t seem to keep track of my progress, as I felt I had to constantly re-explain what was going on, and he very rarely got to the tools, or behavioral actions I use to help myself. Next, I tried Biofeedback and loved my one on one appointments! This was about once a week, until over the summer; it became months. This is when I finally turned to an outside counselor in Sandy, UT for help, because I didn’t know what else to do. CAPS was not equipped to help those with long term serious illness, but more for seasonal depression, or test anxiety.
With my diseases being invisible, it was difficult with some professors to get them to recognize my diseases. But in reality, I had the hardest time at BYUSA. I was an executive director in Clubs and seemed that my health was always completely dismissed. It got to a point where I was asking for extensions from professors because of my health, because my BYUSA executives wouldn’t give me the support or help that I needed. BYUSA was the least understanding of every facet of BYU, of my invisible diseases.
I had some amazing professors though. All of them were hesitant, but once they saw I was a dedicated student who just needed a little help, they were happy too. Some of these professors were Michael Barber, Quin Monson, Tyler Griffin, Chris Karpowitz, and many more I thank God for. Some professors even went beyond the call of duty of the letter, in counseling me and being extra flexible with me.
Students really didn’t know or understand. I was an actress for five years with a tough sister and mom; so I knew how to hide it. My husband was even shocked to discover the actual physical ramifications of my “invisible” disease. So, if someone discovered that the reason, I went to the bathroom was to get sick because of my anxiety; they were shocked to see how well I pulled it off. Students, especially members of the Church, looked at me as a weak link or liability especially in classes and group projects. I guess its because they didn’t care if “I was sad today”, or “if I just couldn’t push through the pain”, in the end it was about results and their grades.
Physical campus was very very hard on me. I couldn’t walk because of back pain and chronic fatigue, so we would park and there was only parking at the RB after 9am. There were many days where I considered skipping class while standing at the bottom of those steps, because I just didn’t know if I could do it. Some days my husband would half carry me up the steps, so I could just make it to class on time. Many days my husband had to convince the security guard at the Hinckley Center to let him drop me off because I was in so much pain. The pain of being on campus, made it that much more difficult for my brain to want to go to school at all.
Social aspects were minimal. Due to all the above reasons, I had very little social life on campus. It became physically, mentally, and emotionally scarring to be on campus; because it didn’t feel safe. I had no safe haven on campus (except the UAC lab in the library towards the end of my time there). There was no room I could step into and study in, to find relief from the anxiety. There wasn’t always somewhere to sit, so I found myself sitting on the stairs or floor, to avoid passing out or pain. I didn’t have a safe place on campus, it seemed like no matter where I was, I was being judged.
*An extra point I want to make that I am very passionate about. I had a professor who taught a GE class, and taught the class well. So well, that the school asked him to make it harder on the students and to make it more demanding. I also heard about this with religion classes, which in my mind were supposed to be there to help me grow spiritually, not academically. This made me weep, because I realized BYU wasn’t there to help me learn, but to stay competitive. Here I was, pushing through everyday and there were departments that were being asked to make my life harder. They say enter to learn and go forth to serve, but I learned very little outside of fear while at BYU.
* Somedays the only reason I stayed at BYU was because of the devotionals, I absolutely loved them, and they made me feel safe and cared for. However, I didn’t feel that way during forums and would have liked them all to be devotionals and forums be a separate time.
I came to a breaking point in October of 2018. I had dropped all extracurriculars and had just school and was barely full-time. However, in October I got so close to the edge of suicide that my husband and I decided to send me back home to regain a feeling of safety and health. After hearing about the suicide on campus, I cried for days because I knew how she felt, and I wish I could have gotten her somewhere safe and I thanked God for my family who protected me from that. I still cannot work on school for longer than an hour without severe repercussions, because of the trauma I experienced at BYU. However, I have had certain friends stand by me and some wonderful teachers who are allowing me to finish school from home, not pushing. I also know that some of this is part of my illnesses, but I also know that something had to trigger these reactions. I love BYU, but if a friend of mine with a disability asked if they should go. My answer would be a resounding, no.
*I did have amazing experiences at BYU though. I met my husband and some of the most loyal friends. I was able to travel to DC for a weekend to network on scholarship. I was able to serve those who needed it. I was also able to feel the Spirit so strongly sometimes.
I have come to peace with my time at BYU and will walk in April. I really hope you can see the good things I pointed out as well.
So the biggest problems for me as a person with fibromyalgia were 1) The Testing Center, and 2) The stairs. My two biggest problems with Fibromyalgia were fatigue and pain. Although my professors were pretty understanding of my needs, (although sometimes uneducated about them), the problem was the testing center. I know that it’s just a revolving door for tests, but it was just a deathtrap for me and my needs. First, that normal stress was just physically toxic for me. I would feel pain and fatigue akin to the flu just from the average stress that tests can bring, which just comes with the territory of University education. But when I actually got to the testing center, it was just rough. Except for 25 min religion tests, I was just prepared for achiness and fatigue. The thing with staring at a paper for more than 30 min is that my fatigue would take over, and I would literally have to take a power nap, taking precious time for my test to recharge. Thanks to the UAC, I got extra time on my test so I could have that time. They also stopped allowing food at some point, which I get that they have to worry about cheating. But food was what sometimes kept me awake in classes, and I was pretty toast when they made it seem like we couldn’t have snacks. And everyone knows how awful it is sitting in those desks for a 2 hour test. For fibromyalgia, it was pretty killer. I literally would switch rooms just to get up and walk around. But the doors weren’t always open. I always looked suspicious as well, which made me extra stressed. All this time, I’m worrying about this rather than the material I’m being tested on. I just have bad memories all around for the testing center. I’m sure everybody does, but after feeling like every time I walk in there, I have 30-90 minutes of aches and fatigue akin to the flu, the testing center is a place I don’t really want to walk in again.
The stairs are also something I never want to deal with again. I am grateful I have the ability to walk up the stairs, but during days of fatigue, aches and pain, and general brain fog attributed to the fibromyalgia condition, stairs and inclines were just the daily torture. The hills were sometimes worse than stairs. I remember trying so hard to rush to my classes, and being in just a lot of pain. And the pain wouldn’t go away right away. My body didn’t know if I hiked the RB stairs or if I hiked the Y. Bodies with Fibromyalgia sometimes confuses mild pain with less mild pain. I know everybody gets short of breath while hiking up the RB stairs, so I shouldn’t complain, or should I?
That brings me to something else. The nature of fibromyalgia is that it doesn’t have any visible indications that it exists. It’s an enigma, and it’s something that I’m still learning about to this day. That means, not a lot of people know about it. I was lucky with most of my professors after I was diagnosed. But the average person, although sympathetic, doesn’t really get what’s going on. This made it hard to interact socially and has made it awkward in classes. Did I fall asleep 4 out of 5 days in my most classes? Yes. My poor partner in BIO100 would literally be discussing a subject with me, and I would just get so fatigued and lose my ability to stay awake. I’m glad that she was patient with me. It was hard to feel so vulnerable in class. I felt that everybody would be making fun of me, or be thinking that I was a poor student, that I was a partier, or that I didn’t care. But I did care. I did go to sleep at night. I did try my best. The funny thing is that I wanted to stay awake! I thought my classes were really interesting! But my body just couldn’t handle it. And the stress of people judging me for this just made me down everyday. My confidence had this dent in it because I had felt weak and misunderstood.
There were more problems, like reading and the line up of assignments. Again, nobody really has a perfect line up of assignments, but because stress affects my physical pain, a week stacked with assignments felt like a tsunami of feeling sick and achy.
There was physical therapy available, but for a price. And also, it was all the way by Wymount, which stunk when I couldn’t drive there. I often borrowed ice from the RB physical therapy room, which got me through a couple of tough days. I also thought parking was just a doozy. I don’t want to steal handicap parking for those who are worse off than me, but finding parking then hiking the mile that was required just was counterproductive for someone like me. Sometimes I would have to power nap in the car before taking the hike if I got there early enough.
The physical obstacles, and the emotional vulnerability, made the experience pretty difficult. And I have a more mild form of Fibromyalgia where I could get out of bed and to school. I’ve heard of some other people with the same condition who can’t function at all during flare ups. I don’t know how they do it.
The lack of education about it also makes it hard to handle. The only time I really truly felt understood is when my Biology teacher told me that she’s actually read articles about it, and when a UAC representative said “You’re not the only one here with it” and made me feel like I wasn’t crazy for feeling all this pain and fatigue. For the first time, I thought that it was an actual problem and not because I “wasn’t Trying enough”.
I applied for an emotional support cat fairly early last semester, in about September. I was able to get a doctor's note very quickly and submit my request, and within about 2 weeks it was approved by the campus disability office. However, I still needed to get permission from housing, and that is where the problems came. As is policy, the on campus housing department sent a message to everyone on the floor I live on, asking if anyone had competing disabilities. Having worked for on campus housing for several years and witnessing other residents apply for ESAs in the past, I expected the process to be quick - if anyone had a competing disability, i would consider moving to a different floor or we would find out a solution. One girl with severe allergies did end up replying that she had a competing disability, and the Campus disability office invited her to meet with them and bring proof of her disability in some form. However, due to the busy schedule of the office, she was not able to meet with them for a couple weeks, and then when she forgot and missed her appointment, had to schedule a new meeting for several more weeks in the future. Since this appointment was not a priority for my neighbor, she kept forgetting and missing her appointments. When, months later, she finally followed up with the disability office to get her allergies verified, campus housing had to check the ventilation between our apartments to see if she would be affected by my ESA. By the time this process was complete, it was a week into December, and the semester was almost over. I was finally able to bring my ESA to college at the start of winter semester, in January. Also at the start of January, for unrelated reasons, the girl with allergies had moved out. It was very frustrating to see a simple process get stretched out over months because a third party was uncommitted in doing her part. While getting an ESA was a priority for me to help my mental health, it definitely was not for this other girl, and it felt like it wasn't a priority for the Campus Disability Office either, since they didn't follow up diligently with the other girl and let the process take an entire semester. I wish, even without proper verification of the other girl's allergies, campus housing could have gone ahead to check to ventilation system in advance. That way, even if the other girl never met with the Disability Office, they could have known that my cat's presence wouldn't affect her. It was a very frustrating experience.
So I had a double knee surgery done like 10 weeks ago and because of it I went to live with my parents in North Orem because I couldn't walk or drive to school. My parents would drop me off and pick me up from school. However going from building to building with tons of other students walking around you was very hard. Then I got to the point where I could drive but I still couldn't walk very well and so if I had classes in the JKB I could park in the parking lot right next to it but if I had my classes and in the Joseph Smith building I'd have to walk all the way across campus, and that was really hard. I guess my only suggestion would be about parking around all buildings. I understand that that's easier said than done but if I had to go to class in the jsb no matter where I parked I would have to walk a pretty long distance with weak knees.
Anonymous (Name Redacted)
I am a student athlete at BYU and I spent 10 WEEKS on crutches last year. I ultimately stopped going to class for the rest of the semester because of the amount of anxiety it gave me to go up those stairs. Professors were fine - they were understanding but I was also in the big lectures at the time so it’s not like they really cared if I was there or not! Physical campus helped open doors but not anything other than that! Parking police were a straight up joke though.
A door closed on me too fast and it broke my foot when I was going through in my powerchair.
Elysha (Last Name Redacted)
Things that I have noticed from working with the UAC:
My first documentation I submitted to the UAC was for anorexia. I submitted this to try and petition if I did not get into housing with a kitchen but because I did get into good housing I thought I would never use it. I received no outreach on what exactly accommodations were, what I qualified for, etc. and even if I had know that was something that the UAC did, their website also does not detail what they do. Eventually, I did hear from someone that I could receive accommodations for classes through the UAC so I set up an appointment. My first appointment went well and the person who I met with offered me the attendance accommodation which was helpful because this was something that I had been struggling with. Later, it became time for me to renew my accommodations. Since anorexia was no longer my main struggle as I was pretty stable in recovery, I had my therapist send in a new letter documenting my recent PTSD diagnosis. I met with my counselor(?) again after this. 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. She ended up renewing those and giving me the testing ones as well but that whole experience of having someone who was supposed to be my advocate and supposed to be someone who would understand why I cannot function to the same standard as my peers has made it difficult for me to want to return even though there are ways in which I could use additional resources. This was the counselor for mental health issues but it seemed as though she was more understanding when my diagnosis included a more physical aspect.
I am also lucky to have had good bishops and bishopric who have been very understanding when I tell them that though I try to attend church all of the time my attendance is generally lower than others. However, if this were not the case I worry that my ecclesiastical endorsement and therefore my education would be on the line because, as far as I know, there are no resources available that would protect me here.
Probably the most frustrating thing about trying to go to BYU as a disabled student is how hard it is to feel normal. Laws and ramps and elevators are great and all, but if the professors aren’t willing to help, it can be so difficult. I’m here at BYU because I want to learn, because I want to be a good student. But I can’t do my best because things happen. Sometimes, I wished professors would acknowledge that we as students have lives outside their classroom. For disabled students, we have more of a “life” to live than most because we have doctor appointments, longer and more difficult transits, and just plain old-fashioned emergencies. I hate the stress sometimes that I have trying to figure out when and where to fit in an appointment that could literally be a life-or-death appointment, all while the professor demands that in “their” class, it’s unacceptable to miss. I admit this is a bit of extreme point, and most professors aren’t like this in specific cases, but still, every time a disabled student has to do something to accommodate for his or her disability and/or health, they get penalized and disadvantaged,whether that’s intentional or even on a subconscious level. An individual student will always take more of the penalty than a school system is willing to acknowledge. The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging there is one. Disabled students live with it, but I hope one day college campuses will fully see it.
Anonymous (Name Redacted)
I've been disabled since I was 17 when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune form of arthritis. I walk with a cane and often have to use the motorized carts at grocery stores to get around, due to extreme pain in my back, hips, legs, and hands.
At BYU, I have had mixed experiences.
The faculty in the University Accessibility Center really does as much as they can - I've only had good experiences with them.
Professors and advisers have overall been accommodating and understanding, but there is definitely room for improvement.
One improvement that comes to mind is accommodations with tests. Currently, the policy is that disabled students have to let their professors know beforehand if they are going to need an extension on exams. This is particularly hard on students with unpredictable chronic illnesses. I can be perfectly fine (perfectly fine as in capable of functioning and getting myself to campus) the day before a test, but be very sick and in incredible pain the next morning. Luckily this hasn't happened to me yet, but I live in paranoia of the day that it does happen. The day where I cannot get out of bed the same day as an exam is inevitable.
As for other classroom accommodations, some professors are lovely and amazing and so helpful, but not all. It's discouraging when a professor shrugs and says that they "guess" they will give you an extension on an assignment to accommodate your disability. Luckily, the vast majority of my professors have been more than understanding, but I cannot speak for any professors outside the humanities and religion departments.
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. This information took way too long to discover though, and there were several days my first semester at BYU where I put myself in a lot of physical pain by parking in student lots, which are in horrible places a great deal away from the main campus.
If the parking office could simply be more transparent about policies and where disabled students can park, that'd be awesome.
Also, there is a severe misunderstanding of disabilities on BYU campus among students. The common belief is that disabilities have to be at least somewhat visible to be a real disability. Conditions like blindness, deafness, the use of a wheelchair, down syndrome, and other obvious disabilities are accepted and never questioned (and this is good!) but less visible conditions and invisible illnesses are constantly scrutinized. My first semester at BYU, I was walking to class, and a guy said to me, "So you don't have a limp or any handicap, but you walk with a cane." I was stunned at his ignorance, and quickly explained that without my cane, I would develop a limp and be in a lot of pain, and then I walked in a different direction, uncomfortable and not wanting to interact with him anymore. Other people have also questioned my cane, and it's easy to tell that they don't fully believe that I have arthritis, because I do not look disabled, and I'm very young when arthritis is considered to be an old person problem.
There are also other disabilities that are not accepted or understood by students. ADHD, dyslexia, autism, bipolar, and other mental illnesses and conditions are often shunted to the side when disabilities and mental illnesses are discussed. Often, discussions end up focusing on depression or anxiety, which are severe and concerning conditions, but are often caused or made worse by the same factors that are constantly ignored by mainstream media and thought. Discussions about depression and anxiety are good and important, but too often they are the only disability discussed, and the discussions are often very shallow. Depression is often spoken of as feeling down, lonely, and sad, when it is much more than that, and many people don't realize the effects that it can have on a person.
Most students are simply unaware of disabilities and what they entail, and this leads to a lack of understanding and compassion. Abled students will look at disabled students with pity, when we do not want to be pitied! We want to be listened to, respected, and treated like normal people - because we are normal people! My disability does not make me less of a person, and it doesn't take anything away from who I am.
As for general accessibility, I've found that many buildings could be improved by simply having signage that indicates where elevators are, and making sure that at least one elevator is functioning properly. Signage that reminds students to not block the hallway may also help - often students stand in clumps, causing hallways to be congested, which makes it difficult for people with canes, scooters, or wheelchairs to maneuver. Reminders to look up from phones every so often could also be helpful - I have lost track of how many times people have run into me because they were looking down at their phone instead of where they were going. As for wording on signage, words like "handicapped" should be subbed with "disabled", which has less of a stigma and is more generalized, meaning that it includes a wider group of people..
I have moderate progressive hearing loss, and have worked with the UAC since my freshman year. When I first got in touch with them, they told me about the services they could offer me, but first they would need to have medical documentation before they could tell me what I was eligible for. I submitted the necessary paperwork and waited for them to get back to me for over a month after the semester had started. 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 honestly have nothing but gratitude toward my transcribers, who work incredibly hard and make a world of difference in my entire university experience, but there are a few things that are slightly inconvenient for me.
1. Different transcribers tend to include different things. Because they cannot keep up with the speech in class to get it exactly word-for-word, some of them will not include little social things like jokes or personal facts or stories that a professor or class member is sharing. I know that this doesn't affect my academic performance, but I feel like I am missing out on a shared experience when everyone around me is laughing and I didn't hear the joke and my transcriber chose not to type it out for me. Other transcribers will include things like that, but then they paraphrase important information so I miss out on important details, statistics, equations, etc. I know it is probably impossible to keep up with every word, and they must make judgement calls as to what is the most important content in a class, but I do wish there was a way that I could really share in everything that was being said.
2. The transcription is delayed a few seconds after the words are said. This makes it really difficult in classes that the teacher tends to write out things on the board, because when the professor is saying things like "right here", etc., I missed out on where he/she was gesturing to and the context of the moment is gone by the time I read what has been said. Also, sometimes it is just difficult in general to choose between watching the professor and what they may be writing or demonstrating, and focusing on my screen so I can keep up with what they are saying.
3. I have had students look over at my computer for entire classes, reading my transcription, and pointing out to me if my transcriber made a typing error or laughing at different ways that they format things. It isn't like this has any huge impact on my quality of life, and it isn't malicious, but it's a bit annoying and it feels like an invasion of my personal space and privacy. Sometimes I will use my transcription on my phone rather than my laptop just so I can hide it in my lap and not have people who don't need the service reading over my shoulder for the whole lecture.
4. I am not ashamed of my hearing loss, and consider it to be a huge blessing in my life, but I have had professors introduce me to the class as 'the girl with hearing loss and her transcribers' when they get my accommodations letter. I am a bit shy and being singled out is not my favorite, and also my entire identity is not my hearing loss and I like to have the independence to bring it up (or not bring it up) on my own terms.
5. On the note of professors, most of the time they are wonderful, but sometimes they simply haven't been introduced to the etiquette in talking to a person with hearing loss. I have one professor in particular who gets way too close to me and dramatically over-enunciates all of her words when she is speaking to me. Her class is in a classroom with about 50 desks, and I usually sit in the middle, and sometimes she will come and lecture right in front of my desk. I know that she is trying to be helpful, but I don't know how to tell her that she is actually being condescending. The more she would do this, the less I would participate in her class, because I was already getting unwanted attention, and again, it made me feel singled out.
6. I have priority registration, which is awesome, but in order to schedule my transcribers ahead of time, I feel like I can’t just pop in to a class to see whether it might be a good fit for me. I also can’t arrive more than a few minutes late to my classes, because if I haven’t arrived after a certain period of time after class has started, they can just leave. (They will text me to see whether I am coming, and if I respond then they are willing to wait for me, but sometimes I have been in a test that took longer than I thought, and when I get out I see a text from my transcribers saying that they left. Of course I don’t want them to just sit there if I am not coming, and I don’t know how they could improve this.)
7. It would be amazing if they could get captioning on the devotionals! I don’t go in person because if I watch it on my computer I can put the subtitles on.
This semester I have been experiencing anxiety, and when I went to reach out for help at the Counseling Center, they told me that they were completely full for the rest of the semester. It already took a lot of vulnerability for me to reach out and ask for help, and being denied that help was discouraging. There aren't any mental health providers within a 40 mile radius that accept my insurance, and I don't have a car, so there is pretty much nothing for me to do now except continue to care for myself and hope that is enough to reduce my anxiety. I would love to see BYU hire in more mental health providers in general, but especially if they could just get a few extra to work temporarily near finals time or in the height of midterms, it would be so beneficial, so that everyone's needs can continue to be met as more people seek services from the Counseling Center.
Overall my experiences with accommodations and the culture of BYU have been really positive, and I am very fortunate to have had people so receptive to me in the way that I would be most comfortable having my needs met. It would simply serve to make BYU even better if we were able to see improvements in things like this.
You never realize how many hills BYU has until you have to roll up them. Or how many doors don’t actually have a button for them to be opened. You will never notice how out of the way so many ramps are until you are constantly late to class for searching for them. But what will truly shock you is how understanding and kind each of your professors are. Or how willing so many of your fellow students are to help you on a moments notice. Though I was only in a wheelchair for a few months, I truly came to understand what it meant for BYU students to “go forth to serve.” There definitely needs to be some improvement to the accessibility of BYU campus, but as long as the students and faculty continue to show love, all will feel welcome.
I had to leave my service dog with my parents for a few weeks, and my mom wanted to keep bringing her to church and other places so she could continue to do her training. I wish on the rare occasions I have to leave her she could still be a service dog and do her job. Shes never home alone, if she was a pet dog I could leave her when I go for a few hours but she’s a service dog so I cannot. She goes everywhere with me. For instance, at BYU I had a welding class. Obviously that was really unsafe for her to come to. No matter how well they are trained, until they make little welding face masks, it would be truly unsafe. But I also couldn't leave her at home. I would love for it to be okay to walk her around without being hassled here on campus, because they do not have a disability but are just helping me. I don’t know how to change the stigmas, but it would be helpful.
The biggest trouble I have encountered has been BYU housing. My current landlord did not give me the option of renewing my contract because of my service dog. They said they were looking for something “different” for the upcoming year. They refused and did not want have the service dog in their apartment complex. I will be graduating soon, but for new students that need housing, this is unfortunate. There have been two other instances of service dog that have been living in my complex. One was evicted, even though she made all repairs out of pocket. The other was kicked out and given the excuse that “Oh, whoops we didn't know you wanted to renew your contract.” It's really shady. Everytime they talk to me about my service dog, they try to trick me into admitting that I just want a pet in my house. They try to say my service dog is not needed.
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. The Accessibility Center is always really hard to get in touch with. I don't know why. I actually went through my counselor that knows me really well to get accommodations so I wouldn't have to work with them. When I talk to the people at the accessibility center, it's hard to feel like they know who I am. It's hard to see how they would care about my problems. This is not an unfixable problem. The UAC just needs more people or more resources. It shouldn't take that long to get in touch with them. They need better infrastructure, and better follow up! Something me and and my friends talk about a lot is, for something to be named the Accessibility Center, they make themselves really inaccessible. For instance, If I have anxiety about these things, they say they would help but first you have to go through all these steps that give you anxiety. Well, a student is not going to do that, and just end up suffering. It's just so frustrating .The process is so frustrating that for the first couple of weeks I just brought my service dog to class with me, without the UAC letter. My instructors have been WAY more helpful about everything than the UAC. It's so strange interacting with the accessibility center...what can they do? Let's start from there. It took about 1 to 2 months to actually get the letter from the UAC, it was longer than it needed to be. I already had her [the service dog].
Legislation and Advocacy Issues:
I would love to figure out how to make service dogs more official. I would love to have people with disabilities pass legislation to make service dogs much more official. The law is pretty lax, and creates a lot of pressure from people that think I am just bringing my pet dog everywhere. You can buy the vests off Amazon, and this makes it difficult for me to be taken seriously. If there were more concrete laws in place then people would take me seriously and not think, “oh she's just pretending.” I am totally willing to do extra steps to make my service dog more official. I didn't just slap a vest on my dog. She is trained and I wish that was taken seriously. My only concern would be that I worry that people who aren't familiar with disability to pass the law and make it impossible to get a service dog. That might be surprising for people to hear that I want more regulations. I want more regulations so that people take me seriously. I am not just bringing my pet around BYU. Down the line, the law would be helpful for housing because they would take me seriously. To ban someone from an apartment because they have a service dog is illegal. My rent person is not the first person that did not want to renew my lease. I had one before and I threatened him with legal action, but he basically said, ‘go ahead you're not not going to win’ and then when I looked into cases in the Utah Valley area they were universally on the side of the landlord. It would just be a waste of my money to go after him. It's frustrating because on the one hand, I have a internal sense of justice, but one the other, am I prepared to take on the emotional burden of being the Joan of Arc for disabled people? I was a perfect tenant that was never late on rent, very clean, didn't break anything, and have a tiny dog, I don’t know what they have against me. I did consider going to my landlord and stating that I was a human being with real needs and emotions and this is my dog and shes very well behaved. I am not just a name on a rent check but a real person. But you know, I have so much else to concentrate on. I am graduating in a month, moving out of state, and I am trying to find a job in my career field. I have so much stuff to deal with, instead of making sure that these middle-aged landlords have a legitimate need for a service dog. But then, if we (disabled people) don't do it, who will? Nobody is going to say “well, that's not fair to those disabled people but I’m going to help even if it doesn't affect me.” Maybe when I have a career and money I can get into activism.
It's also very hard to do advocate mentally. A large part of our generation has a mental illness that makes this hard to deal with. We’re all too tired of fighting to deal with it. It's especially frustrating with landlords in a college town because they know that you need to be here, and you are only there for 4 years so you should just deal with it. It's intimidating because you're a student and they are adults. You should be on the same playing field as your landlord. You're paying money for a service. You both agreed that this house was worth this much money, so you should be on the same level. A lot of students and young people don't feel like they are, because they are new to interacting with landlords. But to throw a disability on top of that? That's impossible. I can barely advocate to tell them the shower isn't draining, and now they say that they hate you and your dog? Its very stressful environment, when it’s a place that should feel like your home.
BYU’s Intimidating Infrastructure
I have hope when I move out of state, because it won't matter if I get in a tiff with my landlord. It wouldn't affect anything other than may housing. But at BYU it feels like everything is connected. If I make my landlord mad, would I be breaking the honor code? Everything is connected because you must have BYU approved housing and ecclesiastical endorsements and it seems like literally every single aspect of your life is connected when you go to BYU. You don't want to advocate for yourself because you don't want to put your education in jeopardy. I want to graduate. It's hard to advocate for yourself when they are holding your diploma out like a carrot. BYU says, “be submissive, don't make waves, and well give you this fancy sheet of paper.” It's frustrating, but you want that fancy sheet of paper so bad. It is a difficult power struggle. I think it's great to collect lots of stories, because they can't expel us all. If I hadn't had spoke together with two previous tenants with disabilities about what we had experienced, we all individually thought, well...maybe it was a misunderstanding or something. But with three of us, it looks like a pattern. When I talked with others it made me realize that the discrimination was really happening and I wasn't just a crazy person thinking everyone was out to get me and my dog. These stories seem so classic that you think I'm making them up, but they are real.
Unless you or someone you care for has a disability, it’s hard to conceptualize the barriers that people with disabilities face, physically and socially. BYU is a world class university, and I believe with recent construction, they are investing in ways that will help students with disabilities overcome physical barriers. The students need to do better though. The sentiment of ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve’ fosters a spirit of generosity and service. However, that service doesn’t always need to be lofty. Sometimes, it is simply looking around you to see who needs help. From her wheelchair, Elizabeth felt like an outsider. She needed friends, and she needed to be noticed.”
Anonymous (Name Redacted)
First, traveling between classes is already a relatively unsafe situation for those that have trouble getting around. During the colder months, I found myself taking twice as long as typical when traveling from the TMCB to the JKB. I had to walk on sleet every day. Fortunately, the sleet would melt relatively quickly as it became later in the day, but that doesn’t mean it’s an acceptable or safe condition for me to adapt to. At 9am there is a rush of kids heading south on campus and that gives me and the others heading toward the JKB a significantly smaller piece of the sidewalk. I should not have to worry about being knocked over, slipping, or being pushed off the sidewalk. So, at the very least, the sidewalks should be cleared to limit the risk in those situations.
Next, I’ve spent a lot of time with someone in a wheelchair. While he always tried to be independent, the buttons to open doors in many locations present their own obstacle. Sometimes objects obscure the button, or it’s too close to the edge of the sidewalk. The accessibility buttons are outdated and as a computer science major, I think it’s time we rely on more efficient and helpful technologies like Portal. Technological advances in nearly every category seek to remove buttons wherever possible. The best example of this is with smartphones, but automatic doors have even been doing it for years. I’m referring to the automatic sliding doors. The new engineering building was recently completed and I can’t understand why we are invested in innovation and engineering when it applies to a major, but not when the innovation can actually be applied to solve real campus issues.
Elevators. I can’t count how many times elevators have been malfunctioning. I remember a time when I was sick and needed to get to my car, but the elevator in the JFSB kept taking me up rather than down to the parking garage. I would press the button, but once it got back down to the main floor, it would wipe my floor selection and begin going up again.
Lastly, we speak of serving, understanding, and loving others. There’s an unfortunate culture throughout the world that is still quite present at BYU. That is, people are always staring at me. Many people make insensitive comments that stick with me for days. Particularly, one of my professors said something really offensive to me. It was so twisted I brushed it off in the moment, but it came back to hurt me quite a bit because of how infuriated I was that a tenured professor at BYU could be so incredibly ignorant. People look at me and make comments as if I have an undesirable life. Whatever people want to believe, my life is great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have my struggles, but I recognize where those struggles have shaped me to become who I am today. There’s no way to achieve net zero ignorance or completely rid campus of people who stare or saying ridiculous things, but we could definitely spread more awareness of it. We are so concerned about not offending and accommodating (socially especially) minority groups in the LGBTQ community or those that are of a race other than white. Why don’t we teach to be conscious and respectful of those in all situations? We need more awareness of this issue on campus. I’m constantly walking around on campus and people are here with their children or middle schoolers are on a trip for school, I shouldn’t feel embarrassed walking between classes because a child shouts something ridiculous or because middle schoolers are laughing and pointing. If people are visiting our campus, we should expect a certain level of respect from them toward the students. Again, I’m not asking for perfection in this situation, but people need to know that we have students here trying to focus on education and all these visitors should not be distracting students or making them feel uncomfortable. Education should be our priority, not simply welcoming everyone onto our campus for various events and activities.
Anonymous (Name Redacted)
• One of the major problems with the University Accessibility Center is that the process for getting accommodations is not well-known. Many people don’t know that it exists, or they don’t know where it is. When they go, there is no clear criteria for what accommodations you can get for which disabilities. Additionally, to many students it appears as if the UAC is trying to not give accommodations, or trying to make it difficult for students who have obvious disabilities to receive them.
• A few suggestions will help the UAC function more smoothly.
o Internal processes: The UAC serves many clients. They can serve many more by streamlining some parts of their accommodation process. Some cases are complicated and should be handled by full-time employees at the UAC. However, some cases are simple: a student provides a clinical diagnosis of depression, or some other disability. These cases warrant little scrutiny and could be handled quickly by part-time employees or even through an automatic process.
o Transparency: Some students are bewildered when they are told that they do not qualify for accommodations, and without any explanation they are unlikely to challenge the UAC’s decision. The UAC should, as a policy, make the process of accommodations transparent by publishing a guide of what disabilities get what accommodations and by justifying their decisions.
o Visibility: Very few people know that the UAC exists, and it is notoriously hard to find. Some people feel that it is symbolically “trying to keep people with disabilities hidden”. The UAC needs to be more publicly advertised.
• BYU culture is often self-centered. There needs to be a radical culture change to help people become more explicitly Christian. The administration can help people become more anxiously engaged through campaigns aimed at encouraging students to serve each other in meaningful ways (not necessarily organized).
A Blanket Solution
• One way to cover many of these issues at once is by changing the way professors present the University Policies at the end of every syllabus. No one reads that part of the syllabus. One solution is to create a brief (less than 5 minute) video that covers the University Policies and is presented in each class at the beginning of the semester. Alternatively, the video could be required for all students and faculty to watch on their own time at the beginning of the semester. This video could explain and show the location of the UAC and Title IX offices as well as educate students on their responsibility to be engaged bystanders.
I have a parking pass for a reserved stall right by the Maeser building. I have a car with a ramp in it so I park in the van accessible stall. However, the ramp area does not have a wheelchair accessible curb. The parking stalls back right up to the street, so to get to the sidewalk you have to go into the street (on the oncoming traffic side). Getting from my car to the sidewalk is fine because I can easily see oncoming traffic but getting from the sidewalk to my car is where I run into a problem. Since I am at a lower level than a standing person while sitting in my wheelchair I can’t see through the window of my car so there is no easy way to see if there is any traffic coming. It took me almost getting hit once to realize how dangerous it was. It’s not too difficult to navigate once you know what to look out for, but I am worried other people might not realize how close the street is
Finding a wheelchair accessible stall in the restrooms can be difficult. During the busy hours on campus, it is not uncommon that I have to go to multiple different bathrooms just to find an empty wheelchair stall. Additionally, sometimes I will find the wheelchair stall occupied even though many regular stalls are available. Everyone has a right to use the wheelchair accessible stall, but I just wish there was some type of sign encouraging people to use the regular stalls if possible
Many wheelchair accessible bathrooms on campus have a double door system. The first outside door leads to a tiny hallway with the door to the actual bathroom at the end. The hallway is extremely narrow despite being a wheelchair accessible bathroom. There is no way to open the door by yourself unless you are right in front of the door. If anyone opens the door they end up hitting you. In addition, it is even difficult to have someone open the door for you. Since the hallway is so narrow unless they open it in a very specific way (which most of the time they don’t) there is hardly any room for the wheelchair user to go through. It makes things unnecessarily difficult and awkward.
The doors are terrible. The buttons to automatically open doors are so hit or miss. A lot of them don’t work and are extremely slow. Also, lots of sets of double doors have two separate buttons. One for the first door and one for the second (similar to the situation I described for the restrooms but for building entrances). Not once have I ever wanted only one of the doors to open. Luckily, I am able to open doors in my wheelchair without any assistance so most of the time I don’t even mess with the buttons.
A lot of buildings–especially the older ones–only have one elevator. So if it breaks down you are out of luck. This has only happened to me once, but I thought I would mention it just to acknowledge that the problem exists and it would be cool if BYU tries to make sure this isn’t an issue for the new buildings.
I only can use bathroom in the JSB, Wilk, and the door that is off right now in the Tanner Building
I’m not taking any classes right now… So I haven’t been on campus for a little while but I do know that I don’t love most of the bathrooms. I can only use some, I go to the JSB, Wilk, and they took a door off a bathroom in the tanner so that one is nice. I have found a few that work for me so sometimes I will go to different buildings to use the restroom. It didn’t ruin my life while I was there but, it did mean that I had to plan out my day.”
Kate Rees Evans
My experience is 20 some odd years 'out of date' but may still be helpful to you. I don't know if UAC was even a 'thing' back then (I had to look it up to figure out what it was!); I certainly was not referred to it. *shrug*
I do know that I was waking up with horrible, horrible migraine headaches every day about 2-3 weeks into the Fall Semester of 1996. It was so bad that I could not go to class. I went to the University Health Centre and was given not only a medical prescription, but the advice to go to the registrar to withdraw completely from the semester. I did not end up doing that, as there was one professor who decided to work with me on being able to complete my coursework from home rather than needing to be in class, but I dropped all my other classes that semester.
I do remember one other professor who was very compassionate about the situation as he signed my withdraw request card, though.
I am honestly curious about what other accommodations could have been made had the University had the same structures in place then as they do now. But, I will say that my experience went much better than it could have gone, and I was able to return to full coursework in January of '97 without difficulty. I am grateful for the medical professionals and the professors (and the administrative professionals) I worked with during that semester that allowed me to have the 'leave of absence' I needed for my health without too much of an issue.
I had to have an emergency surgery in the middle of the Winter 2018 semester. It completely caught me off guard, and I could not have seen it coming. It was a very intensive surgery of my entire abdomen so I would be in the hospital for about 2 weeks, not able to attend class or work on homework. I normally don’t really use my accommodations but I thought, “this is why I have them,” and went to the University Accessibility Center. Instead of helping me, the physical disabilities counselor said it was completely up to the professor whether they would grant me my accommodations or not. She told me there was nothing I or the UAC could do. Her best advice was to drop all of my classes. This blunt, unhelpful answer while I was in physical pain and hoping to get some help made me tear up in frustration as I left the UAC. I was not about to drop all my class when I was more than halfway done with the semester for a few weeks of surgery. This led me to realize that the accessibility center gives out accommodation letters on paper, but when I really needed help, they wouldn’t do anything for me. They didn’t advocate for me and offer helpful suggestions. They made me feel helpless. The accommodations turned out to just be a piece of paper. If a professor ever denied my accommodations, I couldn’t get any help from the accessibility center. Luckily, I told my professors the story, and instead of the heartless, “there’s nothing I can do,” I got from the accessibility center, they were compassionate and helped me to get through that semester, despite my surgery.
A Professor that denied me assignment when I came in late because of cathing. This has happened infrequently as professors tend to be more understanding that the UAC themselves. A few Professors have not let me go to the bathroom otherwise I would miss out on iclicker/quiz/in-class activity which has affected my health. Most of them are great though.
Two years ago, I was in line to finally become independent and get a accessible van, so that I could drive. This van had all of the necessary equipment for me to drive and because of this specialized accessible equipment, it cost $100,000. I lived in Heritage Halls at the time and had noticed for years that all the van accessible stalls were always full with other vehicles (many of which were driven by people who didn’t seem to qualify for the disabled parking pass). These stalls were vital for me for two reasons: First, I use a ramp to get in and out of my car because I use a wheelchair. If I do not have the extra space that van accessible stalls provide, I cannot get out of my van. If somebody were to park next to me in a normal stall, I would not be able to get back into my van. Second, because I use a wheelchair, if I parked far away in the regular student parking, I physically would not be able to get to campus. The hills are too steep and in bad weather, rain and snow make it impossible to roll for long distances.
I realized I would not be able to use my van at all without an accessible parking spot. I first asked if the Heritage Halls administrators would designate a spot for me to park. They understood the situation and said they would love to. They said to go to the Accessibility Center to get a parking pass or some sort of accommodation, and to make sure that the BYU Police knew. I went to BYU Police next and they were helpful, agreeing that this was an important issue. They said all I needed was a note from the UAC. When I went to the UAC they told me there was absolutely nothing they could do. They said it was against policy to have a designated parking stall. I left feeling very frustrated that I would not be able to ever use my van because I could not park it anywhere.
About a year later, I found out that the UAC’s previous claims were incorrect. They do have 4 parking stalls on campus that are specifically reserved for students with disabilities. After I found this out I went back feeling hopeful, but I was met with disdain. I was told there were only 3 parking spots available and I most likely wouldn’t be “disabled enough” to get one. She didn’t explain what her methods were for choosing the students who needed stalls. I feel like it was unethical that the UAC pitted disabled students against each other in a fight for 3 parking spots. If BYU had 5 students that really did need to use those parking spots, they should put in the effort to ensure all 5 have access. We should not have to fight about who is the most disabled.
In the end, I got a doctor’s note specifying I needed a van accessible parking spot. I emailed them and I met with them twice about getting a parking spot. I was finally told I could have the reserved spot by the Clyde Building, but that I should “consider myself lucky” to have gotten it. I felt happy, but distressed that I took a parking spot from someone that also needed it. When I went to the reserved parking spot by the Clyde I found it was actually inaccessible for my van. It was only a normal stall without the extra space of a van accessible stall. My doctor specifically wrote that I needed a van accessible spot but the UAC completely ignored my need. I know other students in wheelchairs who have experienced this exact same treatment. I thought I was alone in this, but I am one of many.
Over the last year, I have become aware of about 10 designated parking stalls that are reserved for specific disabled parking permits, which completely contradicts the UAC’s statement that reserving an accessible stall is illegal. I sent a YMessage to the physical disabilities counselor at the UAC asking if they supervise these designated handicapped stalls. She responded, “We do not. Those stalls are overseen by the police department. The UAC oversees four stalls total (there are two by the Maeser, the one by the Clyde and the one by the Talmage)”
I then sent an email to police department asking about the reserved handicap parking spots for specific permit numbers and who uses them. Rich Christianson responded: “The reserved handicap parking spots are for a specific person, if the sign has the permit number posted. The BYU accessibility office assigns these parking stalls and there are only about 10 of them on campus. Please call me if you have further questions.”
Clearly, there is either a major communication disconnect between the UAC and the police department or someone was withholding the truth from me. This situation has negatively affected disabled students at BYU. Students do not have the option to use these stalls because the University Police believes the UAC is in charge of distributing them, and the UAC believes the University Police is in charge of distributing these stalls. Thus, these stalls are not being used and the potential benefits they could provide is being wasted.
During my freshman year, I was involved in a project to create maps of showing every elevator, accessible restroom, ramp, and other accessibility features. The project was given to the Student Advisory Council (SAC) and a group of four students on the Council were enlisted to complete this mapping. The UAC supposedly requested this project, but I am personally unsure about its origins. The four of us researched all of the ADA laws and started mapping the buildings. The UAC printed off maps and met with us occasionally but we were mostly on our own. We completed as much as we could and handed the project off to the UAC. We also presented the project to President Worthen, Jan Scharman and other high ranking officials in BYU administration. We thought that because it was their idea and because we had already made a lot of progress, they would assemble a team to finish mapping and publish it on the BYU app. Unfortunately, this never happened.
While I was called back to present this project to more administrators that summer, I know of nothing that the UAC did to support the project going forward. The next year, I advocated to complete the project, but again, the UAC gave it to four unpaid students with no mapping experience. These students were also focusing on other projects on multiple different disability issues and weren’t able to make much progress on the mapping. My senior year, I went back to the UAC because I was wondering why the map was still not published on the app. While it would benefit hundreds of students, faculty, and visitors to BYU, this project needed the support of the UAC and administration. Many other universities have this resource, but BYU appears to think it is unimportant. The University Accessibility Center told me several times that they were very busy and it wasn’t their job to make campus accessible. To that, I would ask: “If it’s not their job, whose job is it?”
As far I as could tell, Shelli Mahler, the UAC director of physical disabilities and coordinator of the project, had done nothing and had pushed it to the back burner. It had been two years since the SAC had given this project to the UAC, but I was also told that the project was a a SAC project and not a UAC project. Shelli admitted she had done nothing for the project, other than assigning random students to work on it. After this disheartening conversation, I realized that I would have to take on this project with other students who cared about it. Thus, Jordan Jones and myself have been mapping campus by ourselves for the last several months.
The UAC said the project was stalled because of Physical Facilities, so I went and spoke to the Vice President of Physical Facilities, Ole Smith. In the meeting we had a conference call with Kelly Flanagan, Vice President of OIT. Both Kelly and Ole and were enthusiastic and willing to help, but were waiting on the UAC to send them the maps. Unfortunately, after this meeting with Ole, I was not contacted again and Ole never responded to my emails. I was trying to find out what in format they needed they needed the maps in order to easily switch from physical to digital maps. Later, when I asked Shelli to contact Ole Smith and OIT to ask what format they would want, she told me that about 15 different departments that would now have to approve putting the map of accessible restrooms on the BYU app. This occurred after Kelly Flanagan said that the OIT team was ready to go and just needed the maps. My job should not be to constantly keep hounding every administrator and organization to remember to figure out what their job is. I feel like I have had to create the change single handedly.
The UAC refused to accommodate writing part of a test on a IPad. This is a reasonable accommodation and without it my handwriting is painstakingly slow, somewhat illegible, and writing hurts my arms. The LSAC and other professors have granted this accommodation because they understand that both my hands are completely paralyzed. I went through a very smooth process to request LSAT accommodations with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and with other professors, but have had frustrating interactions with BYU. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) received all the documentation and promptly granted me my accommodations on writing with an IPad. The only person who has denied this is the BYU Accessibility Center, which is ironic, considering their mission to help disabled students. They have a camera in the testing room, and I offered to take test with a person watching me as well, but they still denied these reasonable accommodations. I feel that doing so has made it more difficult for me to take tests and has made taking tests more stressful. I usually still do pretty well on the tests, but I certainly think not having accommodations puts me at a disadvantage.
Last year, I went through a very smooth process to request LSAT accommodations with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), but later had frustrating interactions with BYU. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) received all the documentation and promptly granted me my accommodations. Unfortunately, I found out that I had to go through the BYU Testing Center to actually set up the accommodations. This process was the direct opposite of my experience with the LSAC.
I called the phone number the LSAC had given me and explained that I needed to schedule the test with the Testing Center. I explained that I needed to know about the set up in order to anticipate if the building and room were accessible for me. The woman I spoke with was very unprofessional and would not tell me where my test would be held. I explained that I don’t normally take tests in the Testing Center because it the auditorium is completely inaccessible. She assumed I would take it in the large testing room used by most students. This was frustrating to me because my LSAC accommodations specifically stated that I needed a desk to roll under and I knew the large testing room was inaccessible for me. She demeaned me by saying I should be able to use the large room without complaining. I explained that the only time I had taken a test in the Testing Center was a very negative experience and that I hoped to avoid a similar experience by scouting out the location beforehand. I asked specifically about the new accessibility center office that had been placed in testing center earlier that year. I hadn’t been yet but was wondering if my test would be in there since it was newly remodeled.
She belittled me and completely disregarded everything I said. She again stated I was wrong in requesting an accessible room, insisting I should just use the regular testing room. Without any explanation, she denied my right to see the room I would be tested in. During the course of the call, I stated three times that I would want to see the place I would be testing at, while she tried to dismiss me. Then she switched gears and said I would probably test upstairs in a office room or in the reduced distraction room: two options I doubt would have worked. I calmly explained that I would go to talk to someone at the Testing Center. She finally relented reluctantly. This burdensome conversation led me to realize that I needed help, so I went to speak with GeriLynn Vorkink at the UAC. She was kind and explained that they had received previous reports of this employee being a problem, but the UAC had no jurisdiction over the testing center accessibility rooms. She could not do anything because she did not hire the employees at the Testing Center. I felt confused that the UAC sends its clients to the accessible testing rooms in the Testing Center, but has no say in screening the employees there. It is concerning that disabled students must rely on employees who appear biased against us and who treat us with contempt. I should never be subject verbal harassment because of my accommodations, especially after they have already been granted. I was able to discuss things with the employee and reconcile, which was very beneficial when I had to go take the LSAT in their office later on. However, this experience could have been avoided entirely if the accessible testing center personnel received training on diversity and disability from the UAC.
While many physical barriers were addressed, the most important issue to me is ignorance surrounding disability in the minds of the people around me. My freshman year, I joined an intramural basketball game. My teammates and I thought nothing of it and had fun practicing for the first game. As we got to the game, the referees realized I was part of the team and refused to let me play. They told me they were afraid I would hurt myself and become a “liability.” This was an example of the darkness that I hoped to eliminate by letting my voice be heard.. This and other less pronounced incidents led me to grow accustomed to navigating the adventures of unequal access, but I want a better environment for the next generation of students. I continued to pursue change throughout in my undergraduate career. Many other universities realize that students should have the opportunity to participate in sports. There are 13 universities that even let disabled people compete and train for the Olympics, like any other student athlete. I have never taken a dance or sports class because I was afraid of them banning me when I got to class after this experience.
When I got married, there was a huge issue on where we could live together. Almost every housing complex in Provo is completely inaccessible. They are old and don’t have to comply with the ADA law. They usually have stairs up and down to apartments. There was one new complex on center street that was accessible, but was completely filled because it was a federal fair Housing Act 1998 and had subsidized housing. We ended up having to move to Orem.
Bathroom experiences: My freshman year I couldn’t get into bathrooms, the SWKT, MARB, TANNER etc were buildings that did not have truly accessible bathrooms although they said they did. I would have to go to other building to go to the bathroom if I needed to during class. This definitely affected my education as my bladder heath requires me to take more bathroom breaks, I take much longer in the bathroom, and there were no bathrooms I could go to. I missed class many times because of this.
I received a parking violation when it was stated disabled could park in any other stall if I needed to with an accessible permit. X Stalls apparently not included in that law, but we were not told this. where are we supposed to park? Not enough reserved stalls for disabled students.
My name is Kylie. I just graduated from BYU and I loved every second of it. I felt like for the most part, it was easy for me to get around thanks to BYU. One of my struggles would be the buttons for sure. I ran into the problem of them not working or having things in front of them so I could not get to them. I think for the most part the snow was pretty cleared, but I did felt like there were days I had problems with getting around with the snow. It would be very helpful to have buttons on all doors around campus. I would like to have more handicap sitting for sports passes. I would love more ramps so other students like me have options to go in other doors, other then having only one option.
Laura Tyler For Elizabeth, “Biz” Tyler
During winter break, 2007, my sister Elizabeth (“Biz”) was diagnosed with osteosarcoma; a large cancerous tumor was wrapped around of the base of her spine. Surgery and recovery involved the removal of several vertebrae and half of her pelvis. One leg was amputated and her salvaged femur bone from that limb was used to reconnect her remaining leg to the base of her spine. Recovery took nearly two years and was threatened as cancer spread to her lungs. She eventually returned to BYU as a newly disabled student in a manual wheelchair. I helped her get to classes and cleaned her apartment. Her roommate was a graduate student in the math department with severe cystic fibrosis. They both landed in that apartment because it was one of the only wheelchair accessible places listed in BYU approved housing. Frankly, it wasn’t remotely accessible and they had no able-bodied roommates. The owners claimed accessibility because it was on the first floor and there was handicapped parking. I kept their place clean because neither could dishes or laundry. I drove my sister to and from campus since the only way up was via the south campus ramp by Brick Oven—impossible for a manual wheelchair. I don’t think all the buses were accessible at that time.
The campus parking situation was fine; you could park in any A spot with a handicapped placard. At one point, campus police ticketed our car for parking violations. Turns out a BYU student had taken a picture of her placard, forged it, and used it to park in no parking zones. BYU police voided the parking fines, but didn’t pursue the suspect.
It was difficult for my sister to come back to BYU as a newly disabled person. It’s a big campus, and she was pretty weak. Most professors understood that it was difficult to attend class and allowed her to participate via Skype when necessary. She didn’t have many friends—by the time she got back to BYU most of her friends had graduated. I was disappointed in her ward for not reaching out or trying to fellowship her. She had some interactions with the BYU accessibility center, but I don’t remember any big adjustments after meeting with them. She had requested a spot in their offices or a spot in the TA Offices at the KMBL where she could transfer to a softer chair for pain relief, but I don’t think the UAC ever came through. She did find friends in Salt Lake through adaptive sports, but BYU didn’t offer anything like that.
Frankly, BYU is not very accessible. I had mentioned the KMBL before. My sister had many classes and church in that building. The only place for truly accessible seating in the lecture hall is the back row. For classes, this was a pain because Biz was legally blind in one eye. For church, it was embarrassing that she sat alone on the back row. BYU shut down bus service by the Wilk for a time, so the only place she could get dropped off was at the Marriott School of Business. From there, she rode the elevator to main campus and pushed herself to classes. The first time she visited the UAC, she got stuck in an elevator in the Wilk; the facilities manager had to load her into the freight elevator so she could get to the accessibility office.
At one point, her Bishop made a very thoughtless, but hurtful comment: “Why do they put all the disabled students in our ward?” The answer is, as I said before, it was one of the only complexes advertised as accessible at the time. I also mentioned that my sister had to get out of her chair now and then. If she regularly spent more than two hours at a time in her chair, her skin would start to break down. She would scout out bathrooms on campus with nursing stations to unload. She felt uncomfortable taking up space intended for mothers. Much of BYU’s campus was built pre-ADA (1990), and my sister experienced that every day: stairs, steep ramps, split-level buildings, limited elevators, limited resting spots.
We graduated together and moved to Chicago where eventually she started a masters program in Disability Studies. She never finished, passing away June 2016. I know she’d have more to say. She loved BYU, and getting back there after surgery to graduate was a huge goal. Good luck on your article. I can suggest a couple things to accommodate people in wheelchairs—though if it’s been 8 years since we graduated so things might have changed. Ideas are attached below. Good luck!
1-BYU approved housing should have a more rigorous application process for landlords claiming wheelchair accessible housing including adapted appliances, wheelchair friendly desks, bathrooms and kitchens.
2-a dedicated shuttle service for students with disabilities, provided in full or in part by BYU.
3-a disability lounge of sorts where students can safely unload to get out of their wheelchairs.
4-a service that can contract out students to be personal care assistants for hire.
Oh my heck! The RB stairs!! How does anyone hurt or disabled navigate those? I hurt my back snowboarding before one of my semesters there and was trying to use crutches to get around. It was SO hard to get where I needed to go on time! I was trying to rush to my class at the RB and got to the top of the stairs and sighed thinking about having to get down them (I knew I would be late to my class too!). Fortunately, two guys walking by heard me sigh and offered to help. I jokingly said, "Not unless you can carry me down the stairs." One of the guys said he thought he could and DID! I was so grateful for that little miracle because those RB stairs are hard enough for fully functional people! Maybe I don't fit your demographic but I definitely sympathize with the problems of navigating parts of campus.
“I've noticed that many (many) elevator and access buttons are behind trash cans. Find me the logic in that. This is in Heritage especially, a technically accessible building complex.
“I dislike having to schedule exams over 24 hours in advance, but it’s understandable.”
“Sometimes access buttons are broken for long periods of time. (for instance, I haven’t been able to get in the front of the Tanner on my own for a couple of weeks).”
“Recently, I did go to a restaurant this past week without someone there to open the door for me (something that I never do anymore honestly) and it was just anxiety all over again because I struggled SO BAD opening the door and I was grateful all over again for automatic door openers but idk if that’s even useful but in my head I was like “OK we’re never doing this again by ourselves” haha and something as simple as not having door openers stops me from ever wanting to go do things by myself. But like it just hit me all over again how something so small IS making a difference, and it’s a big difference. I was grateful for portal. But I don’t know a good way to communicate that to someone like a VP of an University.And like with it getting more and more difficult for me to do things like open doors on my own, i’m always looking for shortcuts and ways to make things easier for me that I used to do for myself more easily.”
The office of Accessibility is pretty inaccessible. I can’t email to set up an appointment (You have to call during certain hours) and the appointment has to be in person. Also, there is not answering machine.
Anoymous (Name Redacted)
“ 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.”
“I had a grad school professor that based a lot of the grade on attendance (including tardies). I almost failed because I can’t stand more than ten minutes without passing out. So climbing the stairs was an excruciating. Process. He didn’t crap about my “sob story” and said if someone was late because of a funeral he’d grade them the same.”
“I know that there are some people who can’t take classes in buildings like the MARB because it has no elevator. Imagine not being able to take a major specific course because they don’t have a elevator.”
The MARB does have an elevator but it is difficult to find and behind a sometimes closed door.
“I suffered from major depressive disorder and general anxiety. Have many stories, including several times pushing me toward general studies degree or saying I wouldn’t be a good fit.”
I've written out some things in each of the categories you said you were looking to talk about - they're somewhat broad (specificity is hard without calling out people too specifically - which I don't want to do for a number of reasons) but I hope they can be helpful anyway. Lots of the specifics of the conversations I had with faculty are in those art pieces I sent you and I'm fine with those being used but it would be awesome if you could run context for their use by me so we can discuss art credit first (just for clarity I don't need money or anything - just dependent on the context I may want to be credited for the work).
Please let me know if there's anything else I can do to help.
“I'm super stoked people are working to make issues about accessibility at BYU (and honestly in higher ed more generally) public. It's been a long private battle for lots of us and it's more than time BYU took responsibility for it”
“The course policies for many courses on campus were incompatible with some of the accommodations specified in my accommodations letter (excused absences and extended deadlines when I was too ill to be in class). While some faculty members were willing to work with me on these problems, I had many who told me that they wouldn’t accommodate me. Dealing with the stress of trying to gain access to courses where faculty members clearly didn’t want me to be successful often meant I did worse in those classes.
As a student with an invisible disability I faced a number of faculty members who were skeptical (at best) or disbelieving (generally) about my need for accommodations. This meant that I was tasked with either educating the professors about my illness/invisible disabilities generally or I worked overtime to make sure I wouldn’t need accommodations in their class.
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. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of a student to tell a faculty that their actions are discriminatory (and illegal) when the university hasn’t done the work to train faculty about these issues in the first place”
“As BYU has worked to push campus as a walking campus, the availability of parking, including disability stalls, has become a major issue. As a student with a physical condition that makes walking long distances incredibly difficult, I often found myself parking across campus from where I needed to be just to find an open parking spot. Many of the disability stalls I had used for parking on campus early on in my time there were removed or obstructed during the construction of a number of buildings on campus. When I asked the parking and accessibility offices about this issue, they both assured me that they were dedicated to keeping enough spots available for those who “really need them”. I asked if they knew how many full time faculty/students had disabled parking placards and was told that they didn’t keep track. Based on my experience there aren’t enough spots to begin with. Them being blocked by construction materials & equipment for months at a time only reinforced that disability parking wasn’t actually being considered an important issue.
I lived on campus in Heritage Halls and experienced individuals parking illegally in or behind the disability parking stalls (by buildings 9 & 10) on a daily basis. I was regularly unable to park or unpark my car because people treated those spots as a pick-up/drop-off zone. If this was outside of main parking hours for campus it was essentially impossible to get campus parking or police to ticket the vehicles that made it impossible for me to leave or go home. I regularly had to park in the Law School parking lot across the street because of illegally parked cars which on bad days caused major flares in my symptoms”
The accessibility center focuses most of their advocacy and work on campus around mental health and learning-based disabilities. Both of these are incredibly important (and statistically are likely to make up much of the in-office accommodations work the UAC deals with) but it hurts to be a student with physical disabilities who is publicly ignored by the office. Every year the office sponsors a Disability Awareness Week on campus and nearly all the events (if not all in some years) focused around mental health or learning disabilities. Both of these are important and good topics to be highlighting on campus, but it’s hard to not feel like an afterthought when physical disabilities are left off the table for discussion.”
Hi Kendra! So I was a student at BYU when I started really struggling with anxiety and depression. I stopped being able to go to classes or work (I worked at the MOA cafe) because I was having such a hard time. I also stopped turning in assignments. I pretty much became a hermit. I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without having a panic attack. It took me awhile to finally reach out to the University Accessibility Center to try and clean up the mess I had made of my semester. They asked me for a note from my doctor with my medical information which I assume included my diagnoses, and then had me contact my professors. For the most part, I had a good experience with the way my professors reacted. The general answer that I received was that they would give me an incomplete and then I would have a year to turn in all the things that I had missed. One of my professors, however, did not give me that option. He said “I don't know what we can do to improve your grade enough to make it worth your time and to fix your GPA.” This was obviously not what I wanted to hear and caused me to really break down. From that point on I just continued to deteriorate. I did not get the forms filled out in order to get the incompletes in my other classes. I stopped communicating with the University Accessibility Center entirely, and my mom ended up having to do all the work of unenrolling me from school. It took me years to finally try and figure things out with my transcript. At that point, I had become a mother to two toddlers, and wanted to do online school. BYUI was my best option. However, my transcript at BYU had been mangled by that last semester. Five F’s. Just thinking about it caused me to have panic attacks. But I eventually gathered enough courage to contact the University Accessibility Center. They told me that it was possible for me to retroactively withdraw from the classes I had failed that semester, and directed me to the Petitions Office. I sent in my petition, explaining the circumstances surrounding that gosh-awful semester. They accepted it and my transcript was repaired. From there, I applied to transfer to BYUI.
Altogether, I had an acceptable experience with the way BYU handled my struggles with mental illness. I was lucky. 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 was suicidal, and I stopped communicating with them and with my professors. I did not get the paperwork turned in that I needed to. For all they knew, I could have been in a lot of danger. If they had reached out to me to try and help me continue working towards getting incompletes in my classes, that could have changed my experience completely. More reaching out is a huge way BYU could improve, I think. Also, I think it would have been helpful if they had assigned a BYU therapist to my case to make sure I was doing ok. I think what they did was the minimum, which was helpful, but not helpful enough.
During my freshman year, my mom was hounding me a little bit to go to the University Accessibility Center (UAC) and get accommodations for my hearing loss, something I felt totally fine about doing. I had used an FM system in high school, which is a microphone that the teacher can speak into and their voice will go to my hearing aid. It was great! I used this in elementary, middle, and high school. I stopped using it my last two years in high school because the classes were all discussion based and I had them transcribe the notes in class, which was also great! I can’t take notes and listen at the same time!
I went to the UAC to figure out how college was going to work. I brought every piece of documentation I needed. I brought my audiogram from my doctor, a letter from my counselor, a list of all the prior accommodations I had received and several other things. I gave all the documents to the UAC and said I had a hearing loss and needed accommodations. They said someone would be in contact with me so I left all my documentation with them. I never got a call back. I finally went back in and said, “I left all my documentation and all the required information and you said you’d get back to me, but I haven’t heard back from anyone.” They told me, “Well, we need all your documentation again, do you have it?” and I said, “No, I gave you my only copies.” The UAC then told me I wouldn’t qualify unless I provide the same documentation AGAIN.
Obviously, they had not cared about my request and had lost all my important documents that I needed to get accommodations. These were the only copies I had in Utah and my family recently moved so it would be awhile until I could get their copies. I entrusted them to the UAC because I thought the UAC would be professional in the way they handled them. The UAC covered its mistake by saying I wouldn’t qualify for accommodations. 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. As a super outgoing person, even I struggled to advocate for myself, so I can’t even imagine how someone that was less vocal than me would ever get help. It baffles me.
Because of this one experience, my first few years at BYU were ROUGH. I finally went to an academic advisor because my grades had tanked to C’s D’s and F’s. She asked me if I had ever spoken to the UAC and I told her what had happened. She told me to go back and she said she had heard there was some people who were fired because of that. Finally I got some accommodations, which were supposed to include both transcribers and notetakers, as stated in my accommodation letter. I have never received notetakers which would have been immensely helpful, but at this point, I am just glad to be getting accommodations at all. My transcribers are mostly students and the UAC doesn’t pay them very well. My grades, since I got the accommodations, have been way better.
For the first 2.5 years at BYU, I was refused accommodations, so my overall GPA is terrible. I have talked to my professors about how my more recent grades have been awesome (A’s and high B’s), but that before then I failed a couple classes and got horrible grades. I told them that because of my UAC experience I don’t know if I can get into ANY grad schools. My professors have been super helpful, unlike the UAC. They have tried to help me be successful by looking over grad school applications and letters for me. They’ve been super awesome overall. My experience at BYU has either been fantastic or horrendous. The academics and professors have been great. The horrendous part has been the accessibility.
I also have had issues with panic disorder. I went to BYU for help with that. I went to the counseling office, Title IV office, and the health clinic and they were are awful. You can’t ever get into the counseling center. The BYU health center actually prescribed a medication, which I was totally fine with taking but I felt a strong urge not to. I found out later that the medication was recalled recently and they should have never prescribed. (Medical malpractice). Needless to say that I never went back.
They are very good about putting on a front of being accommodating, but they don't actually follow through.
There's not very many people I can find that have a disability, and I think that's in part because it is so inaccessible. One one hand their argument (that is completely wrong) is that they don't have to comply with the ADA law, it's not their job and they can be choosy. But if they are going to accept ppl with disabilities they have to accommodate them. And if they don’t want to accept people with disabilities, that is blatant discrimination. They want the minority points without putting in the work.”
Anonymous (Name Redacted)
“I wheeled back to Helaman halls, building 9, and the elevator was out of order, I couldn’t call the elevator car to the 1st floor. This has happened two times just this semester, the second one being at the Brimhall, where the elevator was out for a day
Nine out of ten times, the elevators will work, but that one out of ten time is always a killer for me and the professors.
It’d be very nice if there was a map that pointed out the accessible bathrooms, that way I, along with other folks, could head there instead of risking a handicap stall to be open in a normal restroom.”
The accessible bathroom in the law building, doesn’t actually have a accessible stall. It is mislabeled. I went to the law building after class but just had to hold it.
Buttons can be broken sometimes, or unresponsive on some occasions. Buttons would be useful in certain locations such as classrooms and other important areas. A button on glass wall leading into the Marriott’s open hall would be nice. A buttons side door to lecture hall in the Tanner rm. 115 would be fantastic.”
“To be honest, I didn’t think I fit under the requirements to receive any accommodations. So i didn’t ask for any specific resources. I just let me professors know that I had hip bursitis and that there would be times when i needed to get up and move around or I might be a little late to class.
Luckily I lived at Heritage Halls during the time when it affected me the most, so I didn’t have to come from off campus. But i also made sure to not have any classes in the RB or in the Tanner building so I didn’t have to walk down and up too many stairs. But even with those accommodations I made myself, sometimes the walks were tough! Any campus is going to be big and require lots of walking.
Another thing that was hard was just feeling judged for getting up in the middle of the discussions. But it was even harder when i got stuck in a middle seat of a row and I didn’t want to climb over everyone in the middle of a discussion so i remained in my seat in pain. It would have been nice if I had a designated seat on the end of the row for when I needed to get up. But I didn’t feel like I was ever given that option because I didn’t really look like I had a physical disability. I didn’t have crutches or a cast or really any other sign that i was always in pain. Some days were harder than others, and it’s not easy to vocalize your problems to complete strangers in your class.
I didn't go to the UAC, I guess you could say it was the stigma... Haha. I don’t know. As I would read the disability statements, I honestly thought the UAC was more for those who had a learning disability or just needed extra help from a peer because they can’t take notes or something. Haha. I really don’t know. But for some reason I didn’t feel like my case fit the criteria because I was still able to get all my work in on time on my own. It was just those dreadful class discussions when I didn’t arrive on time and \had to sit through the pain because of a middle seat. Or I even just skipped some discussions and found the slides online when I was having a hard day. Anyways! It was hard some days, but I still managed to get through the classes :) The suggestions I would have is to just make it clear in the disability statements on I-learn (when you’re just starting the classes) and everywhere else that this could also be a place where the professor could know of your invisible mental and health challenges. It would also be kind of cool in the professors could reach out (I know they already have a lot of work) at least at the beginning of the semester. It can be hard to be upfront about what’s going on with you that others can’t see.
At BYU, I am a program director for elementary students with various disabilities. I have also dated a deaf person. From these experiences I have realized that BYU needs to move more resources for accessibility to its student and the community. We play with children at the pool and at the gym, every Thursday and Friday from 11AM-11:50AM. At the pool, we have a girl in a wheelchair that loves the water. When she first came in January, we put her in the lift that allowed her to get into the water. The problem was that the chair couldn’t bring her up. The chair was broken. Me and a couple of the other volunteers would help her every Thursday, getting in and out of the pool. We would prop her out of her chair, maneuver her to the side of the pool, and would help her get in and back out. It took two whole months to fix the lift chair. Although we are grateful it was fixed, and the lifeguards were very important in helping that happen, for two whole months we allowed a young girl in a wheelchair to think that the lift not working was okay. BUT IT IS NOT. I would tell her every time I carried her to the pool, that she deserved the chair to work. Accessibility is not for the rich, it is not a luxury, nor should it be “a special arrangement” it is for everyone. Friends who have depression have gone to the Accessibility Office gotten notes for late homework, and I know teachers who have right up told them that they are “fine” to turn things in on time. BYU needs to change. For being part of a religion who has faced persecution for being a religious minority, we sure do a bang up job recognizing and providing access to other minority groups, other than religion. Because believe it or not, those are the people are called to serve. Back to the issue at hand. 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.
I came to college never expecting I would be considered someone who has a disability. That honestly sounded ridiculous to me. After I was assaulted at BYU, I was forced to face all my demons. I got diagnosed with PTSD, which to this day still affects my ability to function and focus on school. I also briefly struggled with some depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. It was quite difficult to balance school, and social life, while trying to take care of my mental health. My counselor at the multicultural student services office suggested I get an accommodation letter from the UAC. I refused once or twice, until I found myself almost flunking semester after semester. I finally went to my therapist and got documentation. BYU refused to see me due to how severe my ptsd was, which makes sense and I am glad I got long-term help outside of the CAPS center. Shortly after I started working with UAC, I got a brain tumor, so needed documentation for the seizures/migraines I now get as a result of it. This also made me a bit more "slow" in terms of my learning capability.
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. Most professors and other university staff have been amazing at making accommodations. Sadly, there have been a few that have not been. Those few actually made my depression worsen, because I honestly felt judged and belittled. It sucks, and I hate having to explain what's going on in order for them to take me seriously. With time, I have learned to be strong and advocate for my needs. It has not been easy but I have come far in hopes that professors who haven't been as accommodating can learn from my experience, and be more respectful to the students who come after me.
The biggest take away from my personal experience having a disability, is that not all disabilities are visible. Some might be mental or emotional, like it is in my case. I might look put together, dressed up and smiling. But if i'm being honest, most mornings it takes so much strength to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and look semi-clean. I sometimes am shaking with anxiety to leave my house, or cry because I feel so overwhelmed. Yet, I still show up so people think it was no big deal for me to be in class. In reality it is an everyday battle; looking beyond my mind and having faith in giving it my all to attend.
Feeling invisible in a campus where I yearned to feel welcomed, made me feel so sad and anxious, I legit stopped going to classes and starting taking classes online. I realize this is just from my perspective, so I am now readjusting to being on campus and owning who I am. However, i think past experiences led me to think this way about BYU, and the perfectionistic environment it can sometimes portray.
Campus was pretty good but when I was going to partial weight bearing and learning how to walk again sometimes I would have to sit on the ground or a bench with my crutches because of only having one leg to use. Getting into the bus was a big hassle because I didn’t have a handicap parking sticker (something I wish my doctor would have talked to me about) because my availability to get in the bus was severely limited to how many people would be on it. I would have to wake up much earlier to get on a bus that had as few people as possible.
The accessibility center was great to work with because they were clear about what I was supposed to do for a shorter wait time when it came to testing. When I went to the testing center, despite following the UAC instructions the testing center told me I was in the wrong room which was a bit frustrating. I was sure about this because they told me to get into the elevator and go across from the desks where students check out their tests. The testing center told me I needed to go downstairs to a specific room that other students use. It seemed like they needed better communication with each other or with the student.
Many of my professors were understanding of my issue but I still needed to ride my scooter to campus for a 7 am final. I was able to use specific chairs in my classrooms and professors were willing to work with me even though I did my best to not need additional assistance.
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
First, I think doctors should address short term handicap parking for temporary disability with patients, maybe an app that notifies students of traffic between classes and out of order elevators so that they know how to get where they need to go, especially in the Tanner building, even though I had very few issues with that building. The ryde could operate more as a business to notify students of higher shuttle use in case if a student needs to take up additional space. Next, better communication between testing center and accessibility center. I also think that with students who have sudden temporary disabilities that CAPS could address new methods of coping when they are unable to be active. I was very active before my injury and it took me almost 5 months to be able to exercise again. CAPS only really takes new clients if they are seriously suicidal if they don’t sign up months in advance. I think maybe giving students one session to talk about new activities to alleviate some of the emotional symptoms that come with a drastic change in life
I realize that my experience was much lower scale than some of the students I see on campus with permanent disabilities. But this injury gave me so much more of a respect for students who have to deal with this on a permanent basis
Tiffany Gibbons (Junior, Theatre Education) (Permission Granted)
Didn’t put this in my email, and I’m sure you already know this, but like half of the handicap buttons to open doors just straight up don’t work!!! It’s like YOU HAD ONE JOB.
Two and a half weeks ago, I broke my foot. Though I was put in a walking boot, I was quickly banished back to crutches because I don’t know how to take it easy, campus is HUGE, and I do a LOT of walking in a normal school day. I have quickly found that, while I’m pretty sure the campus is technically accessible, I have to go way out of my way to find ramps or elevators. I’ve been late to pretty much every class, even leaving earlier than normal, because it is so hard to navigate with crutches. My classes tend to hop from the HFAC to the RB, a trek for even the most able-bodied. Teachers say they’ll work with me, but they also kinda don’t. I spend most evenings exhausted, frustrated, and in so much pain— just from going to all my classes.
I am registered with the accessibility office because I have moderate-severe progressive hearing loss. I have found them to be so helpful, and have tons of options for me. I don’t use many at the moment, because I generally just use my hearing aids and try to get a front row(ish) seat in my classes, but as my hearing gets worse it is nice to know I have options and support. My favorite part about having a registered disability with the university is priority registration :) 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 don’t even think my employers know about this disability, though I wear my hearing aids to work. I can’t really have a job The relies on my answering phones because I rely so much on reading lips and facial expressions.
Last semester, I was diagnosed with Mono. Which SUUUUCKED. Not only was I tired all the time, I also became very depressed by how tired I was all the time. I was able to get a medical petition to lower credits signed, which was really nice because that way I could take fewer classes and keep my scholarship. That being said, I have really struggled with depression and anxiety in general and I know I’m not alone. I know you can be granted accessibility resources through the university, much like my hearing disability, but mental health is so much harder to document and prove to the system. 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.
I hope this helps!! Thanks for listening! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m an open book.