Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Disabled in Grad School - A Blog Series
Over at Inside Higher Ed, a doctoral student named Alyssa has started blogging about what it is like to attend graduate school with a disability, namely autism. The author's posts highlight the problems disabled students encounter, how students deal with them, and what we as professors can do to make things easier for graduate students with disabilities. Interestingly, as a graduate student with substantial teaching responsibilities, the author is able to talk about testing accommodations from two perspectives simultaneously: that of a student and that of a professor.
The author's first post back in October 2017 explained how disabled students feel "When [Professors] Tell  a Disability Story" or announce their personal feelings about whether certain accommodations are appropriate, generally. Unsurprisingly, the author's not a fan.
The following month the author revealed that "[They], Too, Dread the Accommodations Talk" because, as a student, they never know how a professor or administrator is going to respond. Will the professor be accepting, skeptical, or downright antagonistic?
In "Mentoring," the author discusses the importance of having a disability-specific mentoring network.
Last month, the author contemplated (How) Do I Tell My Students? The post supports the argument that disabled students benefit when they see "someone like them" at the front of the classroom.
Most recently, "How 'Out' Do I Need to Be" explored how certain classroom policies can force a student to "out" themselves regarding their disability (e.g. laptop bans). The author explained how some disabled students will purposely avoid certain courses or professors whose classroom policies are at odds with their accommodations, instead of taking the class with an approved accommodation.
Unfortunately, each post seemed to reveal a new flaw in the university's accommodation procedure. I'm not sure what the procedure is at each law school, but I'd like to think that it is fair and less offensive than what the blogger has been exposed to during their graduate program.
At my law school, accommodation requests are all handled by the registrar (who is trained to deal with ADA requests), which limits the opportunity for individual faculty to "tell a disability story" or inadvertently "out" a student. But, I also know at the undergraduate level of the same university, the disabled student must have the "accommodations talk" with each professor, every semester. Fearing the talk, some undergraduates will forego using the accommodations altogether. Unfortunately, skipping out on accommodations during their undergraduate education may make it harder to establish a need later, such as on the LSAT, during law school, or on the bar exam. (Kirsha Trychta)