ACCESSING ACADEMIC ACCOMODATIONS

Grace Ozonoff-Richey ‘20

Disability Columnist

My introduction to the disability accommodations process at Scripps was undesirable, to say the least. I liken my experience to a game: how many administrators would I have to break down in front of until someone actually helped me? Two years later, I’m in stable condition and part of the leadership team for the 5C Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA).

I’m now making it my mission that no one else has to play this game.

Accommodations take many different forms and look different for every person. Examples range from extended time on assignments to special housing.

Although there are several categories of disability accommodations, today I will talk exclusively about academic accommodations given that, at the behest of the Dean of Students Office, now is the most pertinent time in the semester to request accommodations.

1.  Recognize your needs and consider if institutional support is the right option.

Your struggles and needs are valid. Period. It is important, however, to think deeply if:

a) intervention in the classroom will address your problems

b) if you’re willing to go through this overwhelming bureaucratic process.

For example, I independently approached my Intro to Arabic professor as a first-year started to explain that I have a learning disability and would likely struggle with certain aspects of the class. He offered me suggestions on how to navigate the textbook (and empathized with me as a fellow dyslexic!) to the extent that I felt like I didn’t need learning disability-related accommodations for his class.

2. Meet With Your Primary Contact Dean

The primary contact deans (PCDs) are well versed in the accommodations process. They will help you carefully review your options, provide advice, and ultimately direct you to Academic Resources and Services, a subset of the Dean of Students Office. PCDs are assigned by last name:

A-F Christopher Dennis

G-L Leslie Schnyder

M-R Julie Loppacher

S-T Jenn Wells

U-Z Deborah Grisvold

3.  Schedule an appointment with Academic Resources and Services(ARS)

During your visit, you will be asked to complete the “Request for Disability Support Services” form. Then you will meet with an ARS coordinator, probably either Dean Schnyder or Dean Loppacher, for a brief interview. Be prepared to answer the following questions:

a) What is the nature of your disability?

b) What are the limitations caused by your disability?

c) How does your disability affect your daily life?

d) What accommodations will you need in order to provide you equal access?

Think carefully about the last question. Both the PCDs and ARS coordinators can help you determine which accommodations are appropriate for your circumstances. Examples of academic accommodations include note-taking assistance, proctored exams, extensions on assignments, use of assistive technology, and part-time enrollment.

4.  Get documentation from mental or medical health care professional.

The most important thing to understand about disability accommodations is that the Dean of Students Office is not obligated to provide any kind of assistance without proof of documentation. An ARS coordinator will provide you with guidelines on how to ask your doctor letter explaining your limitations.

While there is legitimate power in self-diagnosis and obtaining documentation can be a financial and emotional burden, the Americans with Disabilities Act only prohibits discrimination against “qualified” individuals with disabilities.

According to the Academic Resources and Service website, “qualified” in this context means a “person who meets the academic and technical standards requisite to admission or participation in the education program.” This jargon is their disclaimer; they’re only obligated in assisting students with documented disabilities.

5.  Wait...but not for too long!!

Accommodations are decided on an individual basis. ARS staff will review your request form and support documentation in order to identify reasonable accommodations, then discusses the options with the student. Depending on the severity and urgency of your condition, you may experience a quick turnover. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and show up in person to ARS (on the north side of Kimberly) to ask about the status of your request! Note that requests can be rejected.

6.  Reach out to your professors

Time and time again, my professors emphasize that they’re willing to work even with informal (non-documented) accommodations requests as long as the student communicates clearly with them. While they’re not obligated to uphold informal requests, most are flexible within reason.

Once your request is approved, ARS will ask your permission to notify your professors via email. Strict confidentiality rules apply. While you’re not required to disclose details or identify your disability to professors, I’ve found through personal experience that they’re more flexible when they know the nature of your limitations.

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