Other colleges must follow suit
College students with disabilities appeared to have experienced a setback this past August when the American Council on Education rejected a provision that would have more educational opportunities to be more accessible to them. The Council’s decision caused uproar and has many questioning whether all students are being offered proper support and guidance on their respective college campuses.
Specifically the provision asks college campuses to adhere to guidelines making electronic instructional materials in a uniform way. Those wishing to opt out must prove they have arrangements that provide disabled students with materials of equivalent value to those that nondisabled students use. Though the purpose of the draft document is honorable, I do not believe a uniform set of guidelines is effective. Instead, disability centers of each and every college campus should take the initiative to cater to their students’ needs.
Students with disabilities can have any multitude of conditions. Moreover, a handicap that any student may have is not just limited to learning disorders: It can be any condition that can challenge a student from accessing educational materials. Types of disabilities can thus range from blindness and visual impairments to physical, medical and motor impairments.
Such disabilities make it challenging for students to realize their full potential. Students with learning disabilities need extra time to process material while students with visual impairments need different media to read and receive material on. Students with disabilities are not less intelligent or less capable. Once their respective institutions provide them with the appropriate accommodations, all students can participate in classes comfortably.
All students will have unique cases despite having a disability that may be common. Therefore, it is too complicated for institutions to adhere to a common set of standards. Each student has a unique case and it is only fair to give them arrangements that will make their experience comparable to those of nondisabled students. Consequently, college campuses will need to assume responsibility for their own students.
Federal law entitles students equal access to education. To make this a viable goal, colleges should support the individualized needs of every student. Since each student has different conditions and therefore different requests, the response to each student should not be the same. Nonetheless, the outcome or accessibility to their classes should be equal.
At Wellesley, Disability Services provides such assistance by assessing and addressing students’ conditions to grant them the best educational experience possible. Prior to the beginning of every semester, forms are made available for the student body to report temporary and long-term disabilities and request help to adjust to classes.
Through this process, the students themselves are invited to suggest what support they will need. It is important that the school focuses on what the student needs. The College also requests supporting documentation from doctors, but soliciting input from the students themselves is commendable because students know themselves and their capabilities best.
In addition to support from Disability Services, students can also count on faculty members to accommodate them. Every professor encourages students to ask for help when they need it through office hours, help rooms, supplemental instruction, tutoring through the Pforzheimer Learning and Teaching Center or specially arranged accommodations.
In this way, students with and without disabilities are offered many forms of support to excel in their classes. While each of these outlets may not all cater to every student’s needs, their availability offers several options to those seeking help. Beyond these resources, students may receive special measures on a case-by-case basis, which include receiving more time on exams, recording lectures and taking exams orally.
I am humbled by Wellesley’s support and encouragement of its students. The College does its best to make each and every student comfortable in and outside of the classroom. Every American college should strive to offer their students the resources necessary to bolster academic success.
Besides these offerings, I believe that students at all campuses should also support one another. An environment devoid of stigma can create a more welcoming and comfortable setting for study.
Holding a workshop to publicize Disability Services’ accommodations could help other students become more comfortable in reaching out and receiving help. Receiving aid from the college is necessary, but understanding that our peers respect each other contributes to a supportive environment that is healthy and productive for all.