Going to college as a disabled student was a completely new frontier for me. The campus was larger, there were (thankfully) more elevators; however, I didn't anticipate being so incredibly overwhelmed. I moved out of my Mom's house into a single ADA accessible dorm on the second floor.
It wasn't until my fourth week of college, after stress-induced panic attacks, and constant pervading anxiety that things really began to spiral for me. I learned the hard way that transitioning as a young adult with a disability to college life was often hard and fraught with hurdles. My old High School IEP (Individual Education Plan) was null and void here, and the only accommodations I received were paltry. For example, they would let me take a test (with as much time as I needed) on my own in Math, but in order to do so, put me in a tiny room the size of a supply closet and have someone stare at me the entire duration of the exam to ensure I didn't cheat.
I should’ve taken the hint when the director advised me at our first meeting that, “College isn’t a cakewalk.” I didn’t have the easiest time in high school, even with accommodation, and now I was forced to just ‘figure it out’. I had to stay up extra late or wake up extremely early to get assignments done, I stayed after hours being tutored, I took remedial courses, but it didn’t have the same one-on-one time. I had to teach myself how to properly take notes and take them fast enough that the professor wouldn't switch the slide before I was done. The professors would assign me with a hundred to two hundred math problems and want the homework back in a week. I oftentimes found myself getting incredibly overwhelmed. It didn’t take long before I had to drop below half-time. As a result of this, I lost any chance I had with receiving the scholarship I had been given.
It shouldn’t be this way. Those with disabilities should be welcomed at Higher Educational Institutions warmly and given whatever accommodations can best help them to succeed. While my experience is purely mine, that’s not to say that every accommodation program is like this. Never be afraid to speak up for what you need. You are paying for your education and deserve the best services that they have to offer. Self-advocacy is beyond important when it comes to college life. If you can't advocate for yourself, don't be afraid to seek an advocate in your area!
If you find that you need help, call your college or university’s Accessibility Services. You've got this!
Photo: Via Flickr Creative Commons