Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Diasbility Office on College Campuses

I'm a huge nerd so I'm actually excited for the start of the new semester but it's getting pretty stressful around here. Isn't it ironic that those of us with "special needs" tend to have the most bureaucratic crap to work through? The disability office at school just sent me a BUNCH of stuff I need to fill out, read, etc. While I appreciate what they're doing for me, I find it interesting that those of us who need less stress in our lives have all this extra stuff to work on lol.

For those of you who are not familiar with services provided to you on campus:
"Section 504 Subpart E of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires all post secondary schools (college and vocations), who receive Federal aid, to provide an equal opportunity to all handicapped students to all programs and activities. A handicapped person is 'Anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially impairs or restricts one or more major life acitivities, such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.'"*

There is a disability office on all campuses that is available to those with mental and/or physical disabilities. For someone with a physical disability they provide things such as help with parking (my college allows me to park in the handicap spots in all lots including faculty and staff lots--HUGE help), referrals, registration, providing a notetaker if writing for prolonged periods of time affects you, as well as being a mediator between you and your professors. They also help a great deal with those who live on campus, but since I'm a commuter I'm not too familiar with those accomodations.

The disabilities office will provide you with a letter to pass along to your professors giving a brief run-down things you need help with. For example, my letter essentially and politely says that I cannot be discriminated against and that I need extra help with some things, such as: extended time during tests, exams, quizzes, in-class assignments and use of a computer for essay exams. It also states that I have flare ups and that my conditions may cause me to take additional breaks and I may even miss classes due to pain. The letter ends with the office asking that my professors be lenient with their attendance policies and allow me to make up any missed work.

Some colleges are better than others but it's worth a try! You never know, you're school could be a hidden gem. In fact, I found out through Laurie Edwards' book "Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties" that DePaul University in Chicago has a Chronic Illness Initiative to provide help and support to those with chronic illnesses on campus. How awesome is that!?

College life is stressful enough, we need to make this environment as accessible and easy as possible. But remember, the disability office won't seek you out, you have to go to them!


Additional links:

Great articles:

Laurie Edwards' book:


  1. Great article. I bet most people would never think that there would be a disability office, I wouldn't have. Great links also.