On being the squeaky wheel
As someone with a physical and cognitive disability, I find certain learning situations particularly challenging, the operative word being “situations” in contrast to “material.” I know from experience that sitting in a classroom on a hard chair with 60 other people for 3 continuous hours is very different from being in my own room, reading or listening to the material at my own pace. Being in a field related to special education, I expected that my instructors would be sensitive to that kind of thing. That’s how we’re taught to approach our students. But what I’ve found is a very sharp divide between the “able” and those with “needs,” between the clinician and the client. There’s some “real world” they’re preparing me for, and this “real world” does not accommodate disability.
To be fair, they’re right. Discrimination happens. I know that. But it’s weird to justify discrimination with more discrimination.
I’ve had three semesters of clinic now, and one thing that I have heard in every single mid-semester and final evaluation from my supervisor is that I rub and stretch my neck and shoulder too often, which looks unprofessional. Sometimes they add a little flair, such as, “I’m just thinking of IEP meetings when there will be lawyers in the room.” Gosh. Lawyers.
Today I anxiously requested an accommodation for a class. I had been thinking about making the request for awhile now. There is a mandatory no-credit lecture series I’m to attend. They are recording it for students who can’t be there due to a department-related scheduling conflict. I am just asking for the recordings so I can watch them from home, where I can take all the stretch breaks I need without looking unprofessional, where I will be able to stop and rewind if I get distracted and missed something, and where I won’t be surrounded by 60 other people on a shitty hard student desk chair for 3 hour stretches.
So why am I so anxious? This is a thing I need. It’s eminently reasonable. It’s already provided for by the disability services website in our school. This person has already seen disability letters for me in the past. I really will do much better in clinic if I’m not exhausted from driving over, sitting for several hours and driving back 2 more days a week. But there’s this vague fear that asking for a thing I need now will result in unforseeable consequences later.
Eventually I realized that this was exactly why I need to ask. I owe it to the person who will come through after me, to make these people aware that people like me, who know our legal rights and are not afraid to assert them, exist, and we will not be bullied.