I started a second graduate program last fall in Library and Information Science. Before starting classes, I navigated my way through the university’s disability services. This wasn't my first time doing this, but it has been one of the most difficult.
For those who don’t know, I have two learning disabilities (Dyscalculia and Language Processing Disorder), a Sensory Integration Disorder, and two mental illnesses (Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD). I have had to advocate for, well, my rights since I was diagnosed with my learning disabilities in third grade. It never gets easier, because society sets disabled people up to fail.
Last summer, I made my way to the university’s disability services; met with a super amazing counselor. That part went great. The part that didn’t go so well, and the part that is still shitty and stressful, is the terms with which I receive accommodations here at the university. Because my learning disability testing is outdated (it has to be within the last 5 years, and mine is from college between 2004-2008), my accommodations do not go towards my learning disabilities. You might be thinking: “So what? You’re still getting accommodations.” Yes, I am, but I’m getting them specifically in relation to my Generalized Anxiety Disorder and my PTSD. This is problematic because, while my dyscalculia is not necessarily a daily issue (numbers, math), my Language Processing Disorder IS daily. I can’t even completely articulate this disorder of mine (oh, the irony), but you can go here to read about it. My point is: I chronically struggle with processing language, so when I’m working on assignments for school, it takes me longer, it’s more challenging, and much more frustrating. I don’t get any accommodations for this, because my testing is considered “old.” The accommodations I do receive do not adequately speak to my learning disabilities.
Let’s unpack the classism here. I certainly could get retested; that’s an option. However, it’s only an option for people who have money, which I don’t. It costs hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to get testing done. I checked. There is also usually a waitlist, and once you do get in, you need to go in for 3-hour time periods. It’s extremely grueling, difficult to schedule, inconvenient, and costly from what I remember.
Disability and classism are inextricably linked, it’s a physical or cognitive disability. Linda Stout, a disabled activist and author writes, “Because so many low-income people are disabled, handicapped accessibility is a class issue. I can’t tell you how many events I’ve gone to that are not physically accessible. The National Network of Grantmakers had a big celebration downstairs, not wheelchair accessible, and I was using a walker and couldn’t get there.” Accessibility is a huge disability rights issue. Mia Mingus, a disability justice organizer writes, “Accessibility is concrete resistance to the isolation of disabled people.”
If I had access to learning disability testing, say, if it were free or if my insurance covered it or if I had the money, this wouldn’t fix the greater issue of the perpetual disbelief in/of disabled people and our diagnoses (whether these diagnoses are self-diagnosed or doctor-diagnosed). Getting accommodations puts me at, not even a level playing field, because, brain stuff, but it at least doesn’t set me up to fail (which is the alternative).
It angers me that I can’t receive accommodations for disabilities that I have solely because I don’t have the funds to get retested. It angers me that even if I did, it would be an incredibly re-traumatizing experience, and it would be all for the sole purpose of “proving” to academia that I’m “impaired.”
People in power are so afraid of others utilizing services they don’t actually need that they refuse to see the majority of us who DO need these services as valid or deserving.
Your daily life is easier without a learning disability. Your daily life is easier without any disability. I guarantee it. Recognize this when you want to say we’re all “fake” and “lazy.”