Being your own advocate with Accessibility Services

When students who are registered with Accessibility Services hear the name of the titular service, some smile, some laugh, but many uh, well, you can see where this is going . . . With regards to the latter, it was a comment on an earlier post, a student who voiced their concerns with AS, that actually sparked this post. It is no lie that AS is an imperfect service. Many services on campus –if not all –have some kind of flaw. What it really comes down to, in my opinion, is learning to get the best out of an imperfect system. And, in order to do this, you have to be your best advocate, because, who knows your needs better than you?  If you are a student with AS, you know firsthand what I’m talking about; however, why not attempt to get the best out of your AS relationship so that you can have a better overall university experience?  This post will try to show you how to make an imperfect system fit in with your needs.   Getting what you need, when you really need it: Being your own advocate means understanding your needs. With a great disparity between the number of AS counselors to the amount of students who are registered with AS, its no surprise that you can’t just make an appointment and expect to be seen right away. So, what’s the solution? Plan ahead. If you require accommodations, make an appointment right away. Since it’s the beginning of the semester you know your test and essay schedule, so be proactive. Alternatively, attend the drop in hours that your counselor holds each week.   Emergency: Ring the Alarms! Be your best advocate by not stopping until your voice is heard! Being registered with AS means you might need accommodations or other services out of nowhere because of the nature of your disability. If you know you don’t feel well and it’s a Tuesday and your test is Thursday send an email to your counselor and voice your concerns. If you need to see them and they aren’t in, speak with someone else. I know of a person whose counselor is never in when she needs her so another counselor was there to help her get an extension (on an extension). If none of the above succeed, keep trying. You are your best advocate, so fight for your rights as a student with a disability.   Can I have some privacy, please? Another concern that has been expressed is the lack of privacy for students with disabilities in AS. Here’s a little anecdote somebody told me: A student requested a note taker for a course. The professor, knowing who the student was, announced in front of the entire class the name of the girl would be receiving notes. After the colour on her face returned to normal, she laughed it off. What I’m trying to say is some people don’t mind being “outed” for their disability, but a lot people do mind and that’s okay. Student records are confidential at AS, but sometimes professors need to know what students require accommodations in order to get them applied to the course. AS will get your permission to share your name first.   AS exists for you. If you don’t like how things are handled speak to someone, write a letter. I guarantee you won’t be turned away, and more than likely, others have the same concerns as you. Trying to strike a balance between AS and your own needs is difficult, but isn’t it worth it to yourself and your university experience? Desiree

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