During my time here at U of T, I’ve unfortunately heard people say that getting accessibility accommodations means taking advantage of the system to get an “easy way out”. I’ve been told that when I head to the workplace, I won’t get these “special” treatments. I’ve also noticed people call others lucky when they get accommodations, wishing they could have a “luxury” like that. I can easily say, disabilities and mental health problems are incredibly stigmatized daily, and this week I am writing about the importance of removing that stigma.
Students who get accommodations do not have it easier than others — our accommodations allow us a level playing field. For example, I cannot control when I get my migraines, but when I do, it prevents me completely from doing any work or study. Or, when I take a test, I cannot control my inability to concentrate with the background noise of 50 students shuffling their papers, making it impossible for me to simply read the questions. Whether they are visible or not, disabilities need to be addressed properly for students to strive and prepare for their future.
Disabilities and mental health do not define us, they make us resilient and often, we work harder for merely similar results. But that also means that we should work together to learn our strengths and ways we can navigate our disabilities and discover new ways to celebrate our diversity and success. For me, learning how to talk to professors about my needs and assistance with completing assignments has allowed me to become better at time management when chronic health conditions get in the way.
I have learned new skills and now understand that my right as a student is to get a learning environment that benefits me the most. I have learned to understand that my mental health comes first before my academics, and that’s okay. I have been able to meet others in similar situations and share ways that we benefit from resources or ways we’ve struggled in our daily lives.
Destigmatization allows us to design inclusively and in a way that benefits many.
January 29th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, an initiative started by Bell Canada to encourage discussion about mental health and more broadly stigma around disability. It encourages individuals to start conversations and to eliminate the stigma of seeking help, while also gathering donations for mental health organizations.
What do you wish for others to know?