Thursday, October 22, 2009

Glimpse of the Future

We had our department meeting tonight for one of the college I work for- the kind of meeting where everybody sits around and complains about students not doing any work and trying to figure out how to trick them into having to do some. I got a rather rude awakening to the future in this banter, as many of the students who were considered "problems" were disabled students- some documented, some not. The excuse for not wanting to deal with these kids? "We're not trained to do that!"

Disability accommodation requires everyone involved to be proactive. This means that people need to do more work, and nobody- especially a bunch of adjuncts who get paid next to nothing- wants to take on more work. However, it's a whole breakdown of communication and reversion to reactive tactics: the disabled person doesn't want to admit disability due to stigma, real or perceived; the disability office needs to contact faculty who will be teaching a person with a disability to make sure accommodations can be and are made; and the faculty needs to be proactive in requests and getting training and support for accommodating disabled students. Community college faculty are especially in need of support, and the community college setting is often inclusion admission, and seen as a "safer" environment for disabled students. Students can stay at home with familiar resources and services, while still furthering their education.

Naturally, I opened my big, fat mouth, and started in on "you know, there are some very simple things we can do to accommodate these students which don't require any real training..." Things like turning off florescent lights and keep noise to a minimum never occurred to these people. Letting students sit in the front row, allowing for movement breaks, and visual schedules? So simple, if you know they are needful. Why they can't include real accommodations on those silly letters we get from the disability office (I think if you have any kind of disability, they just give you a letter to excuse you from timed tests, and send you on your way. Who needs individualization, after all?) Why are faculty, most of whom have never had to deal with disability in their own lives, left to flap in the wind- and thus leaving those students flapping, too?

Mobilizing to change attitudes here. "We're not trained!" is not an excuse to not accommodate; it is a call for action to get trained.


Ali said...

Timed tests are fine, but I would be a much happier, healthier person if everyone everywhere quit using fluorescent lights.

So many things just don't occur to people who've never dealt with any sort of disability. I attended a presentation today given at my workplace for my coworkers (teachers and direct care at an inpatient acute psych hospital for kids), focused around autism and assistive technology. It was delightful to be able to help show them what I've been saying all along: we need visual schedules, a hands-off policy, and better education. I think I ought to blog about it!

Stimey said...

I agree with you on this, but here's what I don't get: how can educators not have experience with students who have disabilities? It's not like they're new this year.

Anonymous said...

Hi, new reader here. Having been to two undergrad schools and graduate school with a disability I agree that sometimes the simplest of solutions can and do work. Unfortunately, the schools often place sole responsibility on the students to come up with ideas, and then throw in "the budget," rather than working openly and collaboratively with students. One particular college president even went so far as to use a play on words with regards to wanting to do everything we can, but having our own Limits too. Very non coincidental of her to use the same words I use to describe my own capabilities. Aargh.