Exploring Barriers to College Student Use of Disability Services and Accommodations gives an interesting look into the experience of 16 different college students with their use of disability services. As stated in the reading, many students do not actually use the Office of Disability Services (ODS) despite having a disability and dealing with complicated circumstances whose difficulty could have been alleviated had they gotten assistance. The researchers found five major barriers that prevented students from using ODS: identity issues, desires to avoid negative social reactions, insufficient knowledge, perceived quality of usefulness of services, and negative experiences with faculty.
One thing that stood out to me from the reading was how many examples were given were students did not want to feel like they were being pitied or given special treatment. One student even said in reference to not using ODS: ” […] but I wanted to know that I could do it on my own.” This ties in with Dolmage’s myth titled “Disability as Object of Pity and/or Charity.” The students did not want to feel pitied and didn’t want to feel less than their non-disabled counterparts and their is a great sense of pride in being able to accomplish a task without the help of others. It is always good to try and do things on your own, but there is a point, such as the student with cerebral palsy who crawled up the stairs to get to his exam, where one should get help and not feel ashamed for it.
It was very sad and disheartening to read about the professors who reacted poorly when a disabled student (who didn’t “look” disabled) asked for accommodations. This could definitely be seen as a microaggression as they didn’t believe the students even when they had evidence. Many disabilities are not overtly visible and a student with a disability shouldn’t be disrespected in such a manner just because of a professor’s prejudices.
In The Spoon Theory, Miserandino recounts a story between her and her friend where she helped explain the daily struggles of living with Lupus. In Miserandino’s explanation to her friend who has trouble understanding what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, she uses spoons to help visualize her point. The spoons function as a symbol of her daily energy and ability to do certain things. At the beginning of the day, one starts out with a certain number of “spoons” and eventually loses them throughout the day as they complete tasks. This shows how when you have an illness, everything you choose to do is a choice that must be weighed. Is it worth spending time and wasting “spoons” in order to brush your hair? Or are those “spoons” better utilized doing something else? Her friend is impacted emotionally by the analogy as this paints a vivid picture of just how difficult daily life can be for someone who is disabled.
In our Accessibility Exploration, I have been mostly focusing on obvious physical disabilities such as being in a wheelchair or being blind and have neglected to consider some of the more “invisible” disabilities. One problem that could be present in a lot of buildings is the distance between elevators and “accessible” entrances and the actual place that people are trying to go. Even though someone may be physically able to walk, they may have some type of disability that prevents them from walking up the stairs. That person would therefore have to take the elevator and enter through “accessible” entrances. However, these entrances are not actually accessible in every regard. Many buildings have their accessible entrances located very far away from the main entrances of the building. This person would therefore have to walk a very long distance in order to just get into the building. This causes unnecessary difficulty and would also cause the person in question to waste “spoons” just by attempting to enter a building.
Other issues within buildings that may be a problem for someone with a chronic illness are the inconsistent temperatures within a lot of buildings. A lot of the buildings around campus are either very hot or very cold at this time of year. With someone with an illness that causes increased temperature sensitivity, such as Anemia or Anhidrosis, this poses a big problem. The lack of consistent, comfortable, temperatures is an issue prevalent in many buildings that may not always be considered when it comes towards accessibility. It is important when discussing accessibility that one considers accessibility for all, and not just a few.
In the chapter An Archive and Anatomy of Disability Myths, Dolmage writes about and discusses several tropes of disabled characters previously and currently represented in media. He discusses common stereotypes about disabled characters who are either pitied, isolated, killed, or cured. Dolmage also details the ways that a character who is disabled is used to represent something else such as a representation of society at the time or as a sign from the gods above.
One myth that stuck out to me was the myth titled “Disability as a Symptom of Human Abuse of Nature.” An example of this myth can be seen in the Star Wars movies with the character of Darth Vader. In an attempt to save the life of his wife, Padmé Amidala, Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side and gains powerful (and evil) powers. Not too long afterwards, Anakin manages to become a severe burn victim and loses the majority of his limbs which eventually leads him to take the final steps in truly becoming Darth Vader. The timing with him becoming evil thus “abusing nature” by gaining these dangerous powers and later becoming disabled is suspicious and leads me to believe that this myth was prevalent in the films.
In the past, there have been a lot of disabled characters whose entire character is simply a stereotype of what a disabled person is. I feel like there have been major strides in progress in the past couple of years in representing characters in fiction from all different backgrounds and types. However, there is still a shocking lack of diversity in the disabled characters that are represented. Predominately, disabled characters are white males. Statistics derived from recent films show that 81% of disabled characters are male and 71.1% are white. 61% of disabilities shown are physical ones. (http://respectabilityusa.com/2016/09/new-report-shows-lack-of-representation-of-people-with-disabilities-in-film/) Although progress in the representation of the disabled has been made, there still needs to be a push for a variety of different characters who are disabled.