Panel Presentation Summaries

Panel of Students with Disabilities

A panel of postsecondary students with disabilities shared their experiences and answered questions about access and inclusion. The panel included a neuroscience master’s degree student at a university in New York, a Ph.D. student studying experimental psychology at a university in California, and two public health undergraduate students at a college in Washington. The panelists shared information about their disabilities, which included autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD, a heart condition, learning disabilities, and other challenges related to brain injuries. The following headings were questions asked to the students, with bulleted responses listed below.

What is something you want to share about your experiences with disability?

  • I experienced difficulty receiving accommodations and effective support in high school.
  • There are different supports while transitioning from high school to community college to a university, and there is a need to advocate for effective support at all levels.
  • The difficulty of balancing program requirements with self-care (e.g., being sensitive to a computer monitor due to a brain injury, while navigating a program that requires a lot of monitor time).
  • The positive impact of working with a teaching assistant who also identified as neurodiverse.
  • There is a need to increase awareness and knowledge among faculty and programs about disability services and student accommodations.
  • It’s a challenge to manage one’s time and symptoms in difficult situations, such as a professor being very hesitant to adjust class structure even though it is necessary.
  • It can be difficult to understand the “unwritten” rules of academia for anyone, but can be especially hard for neurodivergent students.
  • There are many college experiences that get overlooked by disability services, such as student clubs, experiences in theaters, etc.
  • One faculty member provided excellent mentorship, and it made all the difference.

What are you looking for from the ideal accommodations conversation with faculty?

  • Being understood and feeling heard by an instructor who took the time to respond to the accommodations request in a thoughtful manner. Specifically, the instructor listed out various course activities and described how the accommodations would apply differently depending on the activity.
  • It’s helpful for faculty to understand that students don’t always know exactly what they need. Often times, students are learning about effective accommodations as they go through school and take on new challenges.
  • It would be desirable for faculty to take an interest in the disabled students on campus. Learn about what types of disabilities are represented on campus and how frequently. Learn about neurodiversity. Be curious about different kinds of accommodations and why they exist. The burden shouldn’t always be on the disabled student to educate non-disabled individuals.
  • Faculty should not make assumptions about disabilities.
  • It would be nice if more faculty understood that invisible disabilities and neurodivergence is stigmatized on campus. That can make it harder to be proud of who you are, and can make it harder to find allies with those conditions because students often don’t feel safe talking about it.
  • Often there is a level of empathy and acceptance on campus, but when the conversation includes a medical condition, it can feel like the empathy and acceptance are set aside.

Conversation with Disability Services

Hope Stout, Director of Access and Disability Services, Pierce College
Bryan Fauth, Accessibility and Support Services, Cascadia College
Craig Kerr, Director of Services for Students with Disabilities, Edmonds College

Panel Introductions

Hope Stout, Pierce College District, Ft. Steliacoom, WA.
Bryan Fauth, Cascadia College, Bothell, WA.
Craig Kerr, Edmonds College, Lynnwood, WA.

Question 1: Faculty can be very accommodating; what is the balance you see between your office, the student, the faculty and the law? Video clip of panel responses.

Question 2: Do you have suggestions for how we can best support students who come to us self-disclosing various diagnoses that they might have, but they don’t have official documentation in place. And so getting them officially recognized accommodations or supports is difficult. So is there an alternative avenue for students to get those things recognized if finances or access is a barrier for them in getting whatever required documentation is necessary? Video clip of panel responses.

Question 3: I teach Mathematics and I’ve actually been talking with some people that teach Mathematics, that teach Physics, teach Geology, teach Chemistry, about how we aren’t really positive how best to teach for certain topics, like “how do you describe a graph - how do you teach a student a graph who can’t see the graph?” Or “how do you teach a student who has dyscalculia?” Or “how do you take a student on a field trip who has a physician disability, who can’t walk through the field trip?” So we’re actually proposing to do a grant to bring together some people to create a community of practice to do this, and we’re just kind of curious if there are people out there that would be willing and able to help us, facilitate and train us, because I don’t know anything myself. And is this also something that the Disability Resource officers at your school can do, too? Video clip of panel responses.

Question 4: I’m curious to hear your perspective on how an interested faculty member could arrange to meet with students before the term begins. I know that would help me to be a much better instructor if I had some specific tips, hints that I could incorporate. Video clip of panel responses.

Question 5: Are we dependent on requests for accommodation in designing our course? What about students who are not diagnosed? And doesn’t “neurodiversity” apply to every person? Also how do we incorporate, communicate neurodiversity goals in our learning objectives? Video clip of panel responses.