Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Disabled Student Services

OK, so I've found out that the midterm in my women and gender studies class requires that I write three essays during the course of the exam, and I know that it'll be really painful to write that much by hand in a short time, especially when I'm anxious. Well, since difficulty with writing can be a feature of autistic people, and I'm registered at the university as an autistic student, shouldn't I be able to use a computer to write my exam?
Not so fast! They can't just take my word for it! They need a doctor's note, which means I need to bug my Dad about making an appointment with the doctor, so that I can go and tell her what I need and she can write it down. Why is this necessary, again? My doctor doesn't actually know what accommodations I need, she's literally just writing down whatever I tell her, so why can't I just tell them directly?
But anyway, we get the doctor's appointment, a couple of weeks after I first figured out that I needed it. Then I miss it. We reschedule, and finally I've got a doctor's note saying I need to use a computer for essay exams.
I forget the note in the car for about a week. Then my friend with CP who's in the same class says something about the deadline for accommodations for the midterm coming up soon, so the very next day, just before closing time, I give my note to someone in Disability Student Services, who tells me that as soon as they process my note, that accommodation will be added to the list of accommodations I can register for on the website. Which I have to do for every single exam, for some reason, which requires that I actually know when an exam's coming up, so most exams I go without any accommodations. It's only for the major ones that I get accommodations.
A couple of weeks pass, and the website still says I get only room alone and double time, no mention of a computer. So I decided, today, to go bug DSS about this because my exam is coming up pretty soon.
Well, here's what happened:
I wandered in and saw a sign right in the doorway saying [incomprehensible]. I'm about to walk right past it when it occurs to me that it might be important, so I take a second look. It says something about going somewhere else, but I have no idea where. I do have some keywords, though: 'atrium' and 'triage desk'. So I go to the front desk and ask where the atrium is, and they point me upstairs. Then, upstairs, I ask someone at some other desk where the triage desk is, and they point me back downstairs - apparently what I've been calling the front desk is actually the triage desk. So I head back down there.
At the desk, the guy doesn't seem to have a clue what I'm asking for. Probably largely because I don't really have a clue why the sign in DSS said to go there. Finally, he gets someone to come over and lead me past the sign to the actual DSS desk, which I go along with because I have no idea where they're leading me.
I talk to the person at the DSS desk, who informs me that anyone who could help me is in a meeting until 3:30, but also says something about going to the DSS exam office. So I wander off to ask random people (including the guy behind the 'triage desk') where the DSS exam office is, and end up in a hallway looking at a door that says something about exams being in progress. I walk past that door, thinking the sign means I shouldn't go in, but take a second look when I realize the door number of that door matches what I was told about where the DSS exam office was. The sign actually says I should enter quietly because exams are in progress. So I enter quietly.
There's a person behind the desk, good sign because the person at DSS said there might not be anyone there. But it turns out that person can't actually do anything related to exam accommodations, just tell me once again that anyone who could help me is in a meeting until 3:30. By this time I'm overloaded, so I complain pointlessly about how inaccessible DSS is for me, and then leave.
As soon as 3:30 comes around, I'll go back. Hopefully, I'll be able to fumble into actually getting what I need. But it really makes me wonder, why services intended for people like me are so hard for people like me to actually access. And what's really frustrating is that I don't understand the system well enough to figure out what's so darn inaccessible about it for me, and every time I say so, I get a big long string of incomprehensible bureaucrat-speech that doesn't help me at all but is supposed to explain this to me. About the only accommodation I could think of is to have some sort of advocate or something go and manage the system for me, but the closest thing I have to that (one of the people who's in a meeting right now) is just as incomprehensible to me as the rest of them.


Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

I hope Google Scholar will help you with the paper about inclusion in segregated services.

I am just now reading School inclusion in Iceland by Dora Bjarnason. She talks about her son Benedikt in the 1990s. Some of his aides are better than others.

Also, have you looked at the Disability Studies Quarterly? They usually have good papers on the topic.

As for Disabled Student Services being accessible ... (!).

I was able to get the computer for some examinations in my own courses.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Rob Wilson said...

I'm directing readers from the What Sorts blog

to this post. Thanks for posting it.

8:13 AM  

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