By Andy Sohn
If you are a graduate student with a disability or if you know such a student, check out some advice that can assist students on their academic and employment paths.
What is a Disability?
“I am not disabled!” Far too many people who rely on lay opinion about what is or is not a disability do not avail themselves of supportive disability-related campus services. If a medical condition or health symptom creates barriers to your achievement of academic work-product, you may have a qualifying disability that makes you eligible for a disability-related accommodation. For instance, if you sprain your ankle or have surgery and need to walk on crutches to reach your class or a class you are teaching, check with your local Campus Access Coordinator to see if your school offers travel assistance internal to the campus, such as University of California Berkeley’s Loop golf cart service. Your ankle sprain or mobility pain may be a “qualifying” disability that makes you eligible for disability services. Better to ask and find out than suffer in silence.
What Does It Mean to be Disabled in Graduate School?
You were not admitted to graduate school because you have a disability; you were admitted because you successfully competed against other students who were not required to manage the negative impact of their disability in the performance of academic tasks on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Whether you have been disabled all of your life or became adventitiously disabled, you are far from alone. Seek out the available resources on your campus to support you in achieving your academic goals.
Access Academic Accommodations
Not all students with disabilities need academic accommodations but, if you do, do not wait to register online with the Disabled Students Program (DSP). Google and check out the “Capitol Crawl” every time your mind tells you that accommodations provide an unfair advantage. Countless activists have struggled and sacrificed so that you could have the right to compete on a level playing field. Better to have accommodations and not need them than need them and not have them.
Access Workplace Accommodations
So, you will be a GSI or GSR this upcoming semester? You are entering the job market? The workplace accommodations process is different from the academic accommodations process. Learn about how to request employment accommodations by contacting Mary Kelly (510-642-1914) at Disability Management Services (DMS). Whether you are a student employee or about to enter the job market, visit the Department of Labor’s Job Accommodations website, the most authoritative informational and consultative resource for employment accommodations.
As students at one of the most important stages in your academic careers, take the opportunity to know what to do if you become disabled or already have a disability. Learn everything you can about how your disability impacts you—and decide to grow, achieve your life goals, continue to be academically successful, and live abundantly. Your disability may impact your ability to perform academic or work tasks required of you; do not wait and let pride tell you that you can do it if you just try harder. This lie is the source of many academic failures; be wiser than that. Work smarter, not harder. Reach out for support from Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), the Disabled Students Program (DSP), and/or Disability Management Services (DMS). You are not alone, and you are here because your school believed you would be academically successful. Let’s succeed together!!