Assisted Mobility: Taylor Lewis riding his skateboard.

'Assisted Mobility' Documentary Explores How Mobility Aids Can Go Beyond Wheelchairs and Walkers


A young film student explores disability and mobility devices in his new short documentary, “Assisted Mobility.” Taylor Lewis was born with a rare genetic condition that causes his muscles to be three times more dense than usual. This limits his flexibility and leads to fatigue and chronic pain. Lewis tried traditional mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters, but nothing really worked for him. Until he had the chance to try the M1 Electric Skateboard.

Since 2010, the Americans With Disabilities Act has covered the use of alternative power-driven mobility devices, so long as they are used responsibly and do not interfere with essential safety requirements. Many individuals with limited stamina or who cannot sit for long periods of time now use Segways and similar devices instead of a wheelchair or scooter. Lewis’ film explores how using an electric longboard affects not just his mobility, but how people perceive him.

Watch the full documentary below.




The Differences Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs


With the increasing use of, and attention directed towards, emotional support animals on the internet and social media, there has never been a greater need to lay out the difference between emotional support dogs and service dogs. This article serves to help explain what separates the two and where we should go from here.

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, and service dogs are incredibly important and useful tools for those with all kinds of disabilities. This article will mostly focus on and reference the use of dogs, as that is where most of the confusion between the two lies.

Besides their titles themselves, the first key difference lies in their actual job function. A service dog is for those who 1) require assistance with doing a certain activity; and / or 2) must be alerted to an illness such as diabetes, seizures, and more. In contrast, an emotional support animal does as its name implies, providing a calming influence, comfort and joy.

Those who have emotional support animals do not necessarily have a mental illness; however, it is perhaps one of the biggest assumptions attached to emotional support animals. Many people with ESAs have chronic illness and chronic pain, something which can be difficult to deal with, and may contribute to depression. This leads to the second point, which is the stigma sometimes attached to the owners. People with service dogs, especially those with a visible disability, are usually viewed as legitimate handlers with “real” health issues. However, owners of emotional support animals are often seen as fakers or using it for free pet airfare, looping back to the constant misconceptions of mental vs. physical illness.

The third area where we can see the differences in treatment is the rights of the animals and owners. Only a few rights apply to both ESAs and service dogs. These are 1) the protection clause under the Fair Housing Act, which allows them to have their animal in no-pets housing, provided they have the proper documentation; 2) the animal may fly for free on airlines, provided they have documentation present and can behave properly. Service dogs, by contrast, are allowed anywhere with their handlers, including restaurants, stores, public transportation and any businesses, and may not be asked to provide identification.

The fourth difference is how a person obtains an emotional support dog or service dog. In the United States, there are no national government registries for either emotional support animals or service dogs, and any that claim to be are scams. However, many organizations and businesses will provide their own documentation for you, or accessories such as vests, leads, and patches for both ESAs and service dogs.

There is only one way to legally and officially acquire the documentation for an emotional support animal — a letter from either your doctor or psychologist stating your need for the emotional support animal. The animal can be one you already own or have access to. The animal should have basic obedience and behave properly when in public. If the animal is a dog, the most common and easiest way of having proof of this level of obedience is by passing a Canine Good Citizen test. It is also possible to get a trained emotional support dog, but they are not as common and can be expensive to find, usually with a waiting list.

For service dogs, most training organizations require a doctor’s letter stating your need for a service dog. Medical documentation is also required for no-pets rental housing and air travel, but other businesses cannot require it. The most common way to get a service dog is by finding one from a group or organization who has already trained one. This may involve high costs and/or a waiting list. Some people with dog training experience choose to train their own service dogs; these dogs have the same access as those trained by an organization.

Sierra and Rose.
Sierra and Rose.

I am thankful that my experience has been much more pleasant and easier than many others. Thanks to the encouragement of my doctors and therapist, I got a puppy that I have been training as a support dog, as well as a possible service dog in training. As of now we don’t know what my health is going to bring, and we still don’t even know my full diagnosis, but there is a high probability of me needing a service dog in the future. I worked for a professional dog handler and taught advanced obedience to our 4-H dog project participants for many years.

The end result of this “experiment” has been incredible. She has just turned a year old, and is already fairly advanced in her obedience, and is a wonderful support dog. She is almost always by my side, my little shadow, constantly watching me to make sure I am OK. She has incredible instincts and always knows when I am upset, if I am not feeling well or if I am in pain. She is a living embodiment of the saying “man’s best friend,” and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.

After getting Rose, I have become more attuned to the world of disabilities, accessibility, judgments, and of course emotional support animals and service dogs. To my surprise and sadness, I discovered that a lot of the judgment of emotional support dogs was coming right from our own disability community. With the recent increase of people  abusing the system so their pets can fly for free, or to get out of pet fees for housing, there needs to be more accountability. Additionally, we as a community need to be more supportive of service dogs and emotional support animals. Those who need them are dealing with a variety of issues, many of which we can’t see, and to pass judgment is exactly what we ask those around us not to do to us.

Emotional support animals are an incredible and amazing tool we should be utilizing to help people, but we can’t begin to do that unless we start embracing them more and stop judging them so much. Emotional support dogs are not service dogs, and we need to continue to separate the two. Nevertheless, service dogs and emotional support animals are critical issues which need to examined and discussed more. The question remains, who else is willing to speak up about this?

For more information:

What are the differences between a service dog, an emotional support animal and a therapy dog?

Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals and the ADA

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Photo by contributor.


Nineteen Paper Cranes: Remembering the Disabled People Killed in Japan


It’s already been one year since the mass murder of people with disabilities at the Sagamihara institution in Japan. I remember vividly how shocked I was to hear the news. Nineteen people were killed and many more injured.

I work for several months a year in Japan, and the stigma around disability is still very strong. But this incident brought change, more awareness and acceptance. You see people with disabilities and their caregivers on the streets more often; hiding them away has been the norm until recently. Still, like many other countries, Japan has a long way to go until complete acceptance has been reached.

I find it very moving to see how people with disabilities deal with the trauma of the incident. Laura, my daughter with Down syndrome was also very moved. Everyone with a disability or who has a loved one with a disability should watch this.

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Thinkstock photo by Tomacco.


If You Have Healthcare Today, Thank a Disabled Person


Today I took a breath. I exhaled. I felt calm.

For the first time in a while, I spent a few hours not worrying about whether I will have Medicaid in a year or two or three. I took comfort in knowing I’ll be able to get out of bed, shower and get dressed. I had lunch with a friend who didn’t have to worry about whether her insurance will drop her because she’s a cancer survivor and whether she could get insurance if she or her husband change jobs.

I know this healthcare fight isn’t over. Congress could go back to it anytime and almost certainly will. For the next year, and possibly the next three years, tens of millions of people will be in danger of losing their healthcare and other support services they need to live. We have to hunker down and prepare for a long, drawn-out battle. But in this moment of calm, I think it’s time we take a moment to reflect on how the AHCA/BCRA/alphabet soup was defeated, and give credit where credit is due.

Amidst all the verbal objections, the critical statements from politicians, medical associations and nonprofits, one group had the courage to do more than talk. They put their bodies, their health, even their lives on the line because they understood what is at stake. They are a group of people society doesn’t necessarily hear from or think about often, even though they represent 20 percent of the population. They are my people. They are people with disabilities.

On June 22, 2017, after numerous attempts to get an appointment to discuss their concerns about the healthcare bill, a group of disability rights advocates with ADAPT held a protest in Senator Mitch McConnell’s Washington, D.C. office. Some protesters lay on the ground to stage a “die-in,” while others were dragged from their wheelchairs and in some cases dropped by police. Dozens of people were arrested — and similar scenes later unfolded at the local offices of other senators, notably Cory Gardner in Denver, where protesters sat in for two days before they were forcibly removed.

The news reports from these events shocked the public; the photos and videos were instantly iconic and spread across the internet like wildfire. People aren’t accustomed to seeing wheelchair users, people with severe and visible medical conditions, getting roughed up by the police. (Though it happens to people with mental illness and other “invisible” disabilities all the time with little media attention.) The cruelty and disregard for their bodies mirrored the cruelty and disregard the healthcare bills showed towards the bodies of 26 million-plus citizens. Many people wondered: If this is how politicians treat those society often counts among the most vulnerable, what does it mean for the rest of us?

Like generations of civil rights activists before them, people with disabilities sat down and lay down to stand up for our most fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Each of them represented thousands of other people with disabilities who could not be there due to distance, health or financial considerations. But we were not silent, either. People shared their ACA and Medicaid stories and opened up about deeply personal health challenges. They took photos and made videos explaining how the healthcare bill would wreck their lives. I filmed mine in the bathroom because my right to pee is at stake. Everyone’s rights and freedoms are at stake.

The protests worked. People who didn’t consider themselves to be among the ranks of the disabled started to realize their diabetes or depression or disc disease meant repealing the ACA and cutting Medicaid would hurt them, too. And they took action. They called and emailed their senators. They joined disability rights advocates in blogging and Facebooking and Tweeting. They shared their stories of being able to see a doctor and afford their medication because of the ACA or Medicaid. And all the terrible variants of the bill got voted down. Let’s make sure they stay that way.

To keep fighting, we have to understand what we’re fighting for. Coverage for preexisting conditions and preventative screenings are some of the ACA protections just about everyone needs or will need. But for people with significant disabilities, Medicaid does so much more. It funds home and community-based services, most notably in-home care attendants to help people with disabilities with tasks ranging from housekeeping to dressing, bathing, and complex activities like changing catheters and maintaining ventilators. People with disabilities can choose who they hire, and fire bad employees.

In-home care preserves the right of people with disabilities to live in their own homes, and empowers them to enjoy fundamental rights many people take for granted. Without Medicaid and the Working Disabled buy-in program in the state where I live, I wouldn’t be able to work at The Mighty and write this article because I could never afford to pay the wages of my care attendants on top of housing, food, and bills. Thanks to Medicaid I can work, write, travel, visit friends and hug my dogs. Medicaid means life and liberty if you have a disability.

Medicaid is far from perfect. If the general public knew how limited and poorly managed many of these Medicaid home care programs are, they’d be horrified at how little the government does to help people with disabilities. Home care workers get paid so poorly ($9.35 per hour in my state; it’s similarly low in many places) that it’s difficult to find responsible, skilled employees without supplementing the wage, which many people can’t afford to do. Turnover is high, and theft and abuse are common. Not all states have enough funding allocated for home care; half a million disabled people can’t even get services at all because they’re stuck on waiting lists.

And yet disability activists are getting arrested and thrown in jail to save Medicaid home care. Why? Because the alternative is even worse: wasting away in a nursing home that reeks of urine, your physical needs poorly met by people who often don’t care about you, with no freedom to work, go to school, visit friends, or fall in love. Politicians who viewed the disability community as vulnerable underestimated how strong we can be when our lives are on the line.

We need to fix these programs that can and should help millions of people. It’s time to move from reacting to a threat to acting on behalf of our freedom. People from both sides of the political aisle should be coming together to support and improve Medicaid home and community-based services, as they have bipartisan appeal. In-home care can reduce federal and state spending because it costs less than nursing homes. Medicaid buy-in programs enable many people with disabilities to hold jobs and participate in the economy through homeownership or renting, shopping, travel and more. Yet the Disability Integration Act, which would guarantee the right to home and community-based services and also require private insurance to pay for this type of care, languishes while terrible healthcare bills go up for a vote.

Today, at least 26 million citizens have healthcare because people with disabilities put their bodies on the line to save it. If you appreciate their sacrifices, please call your representative and senator and ask them to cosponsor the Disability Integration Act. If you’re one of those people who would’ve lost insurance or your premiums would have become unaffordable while the rich got a tax cut, please take a moment and think about who saved your ass. Yes, Democrats stood united against the bill and a few brave Republicans did the right thing. But it was the people lying down in those senators’ offices who turned the tide. So if you have healthcare today, thank a disabled person.

Mighty contributors explain what the ACA and Medicaid mean for them:

How Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt Me as a Person With a Disability

How Medicaid Cuts Would Decimate Services for People With Intellectual Disabilities

To the Republicans Voting on My Health Care, From an Employed Person With a Disability

How Repealing the ACA Would Hurt My Family With Pre-Existing Conditions

Follow this journey on Free Wheelin’.

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Lead photo of Stephanie Woodward by Colleen Flanagan.


27 Years After the ADA, the Employment Rate for People With Disabilities Is Still Too Low


As the nation celebrates the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is still so much work that needs to be done.

Fundamentally the ADA was a civil rights bill; this law guaranteed legal protections and physical access for the nation’s largest minority. The ADA reduced physical barriers to the world of work, transportation and independent living. Because of this law, millions of Americans with disabilities have been able to go to school, participate in the political process, live independently in the community and enter the workforce to pursue a better future for themselves and their families.

However, since its passing, not much has changed surrounding employment of people with disabilities. The law has done so much to remove physical barriers without removing many attitudinal barriers. As the late Representative Major Owens said during the fight for the ADA, “greater than all the physical barriers are the barriers of entrenched attitudes.” That fact remains the hard truth today, 27 years after the ADA was signed into law.

“You can make explicit discrimination illegal, but you can’t change people’s hearts and minds,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, RespectAbility’s Policy Director. “People with disabilities still face serious stigmas, misconceptions about their competence and skepticism about their value as employees.” Yet new technologies are making it easier to integrate people with a range of disabilities into the workplace. For example, voice recognition in a smart phone can allow someone who is blind or has intellectual disabilities to communicate with coworkers in an office setting. However, new technologies do not change old stereotypes, which are reinforced by a culture where media representation of people with disabilities is few and far between.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate is debating life and death healthcare issues which deeply connect to the opportunity to pursue meaningful, integrated work. Some people with disabilities are unable to find appropriate employment without losing lifesaving healthcare and the resources they need to live independently. Without this support, many individuals with disabilities will lose their independence and potentially their lives. Some lawmakers have responded that people without insurance should find jobs that offer it, without acknowledging the difficulties in doing so.

There are 56 million Americans with disabilities, more than 20 million of whom are working age. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce, although the majority of them do want to work. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits.

In the last 16 months, there has been a steady increase in the employment rate of working-age people with disabilities. However, this still has not reached pre-recession employment levels. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, however, is seeking to change this outcome, tweeting that “now is the time for businesses to realize untapped potential of 500,000+ w/ disabilities seeking jobs.”

~6M open jobs in US. Now is the time for businesses to realize untapped potential of 500,000+ w/ disabilities seeking jobs. #ADAanniversary
— Secretary Acosta (@SecretaryAcosta) July 26, 2017

People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to workplaces that benefit employers and organizations. Stephen Hawking is a genius who happens to use a wheelchair. People with disabilities can bring their talents to many fields such as hospitals, hotel service and computer software.

“As someone who was born before the ADA was passed, I witnessed the changes it made throughout my childhood and young adult life,” said Ben Spangenberg, who has spina bifida and is a wheelchair user. “I’m forever grateful for the opportunities it gave me to work and lead an independent life.”

In a proclamation, the White House released a statement that read, in part:

Americans are justifiably proud of the ADA and its accomplishments, but more can be done to protect the rights and dignity of Americans living with disabilities.  Disabled Americans in the workforce already contribute substantially to our Nation’s productivity and prosperity.  We must continue to empower them by breaking down obstacles that prevent their full participation in the public and economic affairs of our Nation.

A Bipartisan Bill

People on both sides of the aisle supported the creation of the ADA. President Ronald Reagan worked to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Under his administration, people increasingly recognized the need for a civil rights law for people with disabilities. However, it took years of diverse leadership until President George H.W. Bush signed it into law on July 26, 1990.

“Introducing policies that empower Americans with disabilities to live independent lives, including employment, transportation, access, housing, entertainment and all other aspects of American life, is not a conservative issue or liberal issue; it is a human issue, and it affects a large portion of the electorate in the United States,” said former Rep. Steve Bartlett, an original co-author of the ADA and a board member of RespectAbility. “Government policies that empower people with disabilities to live independently are a win-win because they allow people with disabilities the dignity to live their own lives.”

Creating Opportunity

Despite significant improvements in access to education, people with disabilities still face barriers to receiving the quality education that they need to succeed in the workforce. Nationally, only 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate high school each year compared to 86 percent of student without disabilities: a 21-point gap in outcomes. This extends to college and university because people with a disability are far less likely to attend than their non-disabled peers. In fact, only 16.4 percent of people with disabilities have completed a college degree. Even fewer people with disabilities have completed an advanced degree in cutting-edge subjects like science, technology or engineering.

“Knowledge of the ADA has helped me receive accommodations in college,” said Judith Lao, a rising senior at Brown University studying neuroscience. “As someone with an invisible disability, I have learned that accommodations are not given freely and you need to fight for the rights you have. Reading and researching accommodations that are afforded to people under the ADA has helped me in terms of self-advocacy, including advocating on behalf of people with mental illness.”

People need to be better trained to find careers in growing sectors of the American economy; this includes opportunities to learn high-tech STEAM skills as well as practical work experiences in healthcare, eldercare and hospitality. The link between opportunity and disability comes once you recognize that people can succeed with the right mix of training, experience and accommodations, which includes understanding in workplace culture. In the hands of a young person with disabilities, something as simple as an iPad can empower them to talk to their co-workers, fulfill their tasks and become a great employee. Both Project SEARCH and Bridges from School to Work are great examples in seeing the tremendous link between opportunity and disability.

“People with disabilities need more opportunities for education, training and experience in job sectors where the American economy is growing and where people can showcase their talents,” Kahn-Pauli said. “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. We as a society need to look at better ways to get young people with disabilities onto career pathways that will advance opportunities to have a job, earn an income and become independent, just like anyone else.”

Including Disability in Diversity

When corporate leaders think about diversity, they often think about race, gender and sexual orientation/identity. They do not think about disability. What they may not recognize is that disability is a natural part of the human experience just as race, gender and sexual orientation/identity is. Disability also cuts across all other barriers that divide us. There are people with disabilities in every facet and subdivision of American society. Disability needs to be a part of every conversation the business community has about diversity and inclusion.

One-in-five Americans have a disability, which represents a significant portion of our nation’s marketplace. To look more closely at diversity, there are more than 22 million working-age people with disabilities who have tremendous talents to offer employers in virtually every segment of our economy. Companies including Amazon, Starbucks, Pepsi and others have shown that employees with disabilities are loyal, successful and help them make more money. If we find the right jobs for the right people it can and does increase the bottom line of companies.

More than 50 percent of Americans report having a family member or close friend with a disability. It is the only minority group that anyone can join at any time due to accident, illness or aging. As the ADA celebrates its 27th birthday, it is important for everyone to remember that without the inclusion of people with disabilities in all facets of society, the U.S. economy cannot succeed.

Learn more at RespectAbility.

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Thinkstock photo by Designer491.



A College Student's Guide to Disability Accommodations


It’s that time of year again!  Summer is winding down and school is just around the corner. Going to college can be one of the most exciting and exhilarating times of your life. You are about to embark on a journey towards a career and becoming the person you have dreamed about since you were a small child. College can also be downright terrifying, leaving you with intense anxiety and endless questions about how you are going to make this work.

In truth, this is how most of the students I work with feel when they come in to see me. I am a disability counselor at a college and my primary role is to work with students who have disabilities and develop accommodations for them so they can be successful.  Every semester I meet new people who are determined to achieve their goals. These students are resilient, brave and smart, but it can be very overwhelming trying to find the support they need. I hope this post can be a guide for those of you who are just starting out as freshmen, parents of a college student, or maybe you are like me and just finding out later in your college career that you may learn a different way. Whatever the situation may be, I hope this helps you navigate Disability Services at your college and helps you become an awesome advocate for yourself.

Who Is Eligible for Accommodations?

Many people think accommodations are only for people with visible disabilities, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  About 95 percent of the students I serve have an invisible illness, a learning disability or mental illness such as anxiety or depression.

What Are Accommodations and How Can They Help Me?

Accommodations are adjustments that make material or a process more accessible to a person.  Accessible means the person with the disability has the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective manner (Department of Justice).  Think about cut-outs in the sidewalk or captions for a movie.  These are all accommodations to make the environment accessible. In fact, they help more than just people with disabilities. Those sidewalks are helpful for moms with strollers, movers and people with rolling suitcases. Captions are helpful for people who are deaf or  hard-of-hearing, but they also help those who may not know the language well, and people who learn better by reading and hearing the information at the same time.

Accommodations are helpful to students who have disabilities to help them with barriers to their learning. They can help with endless reading textbook sessions with dyslexia, reducing distractions for ADHD, providing preferential seating for ASD and excused absences for flares of a chronic illness — just to name a few.

Examples of Academic Accommodations in College

Every college will have their own way of writing accommodations, but this is just a list of general accommodations.

  • Extended test taking time
  • Having a note taker
  • Recording a lecture class
  • Having preferred seating
  • Being able to take short breaks during lecture to alleviate symptoms
  • Testing in a reduced distraction site (testing center)
  • Having a Reader or utilizing screen reading software for tests
  • Allowing extra time to get to class (for mobility)
  • Having an accommodation for absences due to documented disability (such as chronic illness)
  • Extensions on assignments
  • Having handouts in electronic format, or enlarged text size
  • Eligibility for subscriptions for Audio text books
  • ASL interpreter for classes & tutoring
  • No penalty for in class spelling errors
  • Extended time on assignments when student communicates need to instructor
  • Using adaptive technology (screen readers, smart pens, braille printer)
  • Testing in smaller sections (e.g. Part I in the morning, Part II in the afternoon)

What the Law Says

The Americans With Disabilities Act was established so no person with a disability would be discriminated against. It states that reasonable accommodations must be made for any individual with a disability. You can read the law here (warning: it’s rather lengthy) but here are key tips you need to know!

  • The Law (the ADA) protects anyone who has a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” This covers physical, sensory and health-related disabilities, psychological disorders or attention disorders and learning disabilities.
  • Reasonable accommodations must be made, but colleges don’t have to fundamentally alter programs or reduce academic standards for any student.
  • The appropriate accommodations will be determined based on your disability and individual needs.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to inform the college of disability.

How to get started:

  1. The first thing you will need to do is visit your college’s website and search for the Disability Office. You can also search ADA, Accommodations or Student Support and this will lead you to the right place.
  2. Once you find the correct office, they will have their process on their web page. They may have an application to fill out or an individual you will call to make an intake appointment. These appointments are generally done after you have made your class schedule with an advisor.
  3. You will need documentation for your disability and it should not be more than three years old. Colleges will generally not accept IEPs from high school, and would like to see updated psychological testing with adult norms. This allows them (and you!) to have a better idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are and the best way for you to learn. If you don’t have documentation or updated testing, contact the disability office to see if they have recommendations for your area. Documentation will be accepted from medical providers such as doctors, counselors and psychologists. This documentation must highlight the following:
    1. What is the disability or disabilities?
    2. How does the disability affect the educational process? For example, having flares in chronic illness may cause someone to miss class, whereas having ADHD may affect time needed to take a test.
    3. What recommendations does the medical professional have for accommodations? This may not always be reasonable depending on the class, but it will give the counselor an idea of what may help.
  4. Before your intake appointment, think about which accommodations have helped you in the past. Also revisit what your academic strengths are and how you believe you learn the best, such as hands on, auditory or visual. This will be helpful information to the counselor and will be crucial information to know as you begin to advocate for yourself.
  5. Make an appointment with the disability counselor and bring a copy of your most recent documentation. The counselor will review the documentation and ask questions about how your disability impacts your learning. The information you provide is confidential and will stay in the disability counselor’s office. Your accommodation letter will not have your diagnosis or medical condition listed. It will only state the accommodations for which you are eligible.
  6. After speaking with the disability counselor, you will most likely receive your accommodation within two weeks. You are then responsible for notifying your professors.
  7. Make an appointment with your professor(s) to talk about the accommodations you will need. Make sure to bring a copy of the accommodation letter for your professor to keep.
    1. This can be intimidating, but it will be helpful for your professor to understand the best way you learn and how they can support you. You do not have to disclose the specific disability diagnosis. You can speak generally about support you will need, but keep in mind if you choose to disclose more detail, it may help the professor to provide extra help.
    2. Meet with your professor as soon as possible as any accommodations cannot be retroactive, meaning you cannot go back on a test you didn’t do well on without accommodations. They can only help you from this point forward.
    3. The accommodations are between you and the professor. Other students in the class should not know that you have accommodations. Many of the students I work with are anxious about feeling different from their peers and being called out because of their disability. College is a lot different than high school. You won’t be asked to line up at the door to go to the testing center, and can even be anonymous with having a note taker.
  8. Keeping up with responsibilities. Remember you are your own advocate now!
    1. In college, your parents are not able to contact professors or other personnel with questions about you or to check in.  Because of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) your information will not be shared.
    2. If you have testing accommodations, you may want to remind the professor two days prior to the test. Sometimes they have many students who are receiving accommodations, and a reminder will help guarantee that the test will be ready with your accommodations.
    3. If your accommodations are not working, contact your disability counselor to revise your accommodations. They are not set in stone, and your counselor may be able to help you identify helpful resources around the college.
  9. If at any time you feel that your accommodations are not being met, let your disability counselor know. They may need to meet with the professor to ensure you are receiving the appropriate accommodations. One of the most important roles of the disability counselor is to make sure the college is in compliance with the ADA. If you still do not feel you have been treated fairly, you can contact the Office of Civil Rights and file a complaint,  because this is against the law.

Accommodations are just a way of leveling the playing field. Students with disabilities have more barriers to learning than those without disabilities. It is not a personal or character flaw. There is nothing wrong with you, you just learn differently! I hate when students wait to come see me until they start failing because they feel embarrassed or they feel there is a stigma around using disability services. The process in college is very private, and it is done to help you succeed.

If you think that you may have a learning disability but have not been diagnosed, contact your disability counselor to see how you can get help.  Personally, I did not discover my own diagnosis until I was in graduate school I always wondered why I couldn’t remember what I read and had trouble studying. After finding out, I was able to find ways that I could retain information and other strategies which helped me pull a very low GPA to a very high GPA. It was the best decision I ever made! The knowledge can only help you, not hinder you — so what are you waiting for?

It’s time to be the best you that you can be!

Have you had experience with academic accommodations? Please comment on how they have helped you along the way. I would love to hear from you!

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