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To the University Professor Who Refuses to Accept My Health Accommodations


Today is the first day back in class since reading week ended. For once, I was having a good day — no headache, my hand wasn’t bugging me, and other than the fact my lungs hated the cold, it was fine. My first class went well; I saw my friends and the animal biology lecture was super engaging. Then physics started; I loved physics in high school, I loved physics last semester, but this semester it is killing me. It is the eighth week of the semester, and I can’t currently write, I have no notetaker, so I have to piece together the lecture with what I type in shorthand quickly and my friend’s shorthand notes and diagrams. This means the 1.5-hour lecture twice a week takes me about four extra hours per class to get my notes to be understandable, and sometimes even that’s a lost cause.

The thing is, I shouldn’t have to spend an extra four hours on my notes; I have an IEP. For those who don’t know, that stands for Individual Education Plan which means I have accommodations so I am “on an even playing field” with all of my other classmates. One of those accommodations is that I am supposed to have a notetaker in each class so I can still get all the notes, even though I can’t hold a pen. Some professors are fantastic with this and send me their slides; others are just super on top of telling the class that someone needs a note taker, but there are also some who pretend they haven’t seen the form or just don’t care, so won’t even ask if someone is willing to be a note taker. It is the two latter groups that make my life difficult. I love school, and I hate having to rely on other people, but if you’ve ever had to try to keep up with a physics or calculus professor during their lecture, while still trying to type it, you know it isn’t easy.

I wish these profs would realize invisible illnesses and issues do exist and to get the accommodations, I had to get my doctors to each to fill out 15 pages of paperwork every term. If I were going to fake a medical condition just to make my university life more comfortable, it wouldn’t be something that causes nerve pain and never-ending swelling in my hand, or leave me puking and barely able to move; it would be something that didn’t cause me $100 a week in physiotherapy and another $300 in prescription meds once a month.

So.

Dear professor who refuses to accept my accommodations and accommodate me,

I have fought to get into this program, and I am fighting to work hard enough to stay in my program. Please do what you’re supposed to do and accommodate me. It is not up to you to decide if I am “worthy” of them or not, I have them for a reason, and I don’t even have to explain to you what they are for. So, just do your job and follow my accommodations. I know you accommodate the dude in the wheelchair and the guy who has migraine attacks, so why won’t you follow mine? I know I look like a happy girl who has friends and loves bright colors, but I also have chronic migraine and a screwed up hand that makes holding a pen practically impossible. Please think about the fact you are not the judge and jury in this situation. I have already proved to them I am worthy and need these accommodations. You are only the guy who has to follow orders.

Signed,

The brunet in the sixth row in the pink sweater who looks “normal” but deals with a lot more than what your eyes can see.

Getty Images photo via Chepko