PATEL: Campus disability accommodations stand to improve

PatelcolorBeing blind, I have gone through classes and campus life different from the majority of students at Marquette. This also applies to many others at Marquette who have some sort of disability. Having a disability, whether it is learning or mobility-related, greatly affects how one experiences college and campus.

For those with disabilities, thinking three steps ahead is essential. For me, this includes finding text books and other class materials in a different format, learning how to navigate different websites used in class and walking through my schedule so I can find my classes. For others, it may include finding wheelchair-friendly ways to get around campus or discussing accommodations with new professors because of a learning disability.

Most often, it comes down to those with disabilities to advocate and accommodate for themselves. While this is something that I do not have a problem with, it is frustrating that I have more struggles to find my books in the right format and classes than most other students. Disability Services is a very helpful resource on campus as it tried to ensure accommodations for those with disabilities. However, it is limited in what it can do. It is limited in resources and often has to go through other university departments that can be uncooperative.

While Marquette is a great academic institution, those with disabilities see their academic success put aside to deal with other obstacles. If there were more resources on campus for those with disabilities, the focus on academics for them would be greater.

Mobility is an example of how what can out academics on hold. The construction in certain areas of campus at times makes it difficult to get around, and accessible alternative routes for those with mobility needs are not always thought of.

For those with disabilities, we often feel our needs are just an afterthought. While the general population of able-bodied individuals is the majority, the needs of those with disabilities are not respected or given much attention.

Much of the difficulty in these situations is that there is not a campus-wide policy that holds all departments and professors accountable. I have had very positive experiences with professors accommodating me, but I have also had very negative experiences.

The negative experiences are frustrating and cause a feeling of isolation and anger. I have had professors unwilling to accommodate and who have told me to drop the class if I was unhappy with the accommodations they believed they were providing. I know many others with disabilities on campus who have felt equally disrespected.

Although the negative interactions are what I remember most, I have had fantastic experiences with professors who were willing to go above and beyond to make sure I succeeded alongside the other students without obstacles related to a disability.

The climate for disabilities at Marquette can be improved, with changes all around to ensure those with disabilities feel more independent and comfortable. By seeking out feedback from this population of people, the administration could make the climate much better.

Communication between those affected and those in charge would help address issues as well as give those with disabilities a voice.  While Disability Services does the best it can with what is at its disposal, campus-wide changes need to happen to ensure everyone is respected. As someone who has experienced both successes and failures when it comes to campus accommodations, providing assistance to students with a disability would be beneficial for the college experience of many.