Disabilities Can Affect Anyone – Essay Example

Disabilities Can Affect Anyone – Essay Example

Life is difficult for everyone, but it is especially difficult for those of us with disabilities. Some disabilities are easy to recognize because of the use of a wheelchair or cane; others are nearly impossible to observe. All types of disabilities, though, make the already daunting task of attending college even harder.

The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. This legislation describes a disabled person as one who has, “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such [an] individual.” Education is considered to be a major life activity. These impairments fall into several major categories:

  • Physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, and paralysis.
  • Medical disabilities such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and lupus erythmatosis.
  • Sensory disabilities meaning blindness and deafness.
  • Learning disabilities such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Those from brain injuries which may affect memory, communication, information processing, and balance or coordination.

Disabilities do not only make accessing classrooms and other facilities difficult. They can disrupt the student’s schedule due to medical treatments; painful conditions may cause the student to miss lectures or exams; and psychological disorders can make ordinary interactions with teachers and fellow students extremely uncomfortable.

Colleges and universities are legally obligated to make reasonable accommodations for disabled persons. Section 12181 (7) (j) of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that all educational facilities, public or private, are covered by the law’s provisions. Section 12189 states that, “any person that offers examinations or courses related to … education … shall offer such examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to persons with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements for such individuals.” This is interpreted to mean that reasonable accommodations are to be made for the disabled student.

Discrimination based on disability is also considered to be a violation of a person’s civil rights. This is described in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is enforced by the U. S. Department of Education regarding schools and institutions of higher education. The Rehabilitation Act covers obvious physical disabilities as well as hidden disabilities such as mental disorders, diabetes, or cancer.

Students also have responsibilities. The officials of a college or university cannot be expected to accommodate a student with a disability if they are not aware of the student’s situation. Most, if not all, institutions of higher learning offer Disabled Student Services (DSS). These offices are intended to facilitate assistance for those needing it. They are there to provide assistive technologies such as voice recognition computer software, audio textbooks, TTY/TDD, and specially adapted work stations. Other methods of assistance would include providing an American Sign Language interpreter for the hearing-impaired or a reader for the blind. DSS offices are also tasked with making sure facilities are accessible to students with disabilities. This may mean providing elevators and ramps or moving the class to an easily accessible room. Each of these types of accommodations should be supplied at no cost to the student.

The effectiveness of DSS services, though, is dependent on administration support and the knowledge and expertise of the staff. Criticisms have been leveled against college and university DSS offices. The services these offices offer have been found to be poorly organized and inadequate. It is easy to see that a college or university without a well-run DSS office is not likely to be able to provide acceptable accommodations for disabled students.

Consider the hypothetical quadriplegic student who desires to attend a particular college because of its good reputation in the field in which the student excels. Our student arrives at the college and is directed to a classroom in an older building. The building lacks wheelchair ramps and elevators. It will be impossible for the student to attend his lecture on the second story of the building. If the college has a highly-functioning DSS office, they should be able to see that reasonable accommodations are made. What if, however, the DSS office is non-existent or inadequate? How does our student successfully complete his education under these conditions?

As a society, we should feel a responsibility to those of us less fortunate. The disabled or handicapped among us deserve the same opportunities available to able-bodied persons. A congenital condition or traumatic injury does not diminish one’s desire to succeed in life. Each of us should have the right to an education without limitations.