The other day, I was talking to a new friend who had recently started losing their vision about going to college with a visual impairment. One of the questions they asked me was about Disability Services files, and whether it was important to get one when going to college. My answer was an absolute yes, and I was surprised that my friend had doubts about whether they needed one or not. Today, I will be sharing why you should get a Disability Services file in college- preferably before the first day of classes!
Once upon a time, I walked into my graphic design class on the first day of the semester, and the teaching assistant immediately panicked once they saw I had a blindness cane. They told me that they had no idea how to accommodate me and that they weren’t sure what I would need to be successful in the course. Since my Disability Services file provides specific accommodations for print materials and lists approved assistive technology, I was able to show the file to the teaching assistant and professor, reassuring them that I would be able to do all of the required work for the class. I even ended up with an A!
While this isn’t a problem in college, I would sometimes have teachers ask me in high school if I really had poor vision or a then-undiagnosed neurological condition. Since I had to submit documentation of my vision loss and neurological condition in order to get accommodations, the Disability Services file is enough to prove to people that I have a legitimate disability and that they don’t need to question if it really affects me or not. This is especially beneficial for invisible disabilities that may not seem obvious, such as chronic illness or psychological disorders.
My Disability Services file does not list the diagnoses for my eye or brain conditions, so if I didn’t feel comfortable telling my professors the exact nature of my disability, I wouldn’t have to do so. One of my friends who has autism appreciates this because they don’t feel comfortable discussing their condition with people they don’t know, and worry about professors treating them differently. Since I am extremely open about my disability and speak about it online, I feel comfortable giving my professors more specific information so that they can help me.
Professors are required to follow accommodations as outlined in the Disability Services file. While nobody is perfect, my professors have been awesome about ensuring that I have large print and access to assistive technology and accessibility settings for my assignments and during class time. While we do make some minor adjustments to my accommodations for certain classes, such as increasing the font size of printed assignments, my professors are great about following all listed accommodations.
By having a Disability Services file set up before the first day of classes or before any accessibility issues arise, students can take a proactive approach and ensure that they are able to be successful in college with their disability. It’s much better to let people know in advance that there may be issues instead of coming to them when everything is falling apart, and Disability Services files allow students to have someone to contact before everything gets to that point. However, if something does come up, students can get a Disability Services file at any point during the semester as long as they have documentation of their disability or condition.
By being registered with Disability Services, students can also receive emails or other information about campus or local resources for specific disabilities. For example, my college sends out information about the state department for vision impairment and local events for blind students to connect with others, as well as specific job fairs and events for students with disabilities. I’ve also received invitations to events where I got to talk to campus administration about visual impairment, which was always a cool experience.
As part of my Disability Services file, I have access to the Disability Services Testing Center, a quiet environment where I can take tests or complete timed assignments with assistive technology. I also have priority registration for classes so that I can ensure that I get first pick for class times and locations, which is incredibly helpful since I have chronic migraines and have to plan my day around those.
One of the accommodations I have with Disability Services is for disability housing, which gives me priority selection for on-campus housing and other accommodations such as a single occupancy room on the first floor. This is very helpful since single rooms can disappear quickly, and since I am requesting accessible housing, I don’t have to pay extra for the single occupancy room. Plus, it meant I was able to live on campus as an upperclassmen, which is typically impossible at my college.
As a student with low vision, I can access free technology resources such as assistive technology labs and free copies of accessibility software. The assistive technology office can also help me with ensuring that my assignments and textbooks are in an accessible format, and show me other technology resources that I might not have found otherwise.
Having a Disability Services file has helped me tremendously with being successful in college with a visual impairment and a neurological condition. By sharing how my professors can help to support me in the classroom and taking advantage of campus resources, I am able to pursue my dream degree and receive training that will help me in the workplace. I hope this post encourages others to get a Disability Services file as well- they are worth their weight in gold!
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,