The Claremont Colleges hosted several representatives from the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) this week with the purpose of exploring how accommodations and services are provided for students with disabilities at the schools.
The five undergraduate colleges each held two meetings—one for faculty and one for students—to share thoughts on the current state of disability accommodations on the campuses. Each conference was led by two associates from the AHEAD program, Carol Funckes and Joanie Friend.
Funckes, visiting from the University of Arizona at Tucson, was most interested in seeing “the centralization of resources for disabled students, and whether things should become more or less centralized,” she said.
Students present at the meeting expressed overwhelmingly support for the plans.
“Trying to find the right people to talk to [at the 5Cs] and trying to be sure all professors can make the necessary accommodations can be overwhelming,” said Christina Boardman SC ‘12, who is affected by Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
After listening to the conversation between the students at one meeting, Funckes noted,
“A problem here seems to be in division of resources,” Funckes said after a conversation with students. “Half of the services [such as Monsour Counseling and Consulting Services and Student Health Services] are 5C-centralized, while accommodations themselves are carried out by the individual campuses.”
One suggestion for improvement was the establishment of an office on one of the campuses that can accept and process accommodation requests, speak to students, and notify professors for all of the schools on behalf of disabled students.
“This is a system common to large universities, and it should work here too,” Friend said.
The meetings addressed improvements for students with physical and non-observable disabilities, including those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Asperger’s syndrome, who often encounter difficulties in receiving accommodation from professors in the classroom. The greatest concerns were “the need for extended time on tests” and “assistance with note-taking,” Sally Krueger-Wyman SC ’15 said.
“We are like all the other students of the Claremont Colleges,” Krueger-Wyman said. “We want to be independent and [to] not be a burden on anyone.”
Two other solutions were suggested, including the creation of a proxy center that students can visit if they need to complete an exam beyond the time limits given by the professor, and a system for notices to be given to faculty by an office on campus explaining the nature of a student’s disability and the accommodations that need to be provided.
“It would be really nice if there was a standardized way of doing this,” Boardman said.
“We always want to keep in mind the question, ‘At what point does a student’s disability cross the threshold of being more of an inconvenience to the accommodators than it is a convenience to the students?,’” Friend said toward the end of the meeting.
According to Boardman, “the line is normally drawn when the student begins to feel uncomfortable with his/her/hir own accommodations.”
Other ideas for disability accommodation include the creation of a mentoring program similar to the Queer, Questioning, and Allied Mentoring Program (QQAMP).
“It would just give students someone to talk to,” Boardman said. “The most important thing the students need is a group of people to bond and create community with. These are the people that will recognize that my disability is part of the strength, and not the weakness, of who I am.”