As graduation draws near, most every senior is working to navigate next steps. Students with disabilities, however, have the unique challenge of preparing to move into a new environment where they may not necessarily have access to resources they have previously been able to obtain through their university.
“It definitely sucks to be cut off from those resources because it is really nice to know that there is someone in a position of power that has your back as a disabled person,” graduating senior Micah Glidewell said.
Glidewell has been receiving accommodations from the University of New Mexico Accessibility Resource Center since his freshman year and has worked at ARC for the past year. He said that he has been able to do a reduced course load since his sophomore year in order to maintain his scholarships.
“Obviously none of us want to lose complete financial accessibility to college because of something we can’t control,” Glidewell said.
While his accommodations are mostly academic based, Glidewell still notes that being cut off from resources can be quite difficult, especially for students with vision, hearing and movement impairments.
Sophie Colson, currently on medical leave from the University and an original member of UNM’s Crip Liberation, was supposed to graduate this spring semester. However, after a series of difficulties obtaining appropriate accommodations for her chronic illnesses, she is considering switching schools altogether. Chief among her issues was the school’s inability to provide her required courses in hybrid format, which came especially as a slap in the face as the school proved its ability to utilize this format during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, Colson needed an appropriate wheelchair in order to be mobile on campus. The school deems this a “personal service” and, thus, did not accommodate for it. She also needed the ability to take only one course while she was working towards her medical recovery, which the school did not allow; the two courses she was required to take caused a great burden to Colson.
“I got an A in every (Honors) class that I did, so I was working incredibly hard, and I was very dedicated to it, and I was almost instantly forgotten about. And my physical ability to show up to a class shouldn’t take away a whole world of opportunities that I had previously had access to,” Colson said.
Colson remarked that while the job market is also not very accommodating, many degree-requiring career fields often have better accommodations than a university, with the caveat that students with disabilities must first make it through the harsh university environment.
Glidewell does note that accommodations don’t end after college; ARC itself contracts out interpreters and other services for their students, and he encourages those who are worried to contact their accommodation specialist. Still, the pressures of conforming to workplace standards in a society which stigmatizes disability is a tough challenge for many.
“Going into an industry, I do need to be more careful about my boundaries and my limits and, in order to keep my job, I may have to hide aspects of my disability and how it affects me because it could backfire and be viewed in a negative light,” Glidewell said.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle