Post-Secondary Students, I am looking for your stories

Are you, or have you been, a post-secondary student with a disability? What have been your experiences with navigating your institution as a disabled student? Is/was there a Student Accessibility Services office, and how effective were they in assisting you?

If you are willing to talk about what happened – good or bad – please email me. anna @

13 thoughts on “Post-Secondary Students, I am looking for your stories

  1. Are you interested in medical school? I had all sorts of “interesting” experiences as a disabled medical student.

  2. I am, yes, thank you!

    I should note, though, that since I wrote this post my computer has been infected with a major virus so I won’t be able to respond to most people until that’s sorted. Which should be tonight, as it’s almost done now.

  3. Hey Anna, just a question, are you looking for post-secondary study anywhere? Or just in Canada? I’m assuming anywhere cos you didn’t specify, but just thought I’d double check.

  4. Yes, my institution has a disability section, and they are helpful in some ways, but not in others.

    I love my department, and since there is actually a faculty member who carries a cane like me, it is okay there, but in other places there isn’t so much help. The doors to the library are too heavy for me, and the staff in the library refuse to fetch books for me *like it says they should on my disability form*, so…that isn’t so good.

    Bottom line is that it varies, I think.

  5. I went to a private high school that WAS private so that it did not have to accommodate, either you made it up to the standard (God’s of course! On the way to Pepperdine! ha.), or you did not. Disability discrimination was actively encouraged and lead by adults and teachers since the person must not be praying enough, or having enough of the good health foods, or the right foods (much of this has be offered/ordered to me by caregivers as well, including books on how to ‘cure myself’ before even knowing my condition). My bout with depression and the fight I had to not give into it was used in a form of promotional speaking on how I was a failure (used by my father, who pointed to me in the crowd – I had focused on the ‘me’ and thus MADE myself depressed – not an uncommon statement from ‘will to power’ groups).

    As for universities, yes, I can comment, on both state and alternative universities (the alternative are often worse, with trails through the woods or dirt roads to dorms or classes, and not a disabled washroom within 5 buildings.

    I will email you if you still are interested in information and it would be good to know what specific information you are looking for. Cheers.

  6. I’ve already e-mailed you.

    Quick summary – we do have a disability service (SDS) and they’ve only helped me once, and it requires a lot of initiative. (ooh, should have mentioned that in the e-mail. or did I?)

    SDS assumes we’re all adults, and I think it’s not helpful to people who are shy or have problems with interpersonal interactions – you mean I need to talk to the guy at SDS and tell all my professors IN PERSON? (we have to give our profs a sheet of paper saying we’re registered there and it details what we need. Mine’s blank, because what I need changes)

    They do some work with people who have LDs – getting a NT student to take notes on special paper, letting them take tests with more time, and probably other things as well.

    But another thing that requires a lot of nerve, and that has helped me a lot (SDS is more like backup if they fail me for missing a month or refuse to help me) is e-mailing my professors. (How did PWD do college before e-mail?!) You’re requesting something from a person in authority, you’re asking for something, the worst they can say is no*. It’s not as stressful as it used to be, but I can feel myself getting nervous thinking of a Freshman/1st yearWD who has trouble with that. E-mail’s better than face-to-face, but it’s still… like taking liberties? I don’t know.

    *None of mine have said no. And I sent an e-mail yesterday saying I’d be missing class because of a doctor appointment. Every time I’ve e-mailed this prof about absences, his response always includes an offer to help. Now I’m tearing up. Why are people so nice?

    High school – teachers were nice except for a couple (“Why are you standing? Sit down!” “It hurts to sit and I need your permission to go take a test.” (study hall)) especially the ones who followed the(ir) rules and docked me for missing days. But most bent the rules, because I’m a nice person and a good student and they’re nice people. The administration? Broke the damn law, but too hard to fight them, so I went back on homebound* rather than fight. (Right after surgery, I’m going to be responsible and get my homework. Stop in guidance office, make sure everything’s kosher. Principal pulls me aside and tells me if I miss another day, I won’t graduate. I had a 504, they were in the wrong.)

    *Homebound is when a teacher (who has to do everything k-12!) visits your house or hospital room and makes sure you stay caught up (if you’re going back) or get the work done so you can graduate/meet state requirements. There was one aggravating rule requiring an adult’s presence. One insisted on that (the adult was asleep on the couch), but the one I got – no the one we requested, who still asks about me – was more understanding, so we broke the rules.

    Rule-breaking seems the way to survive both college and high school with disability. 😛

  7. Hi everyone,

    I’ve just finished emailing everyone who emailed me, so if you haven’t heard from me, let me know. Leaving a comment here may be more efficient than emailing, in case our emails are crossing-wires or something.

    I’m still very interested. I’m going to email the people who have left comments here in the next day or so. (I’m afraid everything is taking me a bit longer than originally intended because of a situation in my personal life.)

    But, to answer a Frequently Asked Question: I’m interested in any and all stories you have, regardless of disability or location. I’m hoping to get a broad idea of what’s going on Out There in Post-Secondary Education Land, and not just limited to North America. I’m also interested in good, bad, or indifferent stories, or mixtures thereof.

    Thank you again, everyone!

  8. hi, I just remembered what secondary school means and realized that as a college student I’m post-secondary (for some reason I thought it meant graduate school). I’d be willing to talk about this stuff although I don’t know whether I would be the kind of person you’d want to talk to because I haven’t tried to get accommodations. I feel marginalized as a student with a disability sometimes but I don’t know if you are covering that kind of thing, or just accommodations.

  9. We don’t have any resources for those with disabilities, and despite having a seminar on the stigma of mental illnesses, even our staff has shown a tendency towards ableist policies.
    We’ve had some issues with our Counselor; she’s told a student to just ‘cheer up’ when she knew full well they’re bipolar, and that sort of thing. What it came down to for us was just bad decision making on our Counselor, as those who go to her come back feeling worse for the wear. Kind of frustrating- I was one of the student selected to evaluate candidates for our Counselor, and they turned down someone who’d had experience working with those with mental disabilities. Very, very frustrating.

  10. Hi Anna,
    I have some wonderful stories of being an epileptic in university (a few times now, as I’ve now gone back for a Master’s) It was easier before computers, as professors could make all kinds of discretionary arrangements without having to fill out 16 forms. It seems if now people believe they can get away with mistreatment of you, allot will. Life seems more reactionary in nature now too. I hate to break rules, but I’m starting to see this might be the only way. (especially if you have a “rare” form of your illness, so it’s hard to be declared disabled, if you are still very functional.) I’d love to share more.
    Melannie :-)!

  11. Am about to email you about experiences I’ve had with the university counselling service and disability service as an undergraduate student in an Australian university.

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