Recently on my blog, I discussed how advocating for yourself can be exhausting. I have always needed accommodations in school and will need them in the workplace as well. As I have grown up, I have noticed a stigma around receiving accommodations, whether you need an accessible parking permit or accommodations on an exam.
I have been told on more than one occasion by non-disabled people that I am “lucky” to have an accessible parking permit. Needing a permit doesn’t make me feel lucky at all. It simply makes it easier for me to get in and out of my vehicle. Mainly when I am in my walker, having an accessible parking spot reduces my fatigue. I have also been told that I am “lucky” to have PCAs (personal care attendants). I don’t enjoy having someone help me use the bathroom or take a shower. I wish I could shower with complete privacy.
Sometimes, I feel like nondisabled people view accommodations as some significant advantage. When I took the SATs in my junior year of high school, I had accommodations such as extended time and a calculator for the math portion of the test. I also had these same accommodations in the classroom. These accommodations allowed me to take the same tests as my peers. I never saw accommodations as giving me any advantages. Accommodations allowed me to show what I knew.
When the college admissions scandal happened, I was disappointed to learn that some parents faked disabilities for their children to qualify for accommodations on the SATs and the ACTs. Accommodations don’t exist for people who don’t truly need them. It’s hard for some people to prove that they even need accommodations to begin with. In high school, I required accommodations to perform well on the exam. People needed to see that I was a capable student.
Sometimes even with proof, accommodations or things to improve one’s quality of life are denied. It sometimes feels like the presumably non-disabled people who make these decisions mustn’t think that disabled people live a whole life. After graduating from high school, I had to apply for an increase in my PCA (personal care attendant) hours. At first, the request was denied. I began to think that Medicaid didn’t know that I wanted to go to college. Or worse, I began to think that I would have to give up my dream of attending college at all.
In March, I finally received my new power wheelchair after waiting for more than a year. I went through the process of trying out different types of chairs and getting them properly fitted. My health insurance denied the chair in its entirety at first. However, with more substantial letters of medical necessity from my team at Boston Children’s Hospital, they eventually approved the chair. I was relieved when I received that news in the mail. My insurance, however, denied the seat elevation function on my new power wheelchair because they deemed it not to be “medically necessary.” Although I might not need the seat elevator for medical reasons, I use it to access more of my environment and improve my quality of life. A greater quality of life isn’t a good enough reason for health insurance to approve something.
Accommodations are not unfair or significant advantages. Having accommodations has allowed me to level the playing field in a world that wasn’t designed for me.
Snyder, Susan. “Why Students with Learning Disabilities Need Accommodations on Standardized Tests and Hate That Some Parents Lied about It.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 31 Mar. 2019, http://www.inquirer.com/education/learning-disability-college-admissions-bribery-scandal-20190331.html.