Some of you may be familiar with the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office, which provides students with disabilities with the accommodations that will help them to learn as effectively as they can. It provides a vast array of services for these students.
There are quite a few hoops to jump through, however. Before a student even arrives at Binghamton University for their freshman year, they have to contact SSD and medically prove that they have a disability. They then meet with a representative from the office to discuss the accommodations that will be provided, and the procedures for procuring them.
This is all well and good, and makes sense. But beyond this initial meeting, students must request that their accommodation letters be sent to all of their instructors before each semester. The process is simple enough — it’s done online — but I have a hard time understanding why it is necessary. These students have already proven that they require these services. It seems that the SSD would automatically send out these letters to its registered students’ professors without being prompted. If a student forgets to do this, they can, and likely will, be denied services by their professors, making learning in class difficult or even impossible.
Once a student requests their letters and SSD sends them out, they must meet with each of their professors to discuss them. This is a major inconvenience to the students, as they must rearrange their schedules to attend each of their professors’ and teaching assistants’ office hours. For me, last semester, I had to meet with eight different people, at eight different times, in eight different places. My meetings rarely took up more than five minutes, though the hassle of email-tag, figuring out where to go and the minimum 15-minute walk took far longer than the meetings themselves. I have found my meetings extremely unnecessary, as my accommodation letters are self-explanatory. If the letters are clear and specific, there should be no need for a meeting. If anything, meetings should be optional at the request of the student. And yet, if students do not meet with all of the necessary people, they can be denied their accommodations.
Once a student has done all of this, the professors themselves sometimes seem to simply discard the information. I have had professors ask me to remind them when my disability is relevant to them. Even after hurdling all of these obstacles to make sure my professors are informed and understanding, it is disregarded, and all of the onus is placed on the student. I don’t mind advocating for myself, but if I have to constantly remind my professors to do their jobs, what was the point of everything else? This isn’t to say that every professor does this. Some instructors are excellent in their dedication to helping their disabled students, but it is those who would sooner cause a student difficulty than attend to their needs who compile the issue.
All in all, the University puts minimal effort into helping students with disabilities. Disabled students are no less valuable than other students, so the University should stop treating us as such.
Jessica Gutowitz is a freshman majoring in English.