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Self Advocacy and Accommodations in the Classroom

The first day of a new semester can be overwhelming for any college student, but for a Young Invisible, this can be a day filled with a lot of difficult conversations. “Hi professor, my name is Ava, do you have a moment to speak about your policies for students with disabilities?” As a Yi with an invisible disability, I often miss class or will have to work remotely, so I require specific accommodations to thrive academically. At the university I currently attend, I cannot receive these accommodations through my school, so I have to have these conversations and start a dialogue with all of my professors as early as possible. Disclosing this information to a stranger or figure of authority can be an incredibly vulnerable experience, and there is always the risk that no matter how well you explain it, your professor may not understand or grant you accommodations. As a result, many Yi’s including myself for many years, choose not to disclose information about their condition or seek accommodations, despite how badly they need them.

With new technology in particular, students have access class materials and can participate in their classrooms from virtually anywhere, and there is no longer a reason why these accommodation and needs cannot be supported. Until educational institutions grant these accommodations themselves, it is increasingly important that Yi’s know what resources are available to them, and advocate for access to these accommodations. I have been very fortunate to have professors who have worked with me to best utilize these technologies for my specific accommodation needs. One semester, I became very sick with pneumonia as a result of my autoimmune condition, and my professor and I worked out a way to let me Skype into our final presentations instead of attending class. Other professors have adapted tests and exams to an online format if I wasn’t able to perform a paper test due to absence or pain, and still others have allowed for an open dialogue on how they could best support my success both in and out of the classroom. For this reason, it is incredibly important to do your research on what resources exist and educate our professors on what they can do to best serve Yi’s in their classrooms, and empower their students to ask for the accommodations that fit what they need to get the most out of their college experience.

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