Articles and College

Individuals with Disabilities: Differences in Accommodations from College to the Workforce


Going through school with a disability can have numerous setbacks on your overall academic achievement, especially if you don’t qualify for access services or state assistance. This is a growing issue as now some people are finding themselves being turned away because they are not disabled enough, or they may have a documented disability although don’t have any outward signs of that disability. Getting through college and looking for a job normally is difficult, now just imagine if you yourself had a disability that impeded your learning of skills that your peers already possess, while you are struggling to catch up?

Receiving assistance whether it is from your school or the state is not as easy to come by as some may think. Most people who receive services have to meet a certain criteria, and if you are above the threshold than you will not receive the funding that someone else will receive (Disability.gov, 2016), allow me to explain. Many people with disabilities are not yet ready to leave home and provide for themselves. Unfortunately this also affects whether you qualify for financial aid or not. When I was a junior in high school, I was already in route to go to a four year university, though I received back to back concussions. Instead of moving out on my own, with a good chance of receiving financial aid, I was then forced to live at home; thus disqualifying myself for financial aid services. Another example was when I was trying to acquire state aid due to me being legally blind, I completed all the necessary paperwork, and when the representative from the state came to visit me he thought that I would get it without question. This story did not pan out in the way that I or my family had thought it would, instead that state agent said I was not, “blind enough”, however due to my corrected vision with contacts and/or glasses my eyesight was at the threshold of being qualified for services (Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, 2010). This goes to show that even if you have a documented disability, if you do not meet the states or even college’s minimum requirements, you will not receive help.

People with disabilities are going to need more help, especially with their ongoing school work. Matt Krupnick (2014), author of The Hechinger Report, where they advocate for equality in the education system, discussed the story of Alix Generous and her first experience of college. As a freshman in college she thought she could get by without seeking accommodations for her dyslexia, though her grades proved otherwise. This scenario happened to me when I was in my first year of college; I just assumed that I could get by without having my accommodations with my course work, as a result I struggled and was not able to perform my best in my classes. The Letter of Accommodation (LOA) is designed to make teachers as well as the school accountable to provide the necessary requirements students with disabilities have on their LOA’s, since it is federally mandated (Rutgers, 2015). With accommodations comes the tough obstacle of enforcing them when you are out of college, and in the workforce. In the workforce we know it as a “dog eat dog world”, so we will get some of our accommodations met and not others, but what happens when we are simply ignored? For many who are working with disabilities, they have to face the reality that some people do not wish to help those who do not have the same social or even motor skills to perform their assigned job. This creates problems, some of which I personally experienced while working at Costco. When I first entered the orientation room for the new employees I wondered how I would stack up against my other co-workers, considering I have a vision disability on top of a speech impediment. For the first few months I was able to get through the grind, and my speech with my co-workers was actually not bad, this good feeling ended when I had to ask my supervisor if she could enlarge my schedule for me. I contemplated this for a few days, albeit it was now becoming harder to read the small print that told me my hours that I would work, so I did what any normal employee would do, asked my supervisor to have something done for me. When I went up to my supervisor, I explained what I wanted her to do to where I got a very annoyed expression followed by, “We’ll see, I’ll look into it” for a response. Naturally I assumed that she would get back to me with my schedule enlarged in a few days or so. Several weeks went by and I asked my supervisor where was my enlarged schedule, and she told me “I can’t do that James” I was in shock, to me enlarging only one schedule for a given month does not seem to be that difficult. This demonstrated to me that accommodations are not always met in the workforce, compared to in colleges.

This particular social problem uses conflict theories which according to Understanding Social Problems, which is authored by Linda Mooney, David Knox, and Caroline Schacht (2009), focuses primarily on “…the educational institution…” and how education for “…disadvantaged children are more likely to attend schools with fewer certified or experienced teachers…” Meaning that our education teaches us the skills we need in order to succeed in the outside world, although not everyone has that equal of a chance to obtain them. If the schools themselves are already at a low point in terms of providing resources for their students, than those with disabilities would be even further depleted of any additional help as well. When we are in school, most of our needs to succeed are met by donations or from federal tax dollars allocated to the school, and if there is not as much revenue coming in then certain programs will get shortened or their budget will not be as high. Accommodations are different for each individual; some require more individualized assistance, while others just need extra time on tests, or need the instructor to enlarge documents to a bigger font. This brings me back to my experience at Costco; my accommodations (enlarged print) have been met while in college, though when I went out into the workforce this was not provided for me. Why do you think this happened? A major reason why is the inequality people with disabilities face when transitioning into the workforce. Often people with disabilities feel they will be discriminated or hinder any future job opportunities by enforcing the issue of their accommodations, so they choose to not say anything.

I feel that this is a social problem that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. It should not make a difference whether someone is disabled or not, in order to receive accommodations whether they be in the workforce or in college, especially if it will help them go on to bigger and better things in the job or in school. According to a statistic from The Hechinger Report, “…94 percent of high school students with learning disabilities get some kind of help, just 17 percent of learning-disabled college students do.”[1] This statistic is worrisome, as generations continue to not advocate for themselves, which means less of an equal opportunity in their education. Our education system has strict guidelines to follow regarding accommodations, and I believe that the same should be displayed in the workforce. People sometimes seem to forget that since someone has a disability that they cannot do the same amount of work as someone else, this is a fallacy. Anyone can succeed if you give them a little encouragement, and that is where I feel the next step needs to be made in order for equality to truly be realized in America. More colleges and workplaces are becoming more aware of the needs and accommodations for those who have disabilities; however the stigma is still present, so we have to find a way to abolish it so we can continue moving forward again.

[1] I realize this includes high school statistics, though it correlates with the incoming freshman into college, and explains a lot of the ongoing issues with accommodations being addressed and met.

Bibliography:

Disability.gov. (2016). Disability.gov’s Guide to Student Financial Aid – Disability.gov. Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://www.disability.gov/resource/disability-govs-guide-student-financial-aid/

Krupnick, M. (2014). Colleges respond to growing ranks of learning disabled – The Hechinger Report. Retrieved March 07, 2016, from http://hechingerreport.org/colleges-respond-to-growing-ranks-of-learning-disabled/

Mooney, L. A., Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2009). Understanding Social Problems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

Rutgers. (2015). Office of Disability Services. Retrieved March 06, 2016, from https://ods.rutgers.edu/my-accommodations/letter-of-accommodations

Washington State Department of Services for the Blind. (2010). Our Services. Retrieved March 07, 2016, from http://www.dsb.wa.gov/services/assistivetechnology.shtml

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