, 18 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Oh good my favourite #AcademicAbleism chat is back: denying accommodations.

So here is the perspective of a visually impaired person who went from undergrad to PhD constantly having access needs denied.

First it is THE LAW. If you deny accommodations you are breaking the law.
It is the law under the Equality Act in the UK & under the ADA in the U.S. I recommend that you all take advantage of your disability services information, resources & training ASAP.

But this is how it actually works. As a disabled student you have already had to prove yourself
You’ve had to fill out forms, present paper work, attend assessments & often appeal decisions. Then you get the legitimate stamp of “disabled” from the disability services.

It is then their job to disseminate information about what your access needs are to your department
But it doesn’t happen. I needed the following adjustments in class.

1. Printing off any documents in A3 or large print.
2. Emailing the slides in advance. Or printing them out on the day.
3. Emailing a lecture summary in advance. Or printing them.
4. Recording lectures.
I was so excited to turn up to my first class in the 2nd semester of my 1st year. It had taken that long to get everything approved & I had really struggled.

Instantly the academic said I couldn’t use my dictaphone & had forgotten to email or print anything. I was devastated.
I felt so excluded. The professor was totally dismissive. He was a middle aged white man & I was 18. I was so humiliated & frightened I felt unable to challenge him. So I sat through another lecture, missing half the information, not able to see the texts being discussed.
Afterwards I went to the bathroom & sobbed. I bit my hand so that people wouldn’t hear me. I wept because I didn’t know how to fight it, because my heart was broken that I couldn’t do the degree I loved & had worked so hard for. I felt like a freak who wasn’t allowed an education
I faced this experience again & again & again. Dozens of classes. Hours of missed information. Even more hours of catching up in the library hunting down books mentioned in passing because I couldn’t take the notes from the slides. Fighting the pain of my sight loss & struggling.
Once in a while there would be a lecturer who cared. Who had read the note & followed the law. I would turn up & have the slides & the large print. I could fully participate in the class.

This is why I became a historian of the British Empire instead of the Middle Ages.
I stopped taking classes in other departments because I knew fighting for access accommodations in my own discipline would be hard enough. So I jealously watched my friends enjoy art & sociology & fashion classes. I was too exhausted to fight more people, more rules.
After 2 & half years of struggling. Constantly reminding professors, re sending my accommodations paper work, begging at the front of classes. I was so tired & so humiliated. But I’d also been working as a student rep in my department committee. In my final year I became Chair.
And after gathering all the evidence, I sat in front of the entire staff department & told them they were breaking the law. Told them about the personal impact, the tears, the pain, the fear & the missed opportunities. I was so terrified but it was my last effort.
Of course half of them dismissed me, ignored me, shouted over me. They didn’t have the time, it was too much, they didn’t want to. But I stood my ground & enough listened. The head of department agreed & proposed extra training & thanked me for my contribution.
Afterwards I was sick in the bathroom out of the sheer terror & exhaustion. I was sitting outside the meeting recovering & @willgupshup came out & told me I had done well & been really brave. He didn’t even teach me but he supported me. It is one of my most treasured moments.
I doubt he even remembers but that moment of validity meant that I felt able to carry on with my degree.

It may also have something to do with me specialising in British Indian history ☺️even if I didn’t get to do his class in the end.
However this wasn’t the last battle. Over the next 5 years I spent so many hours justifying my existence as a disabled student, having my needs dismissed, facing the pain, humiliation & struggle of studying without support.
So what’s the point of this long thread? I want academics to read it & really understand what it means to say no to a disabled student. How much fear, embarrassment & distress you will cause. How many 18 year olds will be biting their hands sobbing in bathrooms because of you?
How many students will you exclude from your classroom because you won’t make the effort to make a few small changes? How many will you deny an education in the subject you allegedly love?

Read the rules, make the adjustments, include everyone.
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