Hello, my name is Josephine Olson. I am a senior at Boston University, majoring in American Studies with a minor in Deaf Studies (American Sign Language). I was almost forced to postpone my freshman year of college because the Department of Disability Services at Boston University refused to accept my 504 Plan and three previous Individual Educational Program (IEP) evaluations. I have had an IEP since first grade; yet, I experienced the costly and stressful burden of needing to be re-evaluated right before college for a permanent disability that I already had been diagnosed with multiple times.
Despite using my accommodations every day since first grade, the university stated that my documentation was too old. I could not fathom attending college without the accommodations I needed to express my intelligence and knowledge fully.
I have dyslexia and a working memory deficiency. This is my learning disability. My brain processes information differently, which is never going to change, no matter how many coping skills I utilize or academic achievement goals I reach in school.
Going to college without accommodations was not an option. My accommodations are not a privilege; they are my right to an accessible education. Success in school does not mean that you are cured or no longer need accommodations; it means the right accommodations are in place to allow a student to perform at their intellectual ability. You would not expect a physically disabled high schooler who can play basketball in a wheelchair to now have to start playing without one. Taking away academic accommodations from a student with learning disabilities is harmful and discriminatory.
In my situation, my family had the contacts and resources that most students do not have access to, especially in a short amount of time. I was able to find an available educational psychologist to update my testing quickly for several thousand dollars. In the Chicagoland area, most testing facilities have a three to six-month wait period for appointments and cost $1,500 to $5,000 dollars. If students can not get updated testing through their school, this is an economic barrier that can bar them from seeking higher education.
When colleges require students with learning disabilities to get new evaluations in order to receive support from Student Services, only those who can afford new testing will receive the education they deserve to reach their full potential. All universities should accept high school 504 Plans and IEPs as proof of disability. Creating an accessible educational environment should be the burden of the school and not the student.
Josephine Olson is a member of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC).
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