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Erasing the Stigma of Disability Accommodations

Erasing the Stigma of Disability Accommodations

Rachel Katz holding an MK is discovering new areas of interest sign in front of her internship location

When I was in the fifth grade, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. When I was in the seventh grade, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). As a young student in middle and high school, my mother and father always made sure I received the proper accommodations. I had a Section 504 plan which helped me get through school every day. I knew that once I reached college, it was crucial for me to continue receiving those accommodations. I was fortunate enough to have parents that not only made sure I got the accommodations I needed, but also taught me not to be ashamed of my disabilities.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. The purpose of the ADA is to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities when it comes to employment, government, public services, etc. This act has also been implemented on college campuses.

Disability resource centers on college campuses are where students go to get the accommodations they need in order to succeed in (or even just to get through) school. These accommodations include extra time for tests, alternative testing spaces, note-takers, and more. In order for a student to receive the proper accommodations, they must disclose their disability. Unfortunately, not many college students are willing to do that and because of this, only about 17 percent of college students are getting the help they need.

The stigma around disability accommodations is a clear example of why the ADA exists. But, even with the accommodations, many stigmas remain. One deals with the idea that a student who receives disability accommodations is not smart enough to get through college on their own. Another one deals with the idea that those receiving accommodations are being spoon-fed and do not really need these accommodations.

We must eliminate the stigma: “Speak up for those who cannot speak, for the rights for the unfortunate. Speak up, judge righteously, and champion the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8). In order to eliminate the stigma, we must defend those who are unable to defend themselves. We cannot allow for any student to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their disability, especially if it impacts their ability to get the help they deserve. Judge righteously. Do that by erasing the idea that any student in need of accommodations is taking the easy way out.

Rachel Katz

Rachel Katz is a 2016 Machon Kaplan participant, interning at the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities. She is a rising senior at California State University, Northridge where she is majoring in Modern Jewish Studies.

Machon Kaplan is the Religious Action Center's work/study internship program for undergraduate students interested in Judaism and social justice. Learn more at www.rac.org/mk. The views expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reform Movement.

Machon Kaplan Participant

Published: 8/11/2016