Advocacy in College
By Mitchel Ryan
I am not going to pull any punches. College is difficult, and it does not hold your hand when it comes to acquiring the services and accessible materials you need to be successful in your college classes. This is where advocacy comes in. Advocacy is a life skill that everyone who is blind should use daily throughout their college experience. Advocacy is the action of informing an individual, what you as a blind person, needs to be successful in college courses. This skill is crucial because there is no one who will do it for you. Before you start college, you must understand what technology you will need for you to do your college course work.
Before you apply to college, I suggest you go to your local rehabilitation services office and take a technology test. This would give you and your counselor an idea of what technology would be most useful for you. Keep in mind, the counselor is not always right. Only you know what technology and services that you will need. If you have no idea, go with the counselor recommends.
When you attend your university, set up an appointment with the Disability Resource Center. Then ensure that you can notify you teachers that you are a student that is blind, that will be in their class. This way the teacher would be aware that they will have a person with a disability in their class. The disability resource center will not do this for you. While you are in class, you must maintain constant communication with your instructor. This would ensure that if there is a class material that is inaccessible, you can ask for the material easily and they would be more willing to assist you because teachers like it when a student keeps communication with them.
For you to know how to advocate for yourself, you must understand your visual condition. If you know that you have enough vision to read large print, then do not ask for a braille writer because you will not need it. Do not ask for technology that you will not use because there could be another person that could really need that tech. It would be a shame to let that tech gather dust in your drawer.
In displaying proper self-advocacy skills, you demonstrate that you are an independent person who does not need any extra assistance with independent tasks. This is important when it comes to getting a job in the real world. You will not be treated differently because of your disability. You would only be treated differently if your personality makes you stand out from the crowd. Be sure while you are advocating for yourself, to not ask for more assistance than what you need. If you ask for too much, you will become reliant on others to help you with your work and that will harm your independent task performance. If it is a matter of inaccessibility, you must ensure that you receive accommodations from your instructor. They are not allowed to refuse basic requests. For example, if you are blind and in need to take a test for a class, and the test is in scantron, you would need someone to read you the test and fill out your answers. You would have to request a reader and scribe at the resource center. Your teacher CANNOT deny you of this request because it is the only way that you can take this exam. Another way could be taking the exam a different way, but with the same expectations as every other student. The teacher could email you the exam the day of and give you the same or an extended timetable so that way you would be held to the same standards. These are just a few examples of how to best use the skills of advocacy. We would love to hear your college experiences and in what ways advocating for yourself has helped you as an individual. Post in the comments and have a great day.