My mom is legally blind and has been so for over 20 years. This has prevented her from doing many things in life because she didn’t believe that she could. However, after hardships that include leaving a toxic marriage, she decides it was time to take charge of her life by going back to college, getting a very good job, and living the way she wants to live.
To participate in her classes, however, she has to carry around a heavy machine and computer that takes a while to set up so that she can read, write, and see what the professors put up on the board. She can see just enough to make out shapes and colors. To read, she has to pick apart each and every letter/word — and sometimes, for the sake of time, scan and guess.
Because of this it takes her twice as long as the average student to complete most of her work. This is barely a problem for the tests and exams that take a couple hours, although she is usually one of the last people to complete them.
Within the first month of her first semester, her foreign language professor strolls in and passes out a slip of paper, telling the class they have five minutes to complete the quiz.
My mom, barely able to even read the questions in such a short amount of time, struggles to set up her necessary equipment quickly only for the machine to not connect to her computer. She barely even gets to look at the quiz when time is up, and she asks if she can have more time or do the quiz after class.
The professor basically told her, “Too bad. If you can’t do the work in the time given then you don’t need to be here. I can’t stop the class just for you.”
My mom reported this to her counselor, who assured her that this kind of behavior wasn’t allowed and that it would be dealt with. During a meeting with the school board, the professor even tried to argue that my mom shouldn’t get “special treatment” for her disability and “just needed to do the work.”
My mom doesn’t want special treatment. She wants to learn and do the work and this professor was not letting her.
Luckily for her, her university has no patience for discrimination. “Tests and quizzes are supposed to help show what the students learned. Putting them on a timer teaches nothing.”
The professor, under threat of losing their job, and after attending many meetings with the disability counselors and the school board, fixes their attitude.
Time skip to my mom’s second semester. Different classes, different professors. But she still has to deal with the occasional “special treatment” type comments. It’s not often, and comes from classmates, but it’s still annoying.
Just last week my mom came home laughing and tells me that other than she and two students, her entire class of 20-30 students were FAILING for not turning in their work and begged for extensions on most, if not all, their assignments (which they had weeks to do and turn in). They offered loads of cryptic excuses that ranged from “I didn’t have enough time,” to “I’ve been busy.” The professor, at a loss, granted the extensions.
“Most of these kids are young twenty-something-year-olds bragging about all the parties and events they go to,” my mom says. “And yet they get extensions for work they’ve had weeks to turn in? I ‘get special treatment,’ my a**!”