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Bradley and Accessibility: How Our School Profits Off Students with Disabilities

I recently learned of a program here at Bradley called Moss Scholars. According to Bradley’s website, it is designed to “assist neurodiverse students in gaining skills that will allow them to be independent and successful.” The program places students with an executive function coach to help them with time management, prioritizing, organization, task initiation, flexibility and self-advocacy. 

Executive function is used to learn, work and manage the tasks of daily life. It includes working memory, flexible thinking and self-control. Those who struggle with executive function, individuals with autism or ADHD (such as myself), may have difficulty focusing, following directions and/or handling emotions. It is important to note that not all people with disabilities have the same struggles and everyone is different.

While the program is a great step in the right direction toward making Bradley more accessible, there is a glaring issue I see with it: the cost. Moss Scholars is a fee based program, with different levels of coaching based on the student’s needs. Students are required to start at Level One, which costs a whopping $3,500 per semester. Level Two costs $2,500, Three $1,500, and Four is the cheapest at $1,000. These funds do not add to the overall accessibility of our school, but instead go directly to the university. No scholarships are available for the Moss Scholars program. Academic coaching is a similar program, but is not tailored to students with disabilities, and is free to all.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and protects people with disabilities from discrimination in areas such as employment, transportation and access to state and local government programs. All public and private businesses, including schools, are required to follow the ADA. Colleges must provide reasonable accommodations to all students with disabilities under the ADA. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that provides appropriate free public education to children and youth with disabilities ages 3-21. Colleges are not required to follow the IDEA, which is why Bradley can make the distinction between the two programs. However unethical it may be for Bradley to make a profit off students with disabilities, it is not illegal. 

For argument’s sake, let’s compare the annual cost of Moss Scholars to an outside tutor. Although my disability was documented by a psychologist, my public high school, Wheaton Warrenville South, refused to accommodate my ADHD (which goes against the IDEA and is, in fact, illegal) and recommended I see a tutor outside of school. Fortunately, my parents were financially stable enough to pay a tutor $85 per one hour session every week my sophomore year. If I were to use a similar-costing resource during Bradley’s 16-week semester (based on the Fall 2021 semester dates), it would cost only slightly more than the cheapest level of support, at $1,360 a semester.

Please do not misunderstand my point to mean that students with disabilities should find better resources outside of Bradley. I am not so naive to believe the resources I had access to in high school are available or even fiscally possible for all students, whether they have a disability or not. People with disabilities are often misunderstood to be dumb or lazy, but this is entirely untrue. Our brains simply work differently than neurotypicals. My point is as follows: Bradley University is unethical for taking money away from students with disabilities in order to provide resources they need to be successful in school. The Moss Scholars page on Bradley’s website states “the program emphasizes academics, social skills, health/well-being and transition after college to help prepare students to be a confident, empowered, and contributing member to their communities.” Here’s my question: can students be confident, empowered and contribute to their communities only if they have a significant disposable income?

It is disappointing and frankly disheartening to see the school I attend, and otherwise love, have such little respect for its neurodiverse population. “People with disabilities should be accommodated for” is a full sentence.

If you have experienced inaccessibility or a lack of accommodations at Bradley, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at my email, salpers@mail.bradley.edu. I would love to be a voice for you and share your stories!

Sydney Alpers

Bradley U '24

Sydney is a sophomore music major at Bradley. Her hobbies include journalling, singing, and sustainable fashion. She is deeply passionate about advocating for others, especially people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. She joined Her Campus to spread awareness on important issues and find an audience to tell her many stories to.