The Pros and Cons of Being a Disabled College Student

Oooh, disabled. Disability. A dirty, forbidden word in so many of your minds. I can imagine how quickly most people are exiting out of this article because you’ve been taught some shit about how disability should be talked about in whispers and in shame.

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Fuck that. I’m disabled, and I’m proud of it.

I’m a part of the 96% of people who have chronic mental and physical disabilities that are, largely invisible. In different terms, I am a part of the 10% to 15% in America, especially of college age, who have a debilitating illness(es).

There is a list of cons to that, of course. There are also some pros to it like…

Pros:

  • You have an education about the medical field that would leave most speechless.

  • You know how to stay awake and push through anything.

  • The Accessibility Office is your best friend.

  • You know where all the elevators and bathrooms are.

  • You make friends with other chronically ill and disabled people.

  • Your accommodations will save your life when flares happen.

  • Public Safety knows you real well - who else would give you a ride to your car?

  • You are basically a walking pharmacy.

  • Your cane, should you be in danger, is an excellent way to defend yourself.

  • Prime parking spots.

But there are cons as well. So many cons...

Cons:

  • People - like anti-vaxxers, professors, doctors, students, friends, family members - do not believe that their five minutes reading an article on Wikipedia outweighs your knowledge of the disease you live with.

  • People try to call you “differently-abled” or “handi-capable” or “uniquely-abled,” and oh my god, just say disabled or person with disabilities. I swear, we as disabled people will not be offended in the slightest.

  • Professors try to deny you your accommodations - like extra time, separate testing, ability to leave class as needed, absent accommodations, etc. - because they think their class and time is more important than your health and life.

  • Students look at you weird or avoid talking to you because you’re disabled and will talk openly about it without shame.

  • There’s no rock salt. Anywhere on campus. Why? Why is that? Please explain that to me.

  • Every. Building. Is. So. Far. Away. In the COLD. Colleges do realize people have respiratory and circulatory conditions that make it hard to move from building to building right?

  • Dating? As a disabled person? Oh, that’s hilarious. Most people will run for the hills before they date someone who has disabilities.

  • Colleges will lock the disabled stall or shut down the elevators because they’re “a luxury.” Umm...what? Guess I’m not peeing or heading to class.

  • The Accessibility Office might try to deny your accommodations because you “look fine.” I have an invisible disability - if I'm without my cane, of COURSE I look fine.

  • People will believe I am bisexual before I am disabled because I “look fine” or “I’m mostly able-bodied” or “just under the weather.” Please, just shut up. I beg you.

  • There will be snow in the disabled parking spot at some point. Not even kidding.

  • People believe you only make friends with other disabled people. Honey... statistically or logically, that does not make sense.

  • Finally - people harass you for: using the disabled stall and disabled parking spot, using your accommodations or mobility aids, taking your medication, drinking from a straw, refusing food that's offered, etc. Etc. ETC.

There you have it. The pros and cons of being a disabled college student. Of course, there are many more cons than pros, but I suspect my audience is mostly able-bodied and will not be familiar with most of what I'm talking about. Or be insulted.

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So the next time you see someone using the disabled stall, requesting an extension on an assignment, canceling plans, being hesitant to eat out - be aware that they could very well have some type of disability. If they use a mobility aid sometimes or always, be aware that they might not want to answer HOW it affects their life, how they began using an aid, etc.

Finally, remember that we are people too. The capitalist world we live in is not designed for us disabled people. It's expensive, moves too fast, is really loud, and has WAY too many stairs.