Testing accommodation process tiring
Midterms — Not everyone’s favorite part of a semester, but for some, it can cause intense feelings of anxiety above the norm that actually affect their ability to take tests. I am one of these people.
I have an anxiety disorder. I am entitled by the American with Disabilities Act to receive accommodations on my exams in order to make my testing experience equal to that of what people without disabilities experience. This is to level the playing field. Common accommodations include extra time, use of a calculator and a separate place to take the tests away from distractions.
Every semester, in addition to studying, worrying over projects and trying to meet all the deadlines for homework, readings and everything else a busy student has to do, I have the added hassle of trying to secure my accommodations. This includes reaching out to professors and having them sign my letter of accommodation, returning the letter to Disability Services, making deadlines for exam accommodation requests and reaching out to my coordinator for additional support.
Every semester I worry over presenting the forms I need filled out by professors, wondering if they will look at me differently, wondering if I actually need to present this professor with the letter. I don’t use my accommodations for every class, simply because some of my classes do not have exams. Some have projects or papers, which are not as stress inducing to me as a multiple-choice exam in a room with hundreds of other people and the clock ticking away. However, just taking the time to try and get my accommodations in order causes me stress and anxiety. I send emails that don’t get returned, and I call the office only to find my records have been messed up. I get conflicting information, and I stress about where and when my exam will be scheduled, how I will get there and whether it conflicts with any prior commitments.
I recently decided to post a rant about how hard and frustratingly anxiety-inducing it is to actually secure accommodations on my Facebook page. Imagine my surprise to have gotten around 20 comments posted on it, and six people who private messaged me instead of replying to my post. Over and over again I got a similar story — other people did not even bother to go through the hassle of securing their accommodations, because it caused too much stress. Some people shared concerns that people would think less of me for posting what I did. Others expressed fears of being stigmatized by their peers and professors. I began to speak with my friends in various classes about the post, and then got more responses from classmates who overheard my conversations expressing the same sentiments.
Which brings me to a sad conclusion — one I was already aware of. Mental illness, brain disorders, and disabilities are more in the closet than even LGBTQ issues. So many people preferred not to express their concerns openly on Facebook, and that so many admitted they were in the same position. It made me wonder how it was possible for so many people to think they were alone in their struggle, and that it wasn’t even worth it to get something they were given a right to by law. Why is a system that is supposed to be helping us reduce anxiety instead causing so much that people make the decision to avoid getting help entirely?
Obviously this is something we must all think about. I didn’t ask to have an anxiety disorder, no more than someone diagnosed with cancer asked for it. Why should my disease be stigmatized and hushed up more than somebody with cancer?
My ability to advocate for myself is what has enabled me to get as far as I have, and to do as well as I have — but so many people suffer needlessly, not understanding the law and protections and help available to them. In writing this I hope to reach out to people like me and let them know that they are not alone. I hope to get the message out that there are many of us out there and that it is not okay to call someone else or even yourself “crazy,” “schizo,” “retard,” “OCD,” “bipolar,” etc. Doing so only silences those who are already marginalized by society and perpetuates stigma.
Elisabeth Flinsch is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in women’s and gender studies with a minor in cultural anthropology.