Over a month after UL's transition to distance learning, some students are having trouble adjusting without their normal accommodations.
“We have students with cancer, who have heart conditions, have had organ transplants, ADHD, learning disabilities … I mean you think about it, and we have it,” said Jodie Boudreaux, Assistant Director of the Office of Disability Services (ODS). According to her, ODS has taken preemptive and active measures to ensure the success of students with disabilities, and it continues to adapt.
“It’s a learning experience every day. We’re very lucky because, from the beginning when this started, those individuals in administration included us when the thought of going into remote learning arose … Our input was that if you make it universally accessible, then that eliminates any issues for just about any student.”
Some of the efforts that Boudreaux described included making sure visually impaired students had access to screen readers and assuring that audibly impaired students had access to closed-captioned videos and transcripts.
“That took away the biggest burden, making that class accessible on its own as opposed to having to put an interpreter in an in-person class.”
Dinah Doucet, a senior majoring in psychology, wrote in a print statement to The Vermilion some of her issues navigating school prior to and following the shift to online education. Doucet suffers from both physical and psychological disorders.
“I have a heart condition, spinal disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Attack Disorder,” Doucet wrote in the statement. Prior to transitioning online, her physical conditions made it harder to get to class. She wrote, “Unlike most students I have to take 90 -120 minutes to prepare before a class to do my morning stretches for my spinal disorder.”
In the past, Doucet has faced issues with professors not understanding how these disorders affect her. In her statement she writes, “I have had circumstances where professors did not understand my anxiety disorders, so I made the decision to change my schedule so my grades would not suffer due to professors who prohibit recording or re-entering of the classroom. I have missed multiple classes due to all conditions, whether individual or active simultaneously.”
For Doucet, the transition has been especially difficult for her psychological disorders, as “... a sudden drastic change in schedule has resulted in many anxiety inducing moments,” for her.
For fellow students with disabilities, Doucet urges them to “find a useful coping mechanism, find multiple so if one is found to not be enough you have a backup plan. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Reach out to friends because they understand you the best, and human communication is better than no contact at all. Get a new hobby like art or yoga … YouTube has many useful videos.”
Doucet also expressed concerns with ODS, writing that the office “needs to be more receptive to students in need.” She wrote of issues navigating paperwork, claiming that ODS would not accept her diagnoses “because they requested my original diagnosing physician's signature and scans but they were no longer available to me.”
Doucet also claimed in her written statement that ODS would not take paperwork from her current physician, describing it as an issue that makes “working with professors and explaining my spinal disorder incredibly difficult,” as some professors refuse to work with students without ODS paperwork.
ODS says they are working hard to meet student’s individual needs and are assessing issues as they arise during these uncertain times. They urge students to reach out and tell them what more they can do for them, in the words of Ms. Boudreaux, “...because we don’t know what we don’t know.”
According to Boudreaux, ODS is preparing for the possibility of online classes to extend into the summer and discussing the possibility of doing accommodation meetings remotely. It may be the best route at the moment: “We still want to have that one on one with the student,” she says.
For students struggling, they implore students to contact the tutors at the academic success center. On the ODS website, there are also resources for test-taking and studying strategies, stress relief tips and a list of apps that may be useful to help students with disabilities.
More information can be found at https://disability.louisiana.edu/ under the “COVID-19 Help from ODS” section on the left section of the page.