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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Equal Access to Education: Workshop on Confidentiality

Go to a class, sit in your favorite chair for an hour, listen to a lecture, say one or two things, take notes and read handouts typed in 12-point font. This might be what we do, and expect, as a matter of course while aquiring a university education. Yet, for many people, this assumption of “what is normal” has been an obstacle to receive equal access to education. With guest speaker, Juliette Loring, a workshop on confidentiality was held on Thursday, December 2, presented by the Center for Students with Disabilities. For instance, we assume that 12-pointe font is normal to be seen on paper, but it could be too small for those who have weaker eyesight. It could be tough spending an hour sitting on a chair for those who have difficulty remaining still. Or, a reading assignment that may take the average student two hours to complete could require two to five times that amount for those who have difficulty in consistently apply concentration and in breaking down and organizing information and thoughts. These symptoms could be regarded as the ones of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and when the symptoms are significant enough to restrict the condition, manner, or duration in which he or she engages in one or more major life activities (such as reading, hearing, speaking, and attending to matters of personal care), the person is considered to have a disability. Since a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t mean that the person is of below average intelligence, and is measured only when they have an equal access in class, they need accommodations while participating in educational experiences. Students with ADHD have been facing problems with university education. The problem that they face is, however, not the services offered by a university. In fact, UMass Boston provides sufficient information, services and accommodations through the Ross Center for Disability Service (RCDS), which is located on the second floor in the Campus Center, and the website is http://www.rosscenter.umb.edu/index.shtml. These problems exist only due to our assumption of what is “normal,” and a neglect of understanding the needs of students with ADHD. During the workshop, several students dared to speak up concerning past occasions when they felt uncomfortable due to their disability. Having let the professor know the accommodation, one student earned an extended time for an exam. When the exam time went over for other students, however, the professor said aloud to them, “This student needs extra time, so please leave this room!” As Juliette Loring commented, the professor said it because he/she cared about the student a lot. Yet, it was, to the contrary, embarrassing for the student. Many students with ADHD prefer not to talk about their disability in front of other students. Another student in the workshop was asked by a professor what type of disabilities he/she had. In this case, it is not an obligation but a choice for the student how much information he/she provides to the professor. The information about one’s disability is confidential and protected by law such as FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), and the accommodations that will be crafted by the student and RCDS must show enough information for a professor to provide the student equal access in class. “It’s not easy”, Juliette Loring clearly stated, “it requires extra work for faculty, and they may have to do things they haven’t done before.” Then, to the students with ADHD Loring adds, “You too have to study harder, work smarter, and know how to stand for your rights.” While she emphasizes the difficulties for students with ADHD to acquire other people’s understanding of their needs, Loring also underscores the difficulty in educating other people with this issue of equal access and confidentiality. It could be very frustrating for students with ADHD to insist special accomodations each semester. “Be part of the solution not the problem, and be sure to advocate for yourself,” Loring concluded. Yet, if we, who are without ADHD, step out our assumption of what is “normal” and make a bit effort to be in their shoes, it will make both us and the students comfortable in the learning field. For instance, for this workshop, the handout was typed with 18-point font, and copies in other varying sizes were also prepared for the event. Any bit of change and consideration we can make will help a lot.