Professors should respect learning accommodations

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

The solution to learning disabilities and inhibitors is never to “suck it up,” and every professor needs to recognize the necessity of accommodations to ensure every student’s success.

The Office of Access and Learning Accommodation (OALA) is designed to meet the needs of students with disabilities. OALA has 1272 students registered for accommodations for spring 2019, according to OALA senior accommodation specialist Trevor Allison.

Acting as a liaison between students and resources on campus, OALA can help students advocate for their needs. This includes students dealing with everything from dyslexia to a broken foot.

While many professors recognize the importance of OALA, some students do not feel their needs are always respected. When professors do not make OALA-approved accommodations for their students, they devalue a system designed to level the playing field for all students. OALA seeks to meet needs for short and long-term impediments to a students’ success in and out of the classroom.

For example, students with mobility impairments — from anything ranging to physical disability to a sports injury— can apply for the Baylor Disability Shuttle by submitting medical documentation and completing the online shuttle application. Students with dietary restrictions can receive meal plan accommodations. Conditions of psychological or learning disabilities can also warrant academic provisions. Students with obsessive-compulsive disorder may request a separate testing room, or students with dyslexia may need extra test time.

Professors are bound to the instructions given by OALA, regardless of their personal opinions or preferences. Institutionalized provisions for people who face systemic disadvantages exist to ensure equal opportunity despite the persistence of individual prejudices.

If OALA did not exist, students with psychological, learning or physical disabilities would be excluded from the realm of higher education. Refusal to grant need-based accommodations would set students up to fail.

Students receiving OALA accommodations had to go through a lengthy, institutionalized process to get approval for their needs. OALA-recipients are not simply students hoping to find a way to cheat the system.

Students must provide documentation from a psychoeducational or other professional evaluation proving their need. Baylor evaluates records alongside clinical evaluations and diagnostic criteria from qualified professionals. In determining accommodations, Baylor also considers “past modifications, accommodations or auxiliary aids, or services provided recently to the student.”

If a professor insists on their classroom or teaching preferences above the needs of their students, they will inherently fail in their job.

Professors struggling to empathize with or understand students with disabilities can learn more about psychological and learning disabilities from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Students facing difficulty getting accommodations report first to the director of OALA, from which the case can be moved along to other processes. Formal complaints of discrimination can be filed under the Baylor Civil Rights Policy.