Many students who are registered with Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services, or SAILS, have an accommodation to get early registration for classes each semester. This gives students with disabilities an opportunity to have more time to choose professors and class times that best guarantee student success.
This semester, however, things are looking a bit different. SAILS said after updating its system last summer, some students who did not require the early registration accommodation were added to the list.
SAILS then reviewed student applications to determine who qualified for access to early registration for the Fall 2021 semester and removed those who did not qualify from its list. A small percentage of the 5,500 students registered with SAILS were affected by this change but were not notified of the fact that they would not be receiving early registration this upcoming semester.
Although this only affects a relatively small number of people, it is still problematic as it indicates a larger problem within disability accommodations at ASU. The fact that students must request the accommodations in the first place and prove to SAILS they need additional resources is ableist and goes against the inclusivity and accessibility SAILS exists to facilitate.
I think this was an inappropriate time to make this change. Students are already dealing with high levels of stress, especially those with disabilities who have been struggling with isolation and mental health.
This change may have been more acceptable if they did a better job of informing students of the change, but the issue is that they did not.
"It was interesting how everyone found out," said Carolyn Griffiths, a faculty associate with the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "It sounds like it's still unknown who is affected."
In my experience, I did not receive any notification of this change. I only discovered that I did not get early registration when I googled the dates myself and realized I wasn’t scheduled to register until a couple of weeks after the early registration date, which was in February.
Although this wasn’t the end of the world for me, it was an inconvenience. I normally like to plan my class schedules in advance, as registering can be a very stressful time for me. Luckily, I was still able to get all of my classes, but I still worry about other students who may be in a more desperate situation.
As I was trying to get my accommodation back, I was asked to disclose why I needed this accommodation. While it may seem like a minor and harmless question, I did find it a bit harmful.
People with disabilities shouldn’t be obligated to explain their condition to anyone. It also feels like they are asking students to prove that they are “disabled enough,” which reminds me of the harmful stereotype that people with disabilities are faking it.
The idea of giving students early registration based on “need” feels invasive. Barrett students and student-athletes do not need early registration, but they still get it with no questions asked. So why do students with disabilities, a marginalized group, have to prove themselves when asking for early registration?
Some may argue that this advantage that students with disabilities get is unfair. I disagree with that. Students with disabilities are statistically less likely to have completed a bachelor's degree, so if there are small ways in which a university can help, they should.
If students are registered with SAILS, why do they have to jump through hoops for every single accommodation? If they weren’t disabled enough, they wouldn’t have qualified to be with SAILS in the first place.
If a student was affected by this change, Griffiths suggested the best course of action is to communicate. She recommended that these students reach out to their academic advisors, as well as communicating with SAILS about how the change impacted them and if it altered their ability to get the classes they needed.
Even if it is too late for students registered with SAILS to request early registration for the fall semester, students can still reach out to their SAILS coordinator to get early registration for Spring 2022.
If SAILS wants to have the word “accessible” in its name, it should deliver. Making it more difficult for students to get accommodations is not the way to go if you want to be accessible.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Haley Tenore is the editor of the State Press Opinion Desk. Tenore is also a digital reporter for Cronkite News and a co-president of the Accessibility Coalition. This is her fourth semester on the opinion desk and second semester as editor.