Choosing an Advisor
First and foremost, it is important to seek out an advisor who is willing to support you and help you access resources. But it is also important to me to look for someone who values my intellect and work in its own right. Some advisers have difficulty holding sight-impaired students to the same standards as they hold someone who is fully sighted. I wouldn’t want to be with someone takes me on for any reason other than respecting the work I can produce.
The Disabilities Office
My academic experience was greatly defined by the willingness and ability of the disabilities office to work with me. I visited the disabilities office whenever I toured potential schools. After I was accepted in a program, I would meet with the disabilities office again to discuss my support needs in advance of moving to the school and beginning classes. I would talk about which accommodations and supports have been required in the past, and clearly express what I felt I would need as a student in my program.
During the time I was evaluating grad schools, one stood out to me as ideal in every area until I spoke to the disabilities office. When I met with them, I was informed that their assistant hiring process would not involve me at all. I asked if an adjustment could be made, and the response I received was essentially, “This is what we have. Take it or leave it.”
In my opinion, this is not an appropriate attitude for disabilities office towards its students. Every student’s situation and needs are different. This ought to be recognized. The attitude should be one of conversation and flexibility, rather than one size fits all, take it or leave it. To any disabled student evaluating schools, I urge you to prioritize a disabilities office that agrees to listen to your unique needs.