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In seeking accommodations, Dhanota had refused to disclose her mental health diagnosis—a requirement at most colleges and universities—on the basis that students shouldn’t be forced to define their experiences using a psychiatric label.

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Given this prevalence, disability services offices—or accessibility services offices, as they are increasingly called—are now common on Canadian campuses.

“There is an increased recognition that [accommodation] is important, but also an obligation,” says Meredith Kushnir, marketing and community engagement lead at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health in Ontario.

“When accommodations are based purely on the diagnosis, it leads to confusion because every student needs different types,” says Kushnir.

What’s more, “for students who are learning how to navigate [post-secondary education], they might not be comfortable talking about their condition.” Schools might not be either, as Condra’s group learned during their research.

The data for mental health conditions was even higher: 10 per cent had been diagnosed with or treated for depression, and 12 per cent with anxiety.

Many more had suffered, though: 37.5 per cent reported having felt at one time or another “so depressed that it was difficult to function” and 56 per cent reported experiencing “overwhelming anxiety.” Almost 9.5 per cent had seriously considered suicide in their lifetime.

“A consistent theme [among professors] was, ‘We need more education, we need a better understanding about our role,’ ” says Condra.

Adds Kushnir, “If [professorss] have five classes with hundreds of students, [sorting out accommodation] can be quite daunting.” As such, Condra’s team developed an information handbook and eight You Tube videos to help faculty and students discuss disability and accommodations with each other.

While attending the University of Waterloo several years ago, she didn’t pursue accommodations for her mental health and learning disabilities because she found the documentation requirements overwhelming.

She figured, “I’m not failing, so is this worth it? “I could have been doing 15 to 20 per cent better, but at the time I didn’t want to fight for the accommodations.” The 2013 National College Health Assessment survey of more than 34,000 post-secondary students at 32 schools across Canada found almost two per cent had been diagnosed with or treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder in the previous year; roughly four per cent reported having ADHD or a learning disability; and five per cent reported a chronic illness such as cancer, diabetes or autoimmune diseases.

“That’s where it was then,” says Wilchesky, now executive director of counselling and disability services at York.

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