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    My name is Natalia Rivera.
    I'm a doctoral student.
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    And, well, doctoral graduate actually.
    And in the Department of Hispanic
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    Languages and Literature at the
    University of Pittsburgh.
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    I'm also a Spanish Instructor and I
    specialize in Latin American and
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    Italian literature and
    critical disability studies.
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    So my interests, my academic interests
    are intimately tied to my personal
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    experience as a student and
    now instructor with
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    a learning disability and co-occurring
    anxiety.
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    So, the first memory that I remember,
    just on a personal level,
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    recognizing that there was some access
    issues or some degree of
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    especially in the high school level,
    some degree of
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    a lack of knowledge, really, of
    different types of learning styles
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    and different types of processing speeds
    because of my diagnosis of attention
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    deficit disorder. One of the key
    components of how that,
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    you know, how ADD affects me is that
    I have a slower processing speed.
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    So, while my reading comprehension is
    strong,
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    my processing speed affects my
    writing speed so I'm not always
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    able to produce a paragraph in a
    timely manner. So, we often
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    had prompts in English class. This
    was in tenth grade and
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    the expectation was that we would be
    able to write a paragraph in half-hour.
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    And often times I would need double
    amount of time. I would need an hour.
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    And sometimes I wouldn't even be able
    to finish one simple paragraph
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    in an hour.
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    And I remember my English instructor,
    at the time,
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    after class when I sort of approached her
    and said,
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    "Umm, hey. Not withstanding the
    additional time. I wasn't
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    really able to finish my paragraph."
    And I remember she looked at me
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    incredulous and said to me, "I mean,
    if you can't even write a paragraph,
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    a simple paragraph in one hour,
    I don't know what to tell you."
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    So, I remember that moment. I
    also remember later on
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    when I was preparing for AP Exams.
    This also happened in high school.
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    This was my junior year. I was taking
    an AP World History class
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    And I remember that I approached my
    instructor, already knowing on my own
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    because I had already had plenty of
    experience advocating for myself since
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    I was a child. I already knew that
    all standardized testing
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    had a process for requesting
    accommodations.
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    So, I remember approaching my AP
    World History Exam and-
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    I meant, my AP World History teacher
    and explaining to him
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    that I was registered with disability
    resources, that I had a documented
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    disability and that these were
    the particular accommodations I needed
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    time and a half. It was a very common
    accommodation.
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    And I remember him telling me, "I don't
    have a problem providing you
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    classroom accommodations. I'm just not
    sure that
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    that extended time is provided on the
    AP Exam." And I was just
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    flabbergasted that an instructor would
    actively misinform me that way
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    because even I knew at the tender age
    of, I don't know, sixteen,
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    that ATS always provided a process
    for requesting
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    accommodation. So, I was stunned
    that an adult felt that he could
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    just misinform me that way. And I
    know
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    that misinforming me not necessarily
    with a negative intent, but he
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    genuinely had no notion of the
    process. And
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    yeah. So, it's un-willful misinformation,
    but
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    the effect is similar. Because imagine
    had he said something like that
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    to a student who had no idea how
    to request accommodations.
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    You know, how to attain an
    evaluation needed to substantiate
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    the need for accommodations. So
    it's just a lot of misinformation
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    enabled with ignorance and not so much
    malice.
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    But, just the complete lack of information
    out there just really compromises
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    student's ability to advocate for
    themselves.
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    In my personal work with the
    disability rights
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    community because I worked two
    and a half years at a disability
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    rights organization called Autistic
    Self Advocacy Network
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    and meeting a lot of people my age
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    a lot of students don't find out that
    they have a diagnosis until much later
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    in life. Once they start picking
    up on their own symptoms, they seek
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    out individually supports. So I
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    certainly, on a personal level, I
    benefited from my
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    mother's knowledge and from her
    experiences as a parent advocate.
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    I think my awareness of a level
    of discrimination
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    even if it was kind of on the
    level of microaggression,
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    I think I had more awareness of
    discrimination at the high school level
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    but, my initial exposure to advocacy
    really happened when I was young
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    and I remember going...
    There were some days off from school
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    and I remember going to the office with
    my mom. And I remember meeting
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    other moms and seeing her work part
    time at
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    this parent advocacy group for parents
    with disabilities
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    so I thank my mother for, you know,
    introducing me
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    to the concept of self advocacy and
    for empowering me
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    to use it in every aspect of my life and
    at a professional level
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    and an academic level, as well.
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    So, I don't really remember the day of
    the Americans with Disabilities Act
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    'cause I was just a couple of months
    old.
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    But, the impact on me, basically
    I sincerely
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    doubt had I been born, I don't know,
    forty years ago
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    as opposed to thirty years ago, there's
    a possibility that I would not have
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    attended college. And even if I had
    attended college,
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    I just sort of feel that I would have
    never considered doing a
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    PhD, if it hadn't been for the Americans
    with Disabilities Act.
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    Because graduate school, the level of
    support at the undergraduate level,
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    at least at a liberal arts college,
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    that tends to be more supportive is
    radically different from graduate school
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    where the level of support is practically
    non-existent, I feel
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    and I think a lot of graduate students
    feel the same way.
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    So without the ADA, I'm not even sure
    I would have been fortunate enough
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    to attend college so I think that it
    offered me
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    the protections that I needed to go
    beyond what my
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    wildest dreams, right? So I feel like...
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    I've had a very privileged life and I'm
    grateful for my academic
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    opportunities that I know there are so
    many deserving students
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    who didn't have the opportunities that I
    had and I'm not only grateful to my family
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    for their unyielding dedication
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    to advocacy and also very
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    grateful for the ADA as well. I mean,
    disabilities definitely run in my family
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    neuro-developmental disabilities, learning
    disabilities. I do have a cousin who
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    was on the autism spectrum and
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    I don't think, by no means, benefited
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    by the protections offered by the
    Americans with Disabilities Act in the
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    same degree that I did. I think
    unfortunately because I think there
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    still cultural stigma
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    particularly if an autism spectrum
    disorder
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    co-occurs with a intellectual disability,
    but he
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    finished his associate's degree with
    minimal supports.
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    I think because the ADA empowered me,
    I feel like
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    I'm prepared as an instructor to offer
    support
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    to students with other disabilities. I
    have
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    students with documented disabilities
    and I feel that because
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    of my personal experience as a
    student
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    with disability, I feel much more
    prepared to work with
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    a wider range of students who need
    different needs and I'm prepared
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    to be accommodating and I'm prepared
    to
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    at least endeavored to make students
    feel like they're valuable members of
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    my classroom. I'm not a perfect
    instructor. I still have a lot to learn
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    but, I think that level of
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    humanity, I think, that speaks to a
    lot of students and I think that I'm
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    better able to connect to connect with
    my students. So,
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    the ADA allowed me to be useful as
    an instructor, basically. But, I
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    remember one interview I did with
    a student on the
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    autism spectrum, who was attending
    a
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    college specifically for students with
    learning disabilities.
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    And she made a very astute observation
    about
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    learning disabilities under colleges and
    sort of their
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    focus on vocational training as opposed to
    academic training and
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    this was a smart girl who wanted to
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    pursue a degree in the humanities and she
    was doing an Interdisciplinary Liberal
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    Arts degree, but she couldn't take
    philosophy, for instance. Or
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    she couldn't do a major in history.
    And I think the way
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    the classes, the course work, the
    curriculum,
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    just how all the academic options were
    structured in this particular college
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    it sort of reinforced this idea that
    traditional academic
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    disciplines are somehow out of reach
    for a student who
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    reads as having an intellectual disability
    or who reads as having
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    potential learning difficulties and she
    lamented and I
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    wholeheartedly agreed with her appraisal.
    She lamented the fact that she couldn't
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    pursue a traditional discipline she would
    have wanted. She wanted to be a historian.
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    So I think that in a way, people wouldn't
    really read the legislation
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    very carefully.
    I guess in their attempt
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    to sort of include people, they're
    inadvertently limiting the options
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    for a lot of students because there
    are students who may need to
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    do- There are students who may
    want to pursue
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    physics, right? But they need a longer
    timeline to complete
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    their coursework, but it's just in a
    traditional four-year
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    college. Those mechanisms just
    aren't in place to provide
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    that support system for a student who
    needs additional support, but
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    who wants to pursue a traditional
    academic discipline. So, I think in that
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    regard, even though the spirit of the
    ADA, you definitely get the sense
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    with the wording of the legislation
    that I mean it's intended to
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    sort of correct that kind of
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    societal exclusion and academic exclusion
    of students who want to pursue traditional
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    disciplines, but I think in that regard,
    the level of
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    enforcement I think is still very
    differential. I think another thing
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    that I do want to add, just for my
    personal
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    observations as an instructor,
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    the regular enforcement of the
    2009 Amendment -
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    which was critical in the sense that it
    sort of broadened the category of
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    disability to include vary proteins.
    And by "protein", I mean,
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    very inconsistent disabilities. So,
    For instance,
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    something like cancer or a auto-
    immune disorder
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    finally was incorporated into this broader
    category of disabilities, so it wasn't
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    just- So, that 2009 Amendment was
    critical because
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    it rendered clear that disability
    did not have to be
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    "stable". It did not have to be
    a "consistent"
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    you know, "putatively consistent"
    physical disability to qualify
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    as a disability under the legislation.
    So, this included you know
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    disabilities, whether somatic or
    cognitive disabilities
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    that were either inconsistent in
    nature or went through periods of
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    remission. So, something like bipolar
    disorder, right?
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    So, the 2008 Amendment, what was great
    about it was that it made clear that
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    not withstanding the point through which
    you're sort of going
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    sort of like thinking something like
    bipolar disorder where you're going
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    through sort of a manic depressive episode
    that at a institutional
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    level there was still a responsibility to
    provide adequate supports to that person
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    who was experiencing cyclical changes.
    And what I've noticed
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    at the university level, especially with
    science programs,
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    that they include a tidbit that actually
    seems very almost
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    unlawful to me.
    You look at the
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    graduate handbooks and the
    undergraduate handbooks as well
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    they have this very strange policy
    that you're supposed to
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    let your professors know about your
    disability. That you
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    must tell your professors within the
    first two weeks of the semester
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    that you have documented disability.
    The problem is that a lot of
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    disabilities don't work that way.
    There are moments where you're
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    "functional". You know, relatively
    functional and there are moments where
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    you are not functional in sort of
    socially understood terms, right?
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    And especially for students, this is not
    unusual for students who
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    receive a diagnosis later in life when
    they're just commencing college
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    which is a transitional period, so it
    makes sense that certain symptoms
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    that were not disabling in other
    contexts, suddenly become disabling
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    when you enter college. And that policy
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    basically
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    basically misinforms students into
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    thinking that they are not able
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    to request supports when they've
    reached a point where their
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    condition has become so disabling that
    they can't necessarily meet
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    requirements in the expected time frame.
    So, it's almost as if there's like a
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    mechanism in place to give the
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    false impression that you're not able
    to receive supports
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    later in the semester.
    So, I think in that sense it's more like
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    even if there are protections in place,
    institutional ignorance
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    and the regular enforcement continue to be
    a problem. So, if I could pick one
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    thing that needs to change in terms of
    access...
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    I'm gonna start a little bit abstract and
    then I'm gonna try to clarify what I mean
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    I think we need to sort of overcome this
    concept of
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    autonomy. What do I mean by that?
    And I think a lot of
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    disability rights activists, when we think
    about advocacy, they do think about
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    in terms of no collective grassroots
    movement, so there is an
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    emphasis on relationality, there's an
    emphasis on mutual support.
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    And I think traditionally in just
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    Occidental culture, in Western culture,
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    the responsibility for seeking social
    accommodations for disabilities,
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    largely incumbent upon the individual
    and not society.
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    I think the ADA certainly
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    gives the impression right? That social
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    accommodation is in fact, what the terms
    or the phrase suggests, right?
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    "A social responsibility", but in practice
    it's not treated like a
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    collective responsibility and I see this a
    lot in the university in administration
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    level.
    So when a student begins
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    college, not only are you responsible
    for time management,
  • 16:06 - 16:10
    for learning how to live independently
    for the first time, if that's the case,
  • 16:10 - 16:14
    learning to live with roommates, which
    may not actually be accessible for you
  • 16:14 - 16:18
    if you're a student with a disability. You
    are also responsible for coordinating your
  • 16:18 - 16:22
    own accommodations and depending on the
    kinds of
  • 16:22 - 16:26
    accommodations that you need, I think at
    the undergraduate level - in my case -
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    it wasn't so overwhelming, I could still
    manage it, but at the graduate level
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    to try to request new accommodations,
    based on the new needs that you
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    develop because of the shifting levels
    of work and
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    sort of in the overall. It's just your
    coursework is just more demanding
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    at the graduate level.
  • 16:47 - 16:51
    There needs to be a way for social
    accommodation,
  • 16:51 - 16:54
    academic accommodations to be-
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    it needs to be re-thought of as a
    collective responsibility, but at the
  • 16:59 - 17:03
    administrative level there is a
    responsibility at the administrative level
  • 17:03 - 17:07
    for the student to succeed and that it
    is not merely
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    an autonomous burden, it is
    a collective responsibility.
  • 17:11 - 17:13
    It is a collective duty.
  • 17:13 - 17:17
    I do think that we as community
    members can take on the
  • 17:17 - 17:21
    responsibility to sort of identify those
    disabilities rights organizations that
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    are actively working towards providing
  • 17:25 - 17:28
    supports and services
  • 17:30 - 17:34
    and not focusing on the cure aspect
    because the cure aspect is not
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    allowing us to address the immediate
    societal needs.
  • 17:40 - 17:44
    So, I think organizations
    like the
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    Autistic Self Advocacy Network, the one
    that I worked for,
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    they have these wonderful advocacy center
    programs. They really work on
  • 17:55 - 17:59
    providing cognitively accessible resources
    for political
  • 17:59 - 18:03
    advocacy, for instance.
    And they empower
  • 18:03 - 18:07
    students to think of ways
  • 18:07 - 18:11
    for advocating for supports on
    college campuses.
  • 18:12 - 18:16
    So, looking at organizations that
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    empower people to advocate for themselves
    with the skills that they
  • 18:20 - 18:24
    have to feel that their lives are worth
  • 18:24 - 18:26
    living as they are.
Title:
vimeo.com/.../436881468
Video Language:
Korean
Team:
ABILITY Magazine
Duration:
18:26
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