Submission: The Disabled American School System
Updated: Oct 26, 2019
Ash D.W writes about her experience with standardized testing and the high school systems in disabled accommodations.
When I was still in high school a few years back, I finally discovered a pitfall in the American education system. Being disabled and wanting an education apparently do not mix.
Although I tried my hardest to cope with managing both school and my health, I failed. I was crying in class almost daily let alone in the safety of my room. I eventually stopped attending school and stayed home trying to take care of my physical and mental health. I went on medical leave with permission from my medical team. That is finally when my school started to attempt accommodating me.
Earlier in the year, I tried to get my service dog come to attend school with me as well as receive accommodations. They gave me flimsy 504 plan accommodations that my teachers wouldn’t follow or make me feel like I was trying to be ‘special.’ My service dog? Stayed at home because the school completely ignored that I needed his work and tasks to help me at school as well. And thus I ended up not going to school at all.
I wanted to learn- I was (and still am) very passionate about attending a good college and earning a doctorate. But the school didn’t listen to what I said or knew /I/ needed. I know my own limits and needs as a disabled person- not abled people who have never been in my body and mind.
I ended up not going to school for 1/3 of the year. I had to drop two essential classes because I missed so much content. I am unable to control my limits, but the school is able to control how accessible they are to me. After over half of the school year was over did I receive better accommodations through an IEP plan and was able to bring my highly trained service dog. I slumped on by and finished the school year finally.
The next school year rolled around and I signed up for the PSAT. When I arrived to take the test, none of my accommodations were approved or in place. Thus the lady managing handing out the tests tried to kick out my service dog until my vice principal stepped in and I was able to keep him with me. “Scores will be canceled if accommodations are used without College Board approval” but I guess I slipped by. I was in tears and did poorly on the test- as much as my service dog helps me he can’t magically supply me a quiet room with minimal people & distractions as well as extra time on the PSAT.
Later in the year, I signed up for the SAT. Nervous to avoid the same situation as the PSAT, I contacted my vice principle first. The system for signing up for the SAT was completely different from the PSAT and I honestly still don’t know why. The College Board website was confusing and daunting.
First off- disability and poverty are very closely knit together due to capitalism and societal ableism. I couldn’t afford to take the test, so I had to get documentation from my counselor to be eligible. Second, I had to provide several documents to prove my disabilities as well as show my accommodations from my IEP. I cannot imagine what would’ve happened if I was still in the long and tedious process of receiving accommodations when trying to sign up for the SAT. Third, the College Board then has to APPROVE your accommodations— which takes up to 7 weeks. I was barely able to register for the SAT before the cut-off date.
I had to jump through so many hoops to take a test that my whole entire career depended on. It should not have been my burden to stress about accommodations when it is the College Board’s responsibility. None of the registering was timely and considerate of the fact I was in fact disabled. I don’t care if there were test-takers as of late who faked their disability with their parent’s big bucks. I shouldn’t be discriminated against and severely scrutinized for someone else’s actions or the College Board’s mistakes. I am trying to get an education but this measured test more felt like a roadblock than a bridge to success.
Education and disability are hard enough- so please stop trying to shove us disabled people in the corner. We aren’t “retarded,” we are disabled and we want to learn. Society is our impairment, not ourselves.