Accommodations Are Not an Advantage
"How come Comet can use their laptop when we have to use paper and pencil?"
"Why does Comet get to leave early?"
"I want to pick my seat like Comet, instead of getting assigned one!"
"I wish I could eat and drink in class like Comet."
These are just a few things that students mindlessly complained about to our teachers and each other about how my accommodations weren't fair to them, without knowing how deep it cut into me.
A little backstory: I was in 10th grade, and I just got back to school for the first time since getting really sick. I had gotten my accommodations all squared away, and was genuinely excited to go back to school. I missed leaving the house and socializing.
A few of my accommodations were that I was allowed to use my laptop to take notes in class since writing hurt my hands, leave a few minutes early to beat the traffic in the halls since I was a slow walker, I got to choose which seat I needed in the classroom for early access to the door in case I need to leave for medical things, and I was allowed to keep food and water with me for when my blood sugars dropped. None of the other students were allowed to do any of these things in most of our classes.
I got to my first class, chose a seat by the door, put some water on my desk, got my laptop all set up to take notes, and waited for the class to start. As the other students trickled in, they started to sit wherever they wanted and put food and water on their desks too.
When the bell rang, the teacher walked in and said, "Everyone needs to get up. Everyone except for Comet."
The students groaned. I felt singled out. There was definitely a better way for her to handle this. She should've put names on all the desks, talked to each student individually, etc. But that's a conversation for a different time. One student piped up, "Why does Comet get special treatment?" Everyone hummed in agreement.
The teacher was taking no-nonsense, and said, "It's not your business." She then directed them all to their assigned seats
Hearing my peers complain about how my accommodations "weren't fair to them" confused me. What have I done wrong? Was I really getting special treatment and I didn't know it?
I found myself lying awake in my bed night after night contemplating this. I lost a lot of sleep over it.
Eventually, I decided I wasn't going to use my accommodations anymore. I had gotten sick of the "special treatment", and the side-eye I got from people in class. I was tired of the isolation I was feeling from using something that the school was legally obligated to give to me.
You can guess how it went. I came home from school crying and exhausted every. Single. Day. For weeks. I wasn't keeping my blood sugars up in class. I wasn't hydrating as I should've. I was writing with a pencil and paper, and my fingers were dislocating. One day, I was feeling especially lightheaded during lunchtime. I got up and went to the bathroom to wash my hands, and as soon as I made it to the bathroom, I could tell I was about to faint. I quickly got into the disabled stall and sat on the cold, dirty floor.
The next thing I remember is waking up laying on the floor. I had actually fainted. At school. How could I have let this happen? Why hadn't I been taking care of myself?
This moment has stuck with me and is an especially prominent memory in my mind. Let's break it down:
From my experience, most abled people seem to think that the accommodations disabled people receive are "special treatment" and give us a leg up on them. This is not true.
Accommodations level the playing field for disabled people, so that we can perform at the same capacity as our abled peers.
Picture this: you have two men ready to run a marathon. One has two legs, and the other only has one leg. Right then, the man with two legs seems the obvious choice for the winner of the marathon, since he has an advantage over the man with only one leg. But when you get the one-legged man a prosthetic, he can now run just as well as the two-legged man and has an equal opportunity at winning.
See how the prosthetic (the accommodation!!!) didn't give the one-legged runner an advantage, but rather leveled the playing field? It's the same thing with any accommodation for a disabled person trying to function in the world built for abled people. Abled people are born with an advantage over disabled people, and accommodations simply level the playing fields so that disabled people have an equal opportunity to succeed.