Illustration by Ketaki Kulkarni

That is the primary article in a sequence about lodging. At present, we’re specializing in undergraduate college students. Sooner or later, we are going to take a look at graduate college students, college, and employees.

On the primary day of the spring semester, an animation professor suggested me to drop his class and in contrast my disabled physique to a different studentʼs unreliable, damaged automotive. I had stayed again after our class to go over my lodging letter from the Incapacity Studying Useful resource Heart (DLRC), as I normally do on the primary day of a category. As I defined my wants, and the truth that I used to be very excited and devoted to being a part of this class, he refused to listen to me out. He referred to my power sickness as a “life-style,” and the extra he talked, the extra it felt like he was not simply speaking about me having the ability to take his class, however me having the ability to be an animator, interval.

His response was stunning to me. I’ve by no means had a professor at Faculty of the Artwork Institute of Chicago (SAIC) go away me feeling humiliated and unworthy of being of their class. I stood in his classroom, looking for the fitting set of phrases to defend myself, to show myself. Iʼve been an overachiever for my whole college profession, not despite my disabilities, however due to them. However the fact is, there was no magic set of phrases that may change this professorʼs thoughts. He didnʼt wish to work with me to discover a manner for my lodging to perform in his classroom. My physique couldn’t match his requirements, and thus I used to be not welcome to be taught from him. However this isn’t a narrative about him. He doesn’t outline my tutorial or creative follow. Once I received house that evening at 9:30 p.m, the very first thing I did was electronic mail my advisor on the DLRC, our schoolʼs workplace and useful resource heart for disabled, neurodivergent, and chronically ailing college students who require classroom lodging in addition to assist.

By the following day, my DLRC advisor was serving to me see my choices transferring ahead. She gave me the kindness, time, and assist I wanted. She promised to assist ensure I’d get the lodging I wanted if I selected to remain on this class. I used to be not alone in having to deal with this downside. And in the end, after a protracted dialog along with her, I made a decision to drop the category. The DLRC gave me a lifeline of institutional assist when advocating for myself hit a lifeless finish.

Nevertheless, many college students at SAIC donʼt know what the DLRC does, the way it capabilities, and even who’s eligible for lodging. Once I reached out to different disabled and chronically ailing college students, I discovered that many undergraduate college students who’ve lodging didnʼt obtain them till after their freshman yr. This was partly as a result of they have been not sure of the method or as a result of of delays in getting medical paperwork from their docs for the college. Some college students, nonetheless, talked about being embarrassed about needing to ask for assist and lodging.

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The Function of the DLRC

The DLRC performs two roles: a authorized position and a assist position. Valerie St. Germain, the director of the DLRC, defined, “Formally, our position is to make sure that college students obtain the lodging theyʼre imagined to obtain. I believe facultyʼs position, as workers of the establishment, is that they’re required to offer the lodging {that a} scholar wants. […] So, weʼre fulfilling a job that is, one, a authorized requirement, and two, scholar assist and school assist.”

The People with Incapacity Act of 1990 and part 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 be certain that college students with disabilities can’t be discriminated towards. This is applicable to SAIC as a result of the college is federally funded. All college students at the moment enrolled at SAIC are eligible to obtain companies from the DLRC, and lots of actively do. Valerie estimates that a couple of third of the coed physique is working with the DLRC in some type. This quantity has risen over time, largely due to the enlargement of the authorized definition of what a incapacity is within the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, after which due to the elevated consciousness of incapacity, psychological well being struggles, and power sickness introduced by COVID-19 pandemic. As soon as college students attain out to DLRC, they’re matched with an advisor. The DLRC facilitates sending out letters of lodging to studentsʼ instructors initially of educational semesters. Advisors might help with selecting lessons, give ideas on instructors, and assist put lodging in place. The aim of all of this isn’t to let college students “get out” of doing work, however to present them the assist they want to reach the classroom and as artists. As Valerie put it, “The primary factor is, I need college students to have the ability to attribute their success to not the lodging [they] received, however to their work, to who they’re and what they’ve achieved.”

Lodging in Apply

Iʼve had some type of lodging for practically ten years, all the best way from fifth grade up by way of now, my sophomore yr of school. The lodging a 10-year-old wants arenʼt going to be the identical as for a 16-year-old or a 19-year-old, and the authorized system for lodging differs from elementary college to center and highschool and at last to school (and graduate)
college. However regardless, lodging, when dealt with properly, permit chronically ailing, disabled, and neurodivergent college students to thrive as a substitute of being left behind or unnoticed of classroom areas.

Nonetheless, discovering methods to make lodging work within the classroom isnʼt all the time easy. As Valerie put it, working to make classroom lodging work, particularly at a advantageous arts-based faculty like SAIC, “in a manner, [is] type of a artistic course of.”

Kyla Robateau (BFA 2025) shared with me: “I believe [accommodations] are tremendous necessary. I struggled so much my freshman yr with none assist. It took me some time to get the lodging. However it makes it much less strain understanding that I can get a bit extra time with assignments or that I can go away class if Iʼm feeling overwhelmed or unwell.”

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One other scholar, Tess Vega (BFA 2024), who has a power ache situation and an inflammatory situation as properly as ADHD (Consideration Deficit Hyperactivity Dysfunction), talked about lodging offering a “safety-net” for her. She defined, “For myself particularly, I really feel like I exploit my lodging little or no. I attempt to not lean an excessive amount of on them as a result of I do know myself, and I need to maintain myself, like, accountable. […] So I attempt to not use them an excessive amount of, however after I do, the academics have already got that understanding.”

When professors are keen to work on artistic options to incapacity, it permits college students to reach their lecture rooms. However when professors deal with disabled people as a burden, all it does is alienate and hurt the coed. Among the finest experiences Iʼve had with professors concerning lodging got here once they supplied to satisfy with me early within the semester to arrange a plan that may work for each of us. Although generally a little bit awkward at first, these quick conferences, which are normally like 10 minutes lengthy at most, make a world of distinction.

After which there’s the distinctive and complete strategy taken by Bess Williamson, Affiliate Professor of Artwork Historical past, Concept, and Criticism. Bessʼs syllabus features a complete part making use of lodging to her lecture rooms as an entire, not simply for college kids with DLRC lodging. Bess defined to me: “I form of have an ongoing fluctuating relationship to incapacity myself. However itʼs an space that I believe when you get entangled, it actually shifts your viewpoint on whatʼs typical and whatʼs regular.” Bess has discovered most of her instructing approaches to instructing from a Incapacity Research framework.

Bess went on to say, “The way in which that incapacity lodging work in most American universities is that this particular person lodging strategy, which is that college are supposed to show with their very own requirements and approaches within the classroom, after which we obtain on a case-by-case foundation numerous requests from college students. […] Itʼs a microcosm of the best way entry works.” However her strategy is totally different from this, Bess strives to construction her class with common design in thoughts: “The concept that many conditions can embody the considerations of each disabled and non-disabled individuals in the identical output. And I all the time wish to make clear that I donʼt assume common design is feasible in each scenario, however I believe itʼs a extremely good baseline precept for asking the query ʻif thereʼs any type of request for a change in our strategy, like, is {that a} request that would probably apply extra broadly.ʼ ”

Self-Advocacy in Addition to Institutional Help

Whether or not you develop up disabled or grow to be disabled alongside the best way, you be taught to advocate for your self. Itʼs a technique of survival. Advocacy exists as a part of the lengthy historical past of the incapacity rights motion. And even with the structured institutional assist of the DLRC, being your personal advocate to your well being is necessary.

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J Swain (BFA), a scholar who works in fiber, takes primarily hybrid on-line programs due to their incapacity. And as on-line choices dwindle, Swain has discovered to hunt down particular professors they know are keen to work with them to permit them to take the category just about. They defined that “proper now, Iʼm having to do all this advocacy as a result of there’s not a, like, plan in place for hybrid to be an on-going possibility. […] However Iʼm taking it one semester at a time.”

The Broader Dialog

It’s straightforward to really feel alone as a disabled, neurodivergent, or chronically ailing individual, and there’s a lot of stigma round speaking about our our bodies, our experiences, and even, sure, our lodging.

Mae Lyne (BFAW 2025), a scholar at SAIC who was identified at age 4 with autism, shared that “lately, like, Iʼve discovered, like, communities. Thereʼs like an area punk group — Iʼm in a band and all of us are like autistic and ADHD. So, itʼs like, I really feel extra snug with my prognosis than I used to. […] No one understands autistics like autistics, you already know what I imply?”

Maeʼs phrases come again to me as I take into consideration my very own experiences. For the 2 years I’ve been at SAIC, I’ve felt very shy about sharing the variety of programs I take every semester. I, sometimes, can solely deal with taking about 12 credit, or 4 lessons, a semester. And Iʼd believed that this was uncommon as a result of I noticed so a lot of my friends taking 15 credit score hours. However whereas researching this text, I heard from many fellow college students with lodging who, usually after a yr or semester of attempting to take 15 credit, realized that wasnʼt wholesome for his or her our bodies and went right down to 12 and even 9 credit score hours as a substitute. And for these of you who didnʼt know, sure, there’s an lodging that permits you to take 9 credit score hours and nonetheless be thought-about a full-time scholar. There is no such thing as a disgrace in the variety of programs you’re taking every semester. There is not any disgrace in needing to do what’s finest to your physique.

Our disabled our bodies belong right here as a lot because the our bodies of our abled-bodied friends. Lodging give us again the area that in any other case wouldn’t be accessible. Disabled artists have all the time existed, so have disabled college students, however they havenʼt all the time been seen or heard. Having extra conversations about incapacity as a college and creative group, will make asking for assist and present throughout the wants of your personal physique much less of a shameful, stigmatized, or anxiety-inducing job.

I donʼt know what would have occurred if I had stayed in that animation teacherʼs class. And albeit, I donʼt wish to know. I cannot be caught in a second of isolation and humiliation. As a substitute, I select to prioritize fostering group with different disabled artists and animators, and I’ll hold pushing, supporting and advocating for academics who make time and area for their disabled college students.

By Sidne Ok. Gard
Supply F Newsmagazine