U disability assistance should start on the first day of class

As I enter my third year at the University of Minnesota, I’ve noticed that more and more students I know are turning to the Disability Resource Center (DCR) for[JT1] assistance with pursuing their education. My concern, however, is that many of those that are meeting with the DRC are also over halfway done with their education.

The disabilities that these students have are not recent developments: ADHD, anxiety and depression are all disorders that people can struggle with for years. Students who have to live with these disabilities often don’t realize that they have them, or in other instances, don’t consider them to be disabilities — despite the fact that they may have been a hamper on one’s academic career. While it is definitely possible to make it through college with a learning disability or mental illness, it isn’t easy without help.

There are two things that need to change when it comes to disability services at the University. First, we need to educate students on what is considered a “disability.” We need to expand our definition to include mental illnesses and learning disorders — not all disabilities are apparent. While the DRC already recognizes this, some students remain unaware of the fact that their struggles could be considered a disability that the DRC can provide support for.

Next, we need to stress to students that they can gain accommodations for their illnesses or disorders as soon as they begin their education. Many of the people I know with disabilities struggled during their high school career, and it is apparent that they could have been much more at ease if they had received necessary assistance.

Ultimately, it is crucial for the University to emphasize a broader definition of the term “disability.” If we are proactive, I believe we can save students a lot of frustration when it comes to continuing their education in a healthy fashion.