Several posters have now commented about the need to understand the nature of the illness that requires oxygen.
After working with our campus Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) through a number of (highly varied) accommodations, we’ve learned a few things:
1. We really don’t need to know about the student’s medical condition; we need to know about what functional limitations the student has. This may seem like a fine distinction, but I really don’t need to know (and do not ask) about the reason a student has a hand tremor/limited vision/inability to stand for long periods/need for supplemental oxygen..
2. What I really need to know is the functional limit of what the student can/cannot do within the normal lab environment & whether the difficult elements of the environment are essential to the lab experience & the skills we want the student to learn.
· If the lab skills can be taught with different tools, adapted tools, different furniture, more space for some students, etc., then we need to supply those things if we reasonably can.
· If changing the situation changes what we’re teaching, or short-circuits the student’s learning in any way, we’re going down the wrong road.
3. Very few of the accommodations we have arranged have not been needed again within a couple of years.
4. The professional disability advisors in our OSD are not just clerks filling out forms – they really know the law, the resources and the systems we can & can’t call on for help. Ours are amazing and it’s been an education working with them.
5. Our population of students is becoming much more diverse with respect to physical abilities. I imagine there was a time when a woman with my eyesight would have started staying home early in life (when adolescent myopia set in) & would have been nearly house-bound by middle-age (myopia, plus astigmatism, plus age-related nearsightedness). This isn’t true anymore for eyesight; that thinking is spreading toward all manner of physical abilities – limited reach/respiratory disease/ability to stand for extended periods/ability to grasp & manipulate small objects/ability to see fine details.
6. Physical ability says nothing about the academic quality of the student’s work – some succeed & some fail.
NOTE: I do sometimes, after extended conversation & when accommodations have been arranged, ask about the provenance of the student’s limitations if the student seems open to such conversation, or if s/he brings it up first (often the case). This is generally to satisfy my own curiosity – and I say as much.
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