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:
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..
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.
Very few of the accommodations we have arranged have not been needed again within a couple of years.
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.
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.
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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