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Free Speech Friday: An uncertain future for disabled students

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Free Speech Friday

Editor's Note: Here at The Daily, we encourage our readers to submit guest editorials and letters to be featured in our Free Speech Friday column. We welcome all voices to contribute positively to campus conversations. Our submission guidelines can be found here.

The University of Washington has condemned me and other disabled students with immune deficiency, as well as their families. Every 12 hours I take two medications to prevent my body from recognizing foreign solid organs that I received as part of a transplant. Because of this, I am more susceptible to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, something I have known for a long time. What many don’t know is that an additional consequence of these medications is reduced vaccine efficacy. I have received two doses, a booster, and have had COVID-19, and I still lack the antibodies to fight the disease.

The University of Washington, like many other universities across the country, has opted for in-person learning this fall. Most students and faculty are eager for the opportunity to be back on campus. However, the harsh reality for some is that the options provided by the university are subpar, dangerous, and are directly against access to learning for all students. I know I am not the only student with an immune deficiency, and I know that there are students with family members who are immune deficient.

The options before myself, as presented by the DRS, are as follows: hope that professors are willing to alter their course structures significantly to accommodate a single student, take less courses, request accommodations through the DRS which they have stated will be extremely limited and hard to acquire, or take the quarter off. Most of these place undue stress on students and instructors, both emotionally as well as financially.

With little over a month until the beginning of fall quarter, myself and my living partner have had no access to resources to protect ourselves from COVID-19 on campus. I have options, as listed above, however, my partner  — who sleeps next to me — has been told that there are no options for them, because they have no disability, making what little accommodations provided to myself useless so long as my partner must return to in-person learning.

I thank all the professors and advisors who’ve been corresponding with my partner and I this summer, trying to help in any way possible, and informing us that the university refuses to provide professors with guidance and resources for specific cases. This is the direct responsibility of the university, to provide guidance for student and faculty guidance, and reassurances that they will support all types of learning to guarantee that students can become educated in the safest and most effective way possible.

So while summer winds its way to a close and we continue to sit at home keeping our minds and bodies as active in any safe manner possible, the fall looms with unanswered questions, anxiety about more than assignments, and a sadness that the university I was once so proud to be a part of has become such a risk.

Mason Winchell, UW Student

(5) comments

More Inclusive than Thou

Equal Rights and Equal Opportunity is over.

Check your priviledge.

Do as you are told.

Hate whomsoever you are told to hate.

This is the new good.

Skoplik

In the same situation. Immunocompromised individuals make up nearly half of all covid breakthrough cases. There is limited data on booster shots in these individuals, so we can not yet claim that these individuals will mount any substantial immune response to the third dose. The ADA requires institutions to explore what options are available to students expressing concerns, but does not require an institution to provide a program or service that they are not already providing. During peak pandemic, schools and colleges alike were able to offer online classes even if this was not offered pre-pandemic. Any argument that a college or university cannot offer a course remotely (because it is an unreasonable accommodation) is groundless because they already demonstrated that they are able to do so. In addition, there are some remote courses offered this fall but these are not offered to all students or do not satisfy course requirements for all students. Does this contradict the The University of Washington’s policy of equal opportunity for all students (including those with disabilities) as some students can get remote options while others cant?

rosehowell

I don’t understand why they don’t just record the lectures. set up a video camera with a good angle, I don’t know! I just know that church’s in the PNW have figured out how to stream services well for their elderly and immune compromised members without compromising the sermons ability to be understood clearly, Pretty sure the UW can figure it out with the help of their IT departments. Or just have lecture online an in person quiz section with an online portion for those who can’t be in person? There are so many ways to accommodate people.

ginger_tea

Eaxctly? It can't be that hard to do!! The safety and wellbeing of students seems like a much greater priority than that students learn in the exact ideal way in the minds of the university, i.e. in person.

SushiDeliveryGuy

Good points for somebody in an awful situation.

I know there are panopto recordings for larger classes. For smaller classes, Mason could try coordinating with students and professors to see whether somebody can record the lecture for him or take notes. Negotiating through ASUW might be an option, but I am not sure how effective they would be here. I think there is a great opportunity for an RSO to fill the gap here. As usual, the university offers inadequate help.

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