Talking back: Cote responds to ‘disabled’ questions

Julie Cote / Washburn Review

Hi everyone. I am writing this in regards to the great amount of responses I received from the article that was published in October about students with disabilities and I would like to clear up many things that were left unanswered from the article.

 

First, yes, I do have a disability but I am not disabled. I will not let it rule my life, or ruin it for that matter. Second, I am human. I always have been and always will be. People who are born or who come into situations where they have acquired their disabilities do not want to be treated “special” or different since no one is any different from anyone else. As we get older, there are a rising number of people with disabilities in society who do have the right to a “normal” life as much as anyone else. No one asks to be born with any certain trait or genes, yet it happens. It is not a punishment for anything parents have done or we ourselves have done. We are created in our own beings to accept and teach one another. Unconditionally.

 

Another common question that has been asked and I will paraphrase this: “What did your parents do to make you this way?” My answer will always be that my parents did not do anything wrong, I am me and I am the way I am for unknown reasons. I might be here to educate my peers with a little compassion. I might be here to learn from society or even possibly to make a difference in the systems to better serve our future generations with disabilities.

As I was growing up in the school system, kids could be cruel and said/did things that could hurt and could follow us through life; it’s how we choose to forgive as humans those who have taunted us. I do not blame my peers, I lay the blame with the adults at that time within the homes and school system for not teaching the methods of it being okay to be different inside and out.

 

I was in high school in the latter part of the 1980s and there was still a close-minded way of how to educate students with physical disabilities. They were placed in the Learning Disabled class with students who have mental disabilities. I was told to think of it as study hall with credit. I was so bored in my high school classes because I was never challenged to my full educational capacity such as given so many free rides like never taking Algebra or such classes that are beneficial for college credits. I bring this up to clarify that yes the school system did have me in classes. That was only option available within the main stream high school systems at that time, but in my opinion these classes do not open the option of challenging students who wish to transition to college or even the reality of life beyond high school. How can anyone be ready for reality if they are kept apart from society?

How can any student or young adult become a person of great horizons if being told there are only grey skies in their back yard? I was always told I will never drive, or go to college. Fortunately I am one of the people who take that information with defiance to prove to me that YES I CAN!!!!

 

I am here at Washburn University and I hear almost the same thing every semester many things like Washburn doesn’t have the on site immediate services for the blind and deaf who need interpreters to succeed in classes on campuses. I have also heard that students would like to live in the dorms but are unable to due to the issues of residential advisors not being trained or skilled to communicate in sign language. This university does have a good student services program but, as others have stated and I myself believe, Washburn needs an individual department for students with disabilities to go to for walk-in tours on campus, mediations between professors and students as well as residential advisors and students. Student services does provide accommodations for students whom have difficulty in the classrooms with testing and note takers that are peers and that is not always a reliable source either as peers can become sick or other obligations or miss classes.

 

Where does that leave the student with the needs? I also have observed that enrollment rate has fluctuated and I believe a solution to that is to draw more students from other towns such as Olathe. There is a high school there that is for the deaf and hearing impaired, that might be interested in Washburn if Washburn could accommodate students in the dorms and walk in tours with the interpreters at any time as part of coming to college means moving on and leaving the “home nest.” Does Washburn have smoke alarms in the dorms fitted for the deaf?

I have some thoughts to growing up in the society where I am neither here nor there where my hearing level is concerned. All I can say is, it has been one heck of a ride in life. I was fortunate enough to learn how to read lips early in life with persistence of my mother. For that I am forever grateful as people come to me and say “I would have never known you wear a hearing aid. You talk so well.” I even love to pull stunts of reading lips just to get a laugh out of people in life.

 

Overall, there are rising numbers of young people finishing high school that do have a right to come to college, to receive fair and equal education and succeed in life no matter where it takes us all.