By Alma Lizarraga
California State University, Los Angeles students and East Los Angeles College alum Dilia Martinez hosted a workshop talking about the struggles college students with disabilities face
The workshop called “College Student in Higher Education with Disabilities” was held on Zoom and advocated for better disability centers and more understanding of the disabled community.
Martinez brought awareness to obstacles disabled students face in college, which can come directly from their disabilities and indirectly from lack of support.
She said disabled people have to work harder to achieve their goals and have to be specific about their needs to be accommodated properly.
They are usually in a position where they’re pressured to function at the “normal” expectancy.
Martinez said this is why having good disability services is crucial for disabled students.
These services are somewhat unpolished, and a lot of students don’t reach out to them due to lack of trust.
Disability centers are vital to a disabled student being able to further their education.
“When you have a bout of depression or super high anxiety and you can’t focus on your homework or you have to turn a paper in and you can’t think, then a peer group will talk to a professor for you,” said Karen Kachler-Glynne, mother of a disabled student. “You can’t even find words, but there are people you can trust and they will relay that you are struggling.”
A lot of students have faced issues when being accommodated. Whether it’s having to prove their disability, not knowing what to ask for or failure of having an educated disability center.
There have also been issues when applying for disability.
Faculty tend to miss mental illness when accounting for modifications due to lack of knowledge of the illness.
Martinez talked about her own experiences as a person with an invisible disability, meaning her disability is not easily apparent.
This means she’s had to be more vocal about help, due to her disability not being visually apparent.
Students expressed the stigma when talking about their disabilities, as they tend to sometimes receive little understanding. Many students are underestimated and patronized.
Martinez said that in spite of having to be accommodated, many disabled people are capable of being successful and fully functional in society and lack of understanding adds to hostile environments.
“Why is it that you’re sticking the stigma to students when we’re already going through a lot as it is?” she said.
Aside from what’s expected from school services, Martinez said it’s important to build support systems and communities to help each other.
Though disabled students tend to struggle more than able bodied students, she said through disabled centers, they can come into contact with each other and help each other study.
She’s held events that have built awareness of disabilities and through them has had students come to her personally for help.
“I had a student come and she said she didn’t feel supported in her community college and I said ‘wait, why not sit here and talk about that for a minute,’” Martinez said.