August marks the start of the school year in the United States, which is an exciting time for many. Unfortunately, it’s not the same for all students, which stems from broader cultural stigmas such as those around accommodations.
Accommodations are alterations of an environment, format, or equipment so that someone can access them. While they are not specific to schools, typically, that’s where people tend to first experience them, either as someone who needs them to be successful or as an observing classmate.
How accommodations are handled in the school setting sets the tone for how someone will treat them for the rest of their lives, even if they only observe someone else receiving reasonable accommodations.
For example, someone might internalize that accommodations are a burden if the teacher makes a big deal of doing a dyslexic student’s spelling exams verbally. In this case, the teacher sets the tone, but the students internalize that that’s an acceptable mindset.
However, the interactions can also be positive. Accommodations without fanfare or negative connotations help students achieve academic success and maintain a positive mental image of themselves. Their peers also experience benefits, including a more open worldview.
Accommodations tend to follow students throughout their academic careers, so a positive perception can have an unrivaled impact on mental health. It also offers more possibilities to the individual since accommodations put achievement in reach and reduce ostracization.
In the United States, there are countless stigmas around disability. The ones around accommodations are very present, leading to parents not wanting their children labeled as “different” or receiving accommodations.
However, the perception needs to shift just like the ones around workplace accommodations do. These adjustments allow people to live fuller lives and should not be perceived as a burden. If anything, the rigid thinking and press for uniformity that stigmatizes them should be.
As a fan association, accommodation also plays a role in our activities. For example, producing materials in different formats and mediums so more people can access them is an accommodation. It’s just not one that people have to disclose personal information to ask for.
In an ideal world, everything would be accessible to everyone. Star Trek shows us the possibility of such a society. However, in reaching for it, we must first do the work in ourselves and community.