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Ableism in the School System and Higher Education

Sarah W-J's picture

I think it is not often touched on how ableist things like attendance policies can really be. Brisa touched on this in her Serendip post and I thought it would be good to bring up as well. Things like attendance policies directly bring down the grades of disabled/chronically ill students, directly targeting them for things out of their control. It as though we are constantly told as students in the American Education System we must make health sacrifices in order to succeed, or simply "stay healthy" (whatever that means). This create challenges for those with physical or mental disabilities, making doctors appointments or mental health days something unacceptable and unthinkable. Even if a student manages to do all of their work, actively participate by a teacher's definition of participation, and offer quality insight, their lack of physical presence in the class can drag their grades down. 


Last semester I missed several classes in a sociology course due to Covid-19 as well as migraines, and after my third class she threatened a grade penalty. It should be noted I had completed every graded and reading assignment, though my health (something out of my control), was going to take ten points off of my grade. In what world should this be deemed acceptable?

I would like to also talk about the use of plain language in academics. It feels as though people who have completed years of higher education tend to use fancier words to keep those who do not understand or have not had access to those words out of educational bubbles, which is entirely unfair. Something I feel it is similar to is when recieving papers from a doctor's office, where one has no clue what their paper work means except for the occasional words like surgery or pain, leaving them almost entirely in the dark on their condition and path of treatment. Leaving people in the dark is something we participate in far too often in the academic world, and if we truly cared about having accessible means of educaiton than we would use plain language versions of texts constantly. Of course, this is not the case.