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The Scarlet & Black

Dear EM: Access Grinnell talks disability at Grinnell

Dear EM,

So I have these health problems, and they’re affecting my ability to participate in my classes, but I’m not sure they’re “bad enough” for me to get accommodations. I don’t have a diagnosis. And besides, I don’t even know what I would want or need! What do I do?


-Very confused

Dear Very Confused,

First of all, your feelings are valid! If you feel like your health is interfering with your school work or daily life then, by all means, come talk to us. You should never feel like what you are experiencing isn’t worth getting help for. If you need help, you should never hesitate to ask. Please come talk with us in the Assistive Technologies Lab and Disability Resources Office! We can explore your options and figure how to best meet your needs, whatever they may be.

You are not alone in not knowing what you want or need, many students are in the exact same position when they’re first introduced to our office. There are an infinite number of reasons why someone may not know what they need and that’s OKAY — it’s our job to help you figure out exactly what’s going on and how to best accommodate you. We’ll work together to discuss what your particular needs manifest as in each class and come up with creative solutions to meet them. No two individuals needs look the same, nor do their accommodations. Even for students with similar diagnoses, there aren’t often identical accommodations packages. It’s completely alright to not know what you need — it’s our job to help you figure that out!

Hope that helps,


Dear EM,

It’s my first year. I feel like everybody around me has everything all figured out, how to study, what they want to study, how to manage their time. I feel like I’m behind, and I don’t know what to do.



Dear First-Year,

You are not behind! Or alone! I guarantee you that majority of your classmates are feeling similarly. People totally struggle with these kinds of feelings first year, and it’s great that you’re acknowledging these feelings. Your next step then should be to reach out to resources. Your resources will vary depending on which classes you’re in, but talking to your professors is a great place to start. However, there are some good general resources such as organizational mentors, Academic Affairs, the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice, Student Health and Counseling Services and the Center for Career, Life, and Services. They can get you on the right track and pointed in the direction of the Writing Lab, Reading Lab, Math Lab and bookstore (to buy a planner). It just takes a little while to figure out how to do you, and that’s totally okay. Give yourself some space, buy a brownie cookie and get to know the campus resources.

I believe in you,


Dear EM,

I feel like I’m the only student here with a disability, is that true? Where’s the rest of the community?

 Seeking Community!

  -Feeling Alone

Dear Feeling Alone,

First things first — you are NOT alone. The disability community at Grinnell is bigger than you think. It’s hard to find us at first because we’re pretty spread out — living in all parts of campus, involved in every activity and a part of many other campus communities. But I promise you we are here. Our community is less visible than others on campus, but it’s no less present. There are lots of Grinnellians that have disabilities, students, staff and faculty alike.

A good way to start getting involved with the community is to come to some of the events hosted by the Access Assistants and Org Mentors! They hold events throughout the year meant to be fun and educational opportunities for community building. They could also help you find out about some of the various student groups on campus focusing on disability. You might also try Vantage Point, a student run publication that talks about issues of ability and disability on campus and in the wider world. You can also start your own club or support group around your disability like the Migraine Support Group hosted on Saturdays at 2 pm in the Chalutzim lounge.

Hoping to see you soon,


(Emily Howe, Organizational Mentor, and Maddie O’Meara, Access Assistant.)

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