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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Disabled Students' LiveJournal:

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Monday, June 3rd, 2013
3:37 pm
[sammason]
Exam invigilation and disability
Crossposted to friendly_crips

At my University, the students' summer exams have just finished. I've been invigilating (which, I hear, Americans call proctoring) Special Circ[umstance]s as usual. Mostly it's been fine but in one case it wasn't fine. I'm not going to tell the tale online but it's led me to send the following to the person who hires and organises invigilators.

Dear [name]

I'd like to make a suggestion about invigilator training. Please could all invigilators, esp those doing Special Circs, be offered training in how to work with disabled people?

In nearly every session where I've invigilated, the people working alongside me have been great. But I find that a small minority of my co-invigilators haven't seemed comfortable about my visible disability. Could you, or somebody in your team, arrange for training to be offered through the Equality Service? I copy this message to [name] who is one of the co-invigilators with whom I enjoy working, who also works in the Equality Service. [Name] would you mind passing on this message to the appropriate person in your team?

Best wishes
Sam Mason
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
12:45 pm
[coldneedles]
Help out a disabled student
I'm currently at college studying art and it would be really helpful if people could fill this survey out if they are able.

The survey is to be filled out by physically* disabled or chronically ill people to serve as research for an artist’s book I am creating for a diploma in Foundation Art and Design.

My Final Major Project is based upon the idea of the mind/body split and what this concept means for disabled and chronically ill people, influenced by my experience of having ME for over four years. As this is an art project, rather than a collection of scientific data, I have left the questions rather open and expansive.

No identifying information will be collected but replies will be used as part of the project.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to comment here or send me a lj message.

Click here to take survey



(* I recognize that mental illness is very real and physical, but in this project I am focusing on attitudes towards the body.)

Posted with mod permission, sorry if you see this crossposted everwhere.
Sunday, February 10th, 2013
2:59 pm
[sammason]
Open University
Here in Britain, disabled people are encouraged to study at the Open University. I've been talking online with a disabled friend who says phe found OU supportive of per needs while studying. More supportive than another University.

There's a topic that I'd like to study (Maths) but I have 4 1/4 University degrees already (undergrad, MSc, some more undergrad modules, another MSc, a PhD) so I wouldn't be doing this for immediate career gain. It would be because I like Maths. What's holding me back now is the need to earn as much money as my disability lets me earn (still far short of a living wage) but with OU, there's no time limit. So perhaps I'll do it at some point.

How about you? I think people all over the world can use OU and there might be options in your own country too.
Monday, January 14th, 2013
12:11 pm
[sammason]
When the weather stops the crip
I was due to invigilate another Special Circs exam today but there's been an inch of snow. Here in Britain, an inch of snow means a lot of panic. I've called in to cancel my day's work. As a self-employed person, I don't get paid unless I turn up, but todays it's worth it for this disabled person not to risk a fall or fracture. But what would a snowy day mean for a disabled student?
Friday, December 28th, 2012
10:55 am
[sammason]
Wishing you well if you have exams
At my University, exam season will start soon. I'll be invigilating Special Circs as usual so I'll work alongside students (and fellow invigilators) with all kinds of disability. If anybody feels encouraged by my wheelchair they probably won't say so. But I hope people do feel encouraged. More to the point, I hope the exam rooms will give them a good environment to show what they can do.

If you're to sit exams soon, I wish you every success.
Thursday, August 16th, 2012
9:15 am
[sammason]
Students in Special Circumstances
Exam resits are underway at my University and I'm invigilating. The work's fine for me but I'm concerned about accommodations for some of the students.

One person who uses a stoma bag, after having had her gut removed, is entitled to 'toilet access' because the bag sometimes needs to be changed urgently. But she tells me that she's not entitled to have extra minutes added to her exams' finishing times. Other students do have that entitlement, eg due to CFS, but seemingly not this one. Bah! If she's ever in an exam that I'm invigilating, I'll bend this rule for her.

That same person is doing resits because in the main January exam season, she was too ill to do her exams. She tells me that this means she only gets one chance at the exams. Another student tells me the same thing because he failed an exam in January due to having a seizure during it. I didn't witness that seizure but really, how can it be just to disqualify him in this way?

I'll follow up these concerns when I sign in for today's invigilating shift.
Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
9:52 am
[sammason]
Irlen Method
I'm grateful to somebody on the other comm I own, friendly_crips, for mentioning the Irlen Method. Do you use it or know people who use it?
Saturday, May 19th, 2012
5:48 pm
[sammason]
Writing disability in exams
I've just sent this to somebody I've met through exam invigilating, who is also part of our University's team which supports disabled students.


Hi [name]

It was great to work with you last week and I hope there'll be another time.

What I didn't have time to ask you is, what's done at our University for people who prefer to write by keyboard than by pen? In fact it turned out that my task on Fri was a 1-2-1 invigilation for a student who was entitled to do his exam on a computer, but I'd been thinking about this anyway. As you can see I type easily but since MS got to my hands, I avoid writing with a pen. So I've started getting work as a Reader in students' exams but working as a Scribe isn't for me. The idea that there are disabilities causing 'writing difficulties' is new to me and I'm not even sure that I'm using the right phrase for it. Is there a University policy on this kind of disability?
Friday, May 4th, 2012
6:09 pm
[sammason]
I got hired
It's no surprise, but it's pleasant, to find that I've been hired for 8 afternoons of invigilating Special Circs exams in the last 2 weeks of May. It took me some perseverence to get hired as an invigilator last winter because the people who organise University exams tend to be oversubscribed by wannabe invigilators. No wonder: it's money for old rope. Not exciting work but it brings home the squids (£££).

With perseverence I did get hired last winter and I got positive feedback on how I'd done the job. So now we'll do the University's main set of exams and I'll be there :-) Might even turn up in a dress... I have some nice ones in which I look professional. Other days I might go for my trusty Argyles, pinstripes and lapels :-)
Monday, April 30th, 2012
3:23 pm
[sammason]
reading for a student doing an exam
I've just done my first 'reader' job for a student with dyslexia. It went well for me and, I think, for per too.

Some confusion about whether or not per pre-agreed accommodation of 25% extra time was included in the length of time stated on the exam paper. Phe was obviously working hard to finish the exam and I'd caused a few short delays by needing per to advise me on how to pronounce certain words, and anyway, I wasn't there to give per a hard time. So I let per take a few more minutes to finish the exam. But next time I'll be sure to get clearer guidance about how much time is allowed.

The exam topic (1st year Biochemistry) was such that I, who recently got a PhD in Parasitology, could have answered some of the questions but not all of them. And nearly all of the words and abbreviations were familiar to me. Must find out how far from the reader's own field the student's field can be. I'm sure that if the topic had been Quantum Mechanics I'd have struggled and if it'd been Ancient Greek Poetry, well let's not go there. I was there to help, not to hinder.

Still, doing this work in my wheelchair, I hope that I provided a little bit of cripspiration although on this occasion the student didn't mention that.
Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
7:06 am
[sammason]
introductions
So here goes. If you'd like to answer this question please consider posting your reply to disabledstudent.

What is your disability? How does it affect you at University or college?
6:51 am
[sammason]
our Disabled Student comm
Hello everybody

I'm finding it a bit hard to keep up with replying to people's comments to the threads that I've started on disabledstudent. My own disability is a factor in that. Now that the Easter break has begun at my University, I'll try to catch up.

But wouldn't it be great if more people started threads on this comm? The other comm I own, friendly_crips, has taken on a life of its own and now that I've become the owner of this one I hope that will happen here too. One thing is, you don't have to be a student to post here. If you're interested in disability and education, you're welcome to say whatever you'd like to say. One way to do that is to ask an open-ended question. I bet I'm not the only one who looks at the comm's membership list and sees many people I don't know.

The method for putting a 'repost' button into an LJ post is here. If you want people to repost, rather than generating a single thread of replies on which people talk to one another instead of talking only to you, you can select 'Disabled' on the 'Allow Comments?' drop-down menu. If you wish, you can include a request that people should repost to this comm rather than only to their own journals. And if you wish, you can return to your post later and switch commenting back on.
Monday, March 12th, 2012
9:41 am
[sammason]
electronic marking
Just now I'm marking some students' work and I'm doing what I've done on previous modules: I'm working electronically then giving each student a print-out of my responses to per work.

I started doing this because of my own disability which makes typing far easier, quicker and less error-prone than writing by hand. Most of the Module Managers have accepted it without complaint but when there have been doubting looks, I've asserted myself. I need this because I'm a crip.

I've come to understand that I actually benefit the students by marking electronically. They get more comments, they can read my comments more easily, and if they want to they can ask me for the electronic file. And for any student whose own abiity to type is superior to per ability to write, I hope I'm a role model.
Saturday, March 10th, 2012
11:43 am
[sammason]
asking for accommodations
When I was first a student at the University where I now teach, I went to the Disability Office. Back then I didn't look disabled and the visit to Disability Office wasn't a success.

- Hello, I'm a new PhD student and I have multiple sclerosis.
- So how long have you known about your dyslexia?
- I don't have dyslexia. I have multiple sclerosis.
- What adaptations do you need for your dyslexia?

I think I'll get back in touch with them. 8 years have gone by, I now look disabled (the wheelchair's a clue) and I've learned more about what I'm entitled to. Also I met one of the staff from that office, on a training course, and I liked per attitude.
Thursday, March 8th, 2012
10:22 am
[sammason]
extra time
Recently I was a demonstrator (like classroom assistant, in University teaching labs) on a prac for which the students were to hand in their work for assessment. Results will contribute to their final degree grade.

Students often gravitate towards me because I'm visibly disabled. This happened again and on this occasion the student's disabilities include one for which phe gets extra time during exams. So phe asked me for extra time to complete the lab work (it was a dry prac of data calculations). To me that sounded entirely reasonable so I passed the request to the senior academic teaching the session. Phe hadn't been informed and rightly pointed out that any student could *claim* to have an invisible disability. Somebody with a written diagnosis is a different matter but somehow that information hadn't been passed on from the Undergrad Office.

Next time I see this teacher, I'll ask per what the outcome was. Certainly I think it would be discrimination if this student were denied the extra time phe needs.
Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
10:45 am
[sammason]
getting doctored
If you're doing, or have done, a PhD: does it matter to you that you are or will be called Dr? I find that it matters a lot to me. I've been laughed at about it by some of the senior academics I know. Partly it matters because I look so much younger than I am (see userpic; I'm 44) but it's also because I'm a crip. My career prospects are far more limited than they would have been if I hadn't become disabled. I have to balance the way I look like a helpless crip 'confined' to a wheelchair, and the way I continue to do good science when my fatigue doesn't overcome me.

With all that going on, I very much want to have people call me Dr Mason. I never liked the title Miss anyway, and Ms often got pronounced Miss. But Dr :-) I worked hard to be able to say, 'That's Dr Mason to you.'
Monday, February 20th, 2012
10:24 am
[sammason]
does being a disabled student cause anxiety?
I'm blessed to have no anxiety disorder. Well at least I don't have one now. But I'm noticing how anxious I get in the academic world now that I'm disabled.

There's a complex balancing act. Since nobody wants to be prejudiced, nearly always in academia I find that people want to accommodate disability. But that doesn't always include listening to what we really need. For me in my wheelchair, 'accommodation' sometimes involves being left to sit like a lemon while people walk away chatting about what arrangements they're going to make for me. It sometimes involves being told earnestly that I've got a certain number of good years ahead of me before retirement while I zip my gob about how clearly I know that my good years are already gone.

In the University context I want to emphasise what I *can* do. I avoid confronting people with some of the ugliest realities of my disability. But then, even the same day, I often need to emphasise what I *can't* do so that people with financial power will let me claim things to which I'm entitled.

Recently I've noticed that I'm relying a lot on the shield of an Internet connection. That's largely because of my disability itself (you can do computer-based work without getting properly dressed and without adhering to a daily timetable) but it's also because being around people has started to make me feel anxious. That balancing act can be so tiring. Is this so for disabled students, as well as for disabled post-PhD academics like me?
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
10:05 am
[sammason]
new community owner
Hello everybody

I'm now the owner of this comm! Thanks technomom for founding it and for running it for several years. Thanks for trusting me with your baby, too.

As promised I've already updated the comm's profile. The thing is, most students don't stay as students for very long. I'm an ex-student myself, now teaching. But as several people have pointed out ex-students may have a lot to say that's interesting. I hope we'll recruit some not-yet-students too. And some parents, friends, whoever. In fact, I'm generally quite laissez-faire about comm management so do please tell me if you want any changes.

So far I've removed pre-moderation from everybody who is a comm member. If we get trolled I'll reconsider but let's see how it goes. I've removed membership from any LJ users whose accounts had already been closed but apart from those, everybody is welcome. It turns out that there are nearly 200 of us here so please do say whatever you want to say.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
12:03 pm
[sammason]
replying to old comments
Now that I've found out what was preventing me from commenting on disabledstudent, and fixed it, I'm going through old comments in that comm to which I wanted to reply. This may take a while but I've made a start. If interested you might choose to look back at what's been said on this comm during the last few weeks.

[Edit] Now up to date. Hopefully the comment-fail won't recur.
Friday, February 3rd, 2012
6:32 am
[sammason]
distance learning
Have you studied or taught on distance-learned classes? What's it been like for you? I think this is particularly interesting for disabled people because for some of us, leaving the house is an issue.

I once started a distance-learned course. Didn't finish the course but that wasn't entirely due to the distance learning: I got into other things. Those other things were postgrad study and I did that mostly on campus until the final stages of data analysis and thesis writing. Mostly, that's worked well for me. I've always been self-motivated and I'm blessed in that my home is comfortable. I have a room that is my study, and I have no children or pets distracting me. For other people those things aren't so.

Now that I've finished studying, some of the jobs I'm applying for would involve distance teaching. I'm being asked to provide evidence that I know how to do this and the fact is, all I can say on that point is that I'm bright and willing to learn.

[Edit] LJ still isn't letting me comment on this comm. Perhaps that will change when I become officially a moderator here. This LJ fail remains a mystery but it's intermittent and it's less frequent now that I've changed my account to a paid one.

So everybody here, please accept my apologies when I don't reply to your comments. It's not deliberate and I do read what you say here.
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