Editor's note: This blog is part of our Feeling 100! initiative, learn more here.
In the Fall of 2018, I was going into my Freshman year of college at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. It is a small school nestled between Milwaukee and Chicago overlooking Lake Michigan. When going into college, it is easy to lose sight of how diabetes plays a huge factor in the transition from high school to college. Personally, I was too busy figuring out my dorm decorations and talking with my roommate about how we were going to arrange our dorm room. It was in my freshman orientation where I realized that accommodations were an option for me. I was reluctant to reach out. I didn’t like the label “disabled” that I felt at the time came along with it. I did connect with my school’s Learning Accessibility Services (LAS), despite my reservations. After I had a meeting with the director of LAS, it completely changed the way I thought about accommodations. It destigmatized the idea of being “disabled”. It was so helpful, and they were so open to what my needs were in the classroom, in labs, in the dorm, and in the testing setting. Right then and there in that meeting, the LAS director printed out all the accommodations I needed in a letter form for me to give to all of my professors. This gave me a template and guide to have an open conversation with my professors. This allowed me to have my accommodations on my terms, which I appreciated. I went to all of my professors individually, and they were all very receptive to my needs in the classroom.
"After I had a meeting with the director of LAS, it completely changed the way I thought about accommodations."
When going into my accommodations meeting, I requested a few different things that I really took for granted in high school. I asked for the ability to eat in class and since some professors may not appreciate the distraction of eating, I also asked for the ability to leave class to eat. This is especially important to me because I was taking classes that had a lab portion where there was absolutely no food allowed. I received extra time on tests if necessary. If you’re like me, you’ve struggled through a test or two with an extreme high or low blood sugar in high school. As stubborn as I was back then, I realized in college that assessments are a huge part of the grading system and I need to be at my best when I take these them. That’s why I asked for extra time on exams and quizzes, so I could take breaks to treat if need be.
"When going into my accommodations meeting, I requested a few different things that I really took for granted in high school."
Personally, I have had professors take interest in my diabetes and it can actually be a nice ice breaker for an open conversation. Some may even want to learn how to use glucagon for severe hypoglycemic episodes. This greatly depends on the professor and their comfort level, but it can be a good thing to mention when discussing your accommodations. With the new glucagon options, like Gvoke® and Baqsimi, this conversation can be less intimidating than in the past.
Some other accommodations that can make life a little easier having T1D in college:
- Excused absences for diabetes related events
- Extra time on assessments
- Extended deadlines on projects
- Placement in dorms with air conditioning (insulin concerns)
- Ability to have a refrigerator/extra refrigerator (insulin concerns)
- Ability to eat in class
- Ability to leave class to eat/tend to diabetes issues
- Access to phone in class for diabetes related apps
" I have had professors take interest in my diabetes and it can actually be a nice ice breaker for an open conversation."
When it comes down to it, you are your own best advocate. The Learning Accessibility Services at your school is simply a tool to help you achieve your goals. Sometimes diabetes can throw curveballs into our lives at the most inconvenient times and it doesn’t pause just because you have a big test that day. With requesting accommodations you put yourself in the best position to succeed - in and out of the classroom. Asking for accommodations can be intimidating and a new situation so I came up with a “guide” to talking to Disability Services and your professors.
A guide to talking to Disability Services & Professors:
- Reach out at an appropriate time and professionally; via email or after class
- Be open and honest about your needs
- Follow your school’s procedures for requesting accommodations and any documentation
- Be yourself, it's a great pathway to establishing a rapport with your professors!
- Have confidence and advocate for yourself!
Editors note: Request CDN's REACH™ resources to share with your disability services office. They are guides CDN made just for administrators that explain T1D and the accommodations you need to thrive on campus.