Editor's note: Ryan attended the CDN NextGen Leadership Summit in early April and tells us about his experiences during the weekend and his positive experience with his school's Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) office.
When I was diagnosed with T1D late in my high school career, I never thought I’d travel far from my hometown for college. Everything I needed to survive was conveniently located in my hometown: my medications, my doctors, and of course my family of support. Once I found out I was accepted into Michigan State University though, everything changed. Even though it was only two hours away from my home, I knew I needed to start to become more and more independent with my disease. One of my first visits to Michigan State after I was accepted was to speak with their Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD) office. When speaking with one of their specialists, I was easily able to obtain the accommodations I needed without any hassle at all. I only needed to fill out a packet and turn that in along with a doctor’s signature that proved I was actually a type 1 diabetic. From there on, every semester all I have had to do is reach out to them and request what they call a VISA for each of my classes. This VISA is a document that explains the accommodations I need to each professor if I ever were to need to use them. Ever since the initial enrollment with the RCPD, I haven’t had to worry once about getting another doctor’s signature to say I still need accommodations because they already know that T1D is a chronic illness and doesn’t go away. This has made my experience at Michigan State a true breeze and I haven’t looked back on my choice to move away and follow my dreams.
Recently, I had the experience to meet with other leaders in the young adult T1D community and found out how their experiences with their disability offices haven’t been the same at all. Many have had to fight for their rights as a diabetic or even waste countless hours renewing their forms with their doctors. I fortunately never had to go through that pain, but I couldn’t ever imagine going through it either. As a diabetic to another diabetic or a diabetic to a family member, I know not everyone in the country, or in the world even, can attend a university with as great of a disability office as Michigan State does, but I highly recommend looking into the disability office at each of the schools you may be thinking about attending. Then if by chance your number one choice doesn’t have the greatest disability office, maybe you can become the next leader in making a change for all the rest of your family of diabetics to follow.