Invisible Disabilities and Postsecondary Education
Photo of Carlin Miller, Ph.D. She came to the University of Windsor in 2006 after a three-year clinical research post-doctoral fellowship in New York City.
Dr. Carlin Miller a professor in the Department of Psychology and Behaviour, Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Windsor says UWindsor supports students with invisible disabilities.
“Faculty receive a letter listing accommodations the student is entitled to and there is a contact person for each student. If faculty need more information, they can contact that person. Also, there are multiple mental health providers on campus who can provide consultation to faculty members as they support students.”
Miller says students (with or without disabilities) can make friends by getting involved, which benefits their academic journey. “Volunteering, joining clubs, being a study group, and spending time on campus are all great ways to meet new people.”
Miller shares that students have strengths and weaknesses and it’s about finding balance.
“The key is finding a major and activities that rely more on areas of strength and don’t overly stress the areas of weakness. If students have a hard time finding the right major, they might want to register in some additional entry-level courses to “try out” different programs”
“If students need accommodations, they should start there. I also want to note that just because a student struggles with something doesn’t mean they should avoid it. Many of those tasks are a necessary part of being a working adult.
Giulia Vilardi, a behaviour cognition and neuroscience student says there is not enough accessibility for students with invisible disabilities.
Vilardi says, “SAS accommodates for exams but there’s no process for when that student is having difficulties in class. It’s up to the professor’s discretion and often involves the student having to reach out directly to the professor, which could be difficult due to the nature of some of these disabilities. I think some standardized practices all professors must follow, such as giving notes or a certain length of extension for assignments, would help students feel more comfortable reaching out and getting assistance in learning the material.”
Zelia Piasentin, a psychology student, says class presentations should be optional and not mandatory for students with invisible disabilities.
“Professors should ask students if they want to do presentations in front of classes, rather than having it be mandatory for them to get a grade.
Piasentin says, “Professors not letting students extend due dates of projects and papers, even if they explain they have mental health issues.”
Miller says university is a great time to get additional practice and support for the areas where they struggle. She suggests engaging in self-advocacy with faculty to get their needs met.
“Students should engage in self-advocacy with faculty to get their needs met. This means they should attend office hours to talk one-on-one with faculty members”
“I fear being formulaic or trite. Students have the opportunities they seek out (and there are many at UWindsor). If I had to narrow it down to advice: (1) Get services through Student Accessibility Services. (2) Go to class and do the work, (3) Get involved in in-person campus life, and (4) Do something every day that scares you just a little bit. No one is comfortable all the time and many of us struggle to find our place in the world. It’s all going to be okay,” Miller says.
Student Accessibility Services says they support all SAS registered students.
“We support all registered students through accommodations to provide equitable access to academic learning and performance. We value student’s voices, and we encourage any student to connect with us through email@example.com”
For more information, students can visit Student Accessibility Services – University of Windsor to learn more.