When reading “Getting it Right from the Start: Employing the Universal Design for Learning Approach to Your Curriculum,” I was trying to think about how to apply this article to a higher education, in-hall setting. While there is a very literal application for what RAs are doing sports-related programming, I also thought about the article in terms of it’s application towards ice breakers and team builders. These activities are particularly common to RA training, as well as at the beginning of the year when RAs are working to introduce floormates and start building community within their floor.

I think that this becomes complicated a little quickly, because unlike sports, which generally have a set of rules that can usually be easily modified to accommodate more types of students, many ice breakers end up being a little more difficult to modify, as there rules can be more constricting. The example I think of is “Poisonous Peanut Butter.” In this activity, students are given some materials and stationed at one end of the room and asked to cross the “poisonous peanut butter” to get to the other side of the room using the materials provided as “lily pads” they can safely step on to traverse. While I was able to come up with some ideas (for students with mobility issues who may not be able to jump from one lily pad to another, they could serve as advisors, tracking progress of the group and focusing on the ideas), but I find part of this activity to be troubling: often times when it is done, people are “issued disabilities” along the way, such as becoming blind or losing a foot by touching it to the poisonous peanut butter. I understand the intention of this is to create additional challenges for those crossing the poisonous peanut butter, but isn’t that also sending the message that people with disabilities are a challenge? I am not sure how I feel about this activity anymore. And I am interested to hear your thoughts about ways to adapt it for a more inclusive approach and whether others feel that it is sending the wrong message.

While reading the other article, “Let’s Be Reasonable,” I was caught by something that I felt I needed to touch upon, even though it somewhat strays from my usual context for looking at the readings. At one point, the question of “What Accommodations Are Available and Which Are Used?” comes up; the answer tends to be that students only seek testing accommodations. I was very troubled by this. Why are we only concerned with only providing accommodations when students are attempting to prove their understanding of the content of the class, as opposed to providing accommodations so that students can best access the information that they need to know to take said test? My strong suspicion is that these are the most common accommodations because of a chicken and egg syndrome: schools usually offer testing accommodations because they are most common, and students ask for testing accommodations because schools offer them. Based on my personal experience, it usually is the burden of the student to come up with other ideas for accommodations outside of the norm and I find that to be deeply concerning, especially when students come out of high school having had an IEP previously or having not had supports and not having experience having to figure out what would be helpful.

Speaking to my personal experience, I have a chronic illness which causes me to become ill at random. While in undergrad, I was taking a microeconomics course and missed the final because I was sick that day. While I had been registered with the DSO and they were familiar with my situation, their response to my asking for taking the test at another time was that I should have submitted the paperwork for that a month before. However, when you don’t know when you are going to have a good day or a bad day until that day and time, how are you supposed to know you should have requested another time? I think that this relates to what was spoken to in the article, regarding testing accommodations being most common; DSO’s get caught up in their processes and what is “common” rather than thinking about accommodating each individual to best meet their needs. So, it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy that they will get mostly requests for testing accommodations since this is mostly what they offer.

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