UMBC has many ramps and automatic doors for disability accommodation, but more effort needs to be put into classroom accommodation. Photo by Megumi Gomyo.
Anyone at UMBC who has ever contracted the flu or any type of illness during a busy semester can probably relate to the panic of having to miss class or brave through their ailment and attend despite debilitating circumstances. There are some people who have to deal with that exact problem constantly, every semester, for possibly the rest of their lives. The treatment of students with chronic illnesses on campus needs to be improved.
There is currently a bill in the Maryland house titled “Task Force on Higher Education Students With Chronic Health Conditions.” This bill sets out to establish a research group to study state-wide data concerning college students with permanent health issues. The bill could be a decent start when it comes to examining the affairs that students with chronic health problems are facing and, more importantly, how to improve their lives on school grounds.
This bill opens the door to further questions on how students with chronic illnesses are treated in universities and by society in general. The allowances made for sports players are often better received than when a student is too sick to attend class, has to miss a quiz, or a stringent deadline. Many at UMBC probably have at least one story where they had to remain absent for an important lecture due to an unplanned bout of sickness.
7 percent of 18 to 23-year-old students face a chronic illness which is sometimes debilitating for their campus careers. As chronic diseases are often invisible and not always immediately noticed outwardly, those who suffer from it may lack support from their school as they need different assistance in comparison to other disabilities.
Similar to the task force bill in Maryland, the DePaul University started the Chronic Illness Initiative which set out to make improvements. Although the CII is no longer a program at the school, the idea behind it is something that UMBC should think about implementing. The enterprise set out to create a better understanding between the faculty and their pupils, keeping both sides understanding and accountable.
Student-athletes are often excused from classes and other important educational events due to their responsibilities towards their teams. Students with chronic illnesses should be afforded similar assistance as their responsibilities range from maintaining their long-term health as well as educational duties.
One solution that should be examined is implementing more virtual style classrooms for already established classes. The student can then view classes they miss through voice recordings and uploaded instructors notes. This would require some training for professors less adept with technology, but it will greatly benefit those who have to learn from a hospital bed.
Another consideration should be towards the sensitive schedules for those having to deal with frequent treatments and doctors visits. The current policy for registration is the students with the highest amount of credits register first and so on. However, an exception should be made for chronically ill students who should be allowed early registration for classes in order to best accommodate their agenda.
The bill could do some good if passed. However, UMBC should be a more proactive force in creating better circumstances for all students. Investing in improved resources for both professors and students can create a more symbiotic campus environment.