College For All
I believe higher education programs are important for the disability community.
United States, Northern America
Story by Keiron Dyck. Edited by Mira Kinn
Published on June 14, 2021. Reading time: 4 minutes
This story is also available in
I was born with a heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia. When babies are in the womb, the vessels of the heart are supposed to twist in a certain way, but my heart twisted differently. I had major surgery in 1999 and needed to be in the hospital for seven weeks. I got a pacemaker. After the surgery in 1999, I developed differently from other kids.
Today, I love listening to books like Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I am better at math than I was years ago, but it still takes me a long time to calculate in my head or to read big texts. I am happy to be fully vaccinated now and I work at a grocery store. Normally, I don’t think about my disability that much, but there are definitely times when it is more obvious.
I always wanted to go to college and become a history teacher with an actual history degree. I knew that wasn’t actually feasible for me, because I can't do normal college life, but I wanted it for a bit. Then, I got realistic. Other than that, I don’t think about my disability.
I graduated from the program Scholars with Diverse Abilities (SDAP) at Appalachian State University. SDAP is a two-year non-degree seeking program for people who have moderate to mild intellectual disabilities. I got a certificate of completion but not a diploma, so I cannot be a history teacher with it, but I was able to take college-level history classes. Programs like SDAP must be small to be tailored to individual students. Professors know everyone’s interests. These programs help people who have disabilities and want to go to college to learn more about the world and themselves.
Every college should have a program like SDAP.
In my opinion, every college should have a program like SDAP. They should be all over the U.S. and the world! SDAP only allows students from North Carolina to apply.
Don’t get me wrong, the situation for people with disabilities in the U.S. has improved since George H. W. Bush signed the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Good progress. ADA makes discrimination against people with disabilities illegal in the books, but now that needs to be enforced in practice, which sounds simple, but obviously it is difficult because enforcement is not being done. For example, my mother works at a church, which is not wheelchair accessible. The church was built in 1926, so it didn't have to comply with the ADA. Now the church is hard to renovate because of its historic status. The question is: how do we make buildings more accessible but also comply with historic status?
It is very easy to fix things in theory, but we seem to be a long way from actually putting disability rights into practice. Something I would like to change at my former high school is for all students to be able to study the courses they want at the level they prefer. When I was in high school, I participated in a program for students with disabilities called Occupational Course of Study (OCS). OCS focuses on teaching job and life skills, and as an OCS student I was not eligible to take honors or Advanced Placement courses, although I believe mentally I would have had the ability to do so with support. If I were running OCS, I would make it more like SDAP so that each student could determine their own course of study.
Programs like SDAP are great because they integrate people who have disabilities and people who do not have disabilities so everyone can learn from each other.
 OCS is a modified high school curriculum available to some students with disabilities in North Carolina. For more information: https://www.dpsnc.net/Page/265
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