One Size Fits All?

One Size Fits All?

by Marianne Stephens
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

If there’s one expression I dislike more than any other, it’s one size fits all. It may be true in some cases, but not so much when it comes to disability. In fact, the opposite is true. Consider, for example: a shirt can come in several different sizes, but carries the same basic design. This is a flaw because human bodies come in all shapes and sizes, which means that the shirt, despite the different sizes, doesn’t quite mesh. The collar may be too tight, the sleeves create a vise on your shoulders, the body of the shirt is too large, too short, too tight, or it’s just an unflattering fit in general.

The same philosophy can be applied to disabilities of all types: you’re not going to get a perfect fit every time. Things need to be changed and adapted to better fit the requirements of what you need in order to succeed in your education and chosen career. In my case, it certainly changed. In elementary school, I was dealing with speech therapy classes, an interpreter, a frequency modulation (FM) system, and exemptions from French classes. By high school, all of it would be gone (except for the FM system), replaced with extra test accommodations, and a note-taker who transcribed what the teacher said into text on a computer screen.

In university, things would change even further after a particularly jarring experience with the speaker system in one of the university campuses’ largest lecture halls. This problem, combined with the feedback I would constantly get caused me to drop the FM system for good. I never looked back. I decided to keep the accommodations for tests and exams, and I also went with note-takers full-time, admiring their typing speed as I read over their shoulder.

It was approximately a year after graduation that I learned that I wasn’t alone when it came to FM system feedback. It wasn’t common, but it wasn’t exactly rare. It made me realize that every disability plan must be tailored to fit the student’s needs, because it reflects how someone works and how they contribute. Therefore, the ‘shirt’ didn’t fit me well and had to be altered.

As time moves forward, technology does as well, adding new things that can remove gaps that current technology cannot. As an example, consider Kutzweil Education, a program that assists those with dyslexia or learning disabilities. It’s definitely a recent development that transcribes text to speech, and many other cool features are included such as highlighting, annotating, and extracting outlines of chapters. It’s fairly new, as the earliest I’d heard about this program was 2008 –the company’s been around for at least a decade beforehand. Guide dogs are also fairly recent – particularly because of expansions into those with other health disorders. It also doesn’t necessarily fit the ‘shirt’ in their cases. This is why the plan to help accommodate individual persons should always be adjusted accordingly.

As technology and time moves on – the shirt may be modified or removed entirely in order to get the best possible equipment that you need in order to succeed in your educational (or work) environment.

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