Students with disabilities face new challenges with online learning


Courtesy of Instagram

Holmes Hall overlooks main campus of Morgan State University.

Chloe Johnson, Campus News Editor

Being in a classroom setting helped multimedia journalism major Onya Solomon stay on track. Since the sophomore was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, he said his symptoms have improved. But when the university transitioned to remote learning, students like Solomon faced new obstacles.

“It’s really hard to stay focused and attentive, whether I’m just blanking out or fidgeting around with my pen,” he said. “I feel like I’m not even learning anything.”

With schools across the country making the abrupt switch to online courses, many students shared similar concerns with trying to stay afloat. Students who struggle with hearing loss, blindness, learning disorders similar to ADD and various physical and mental challenges have called on the university to provide adequate learning accommodations, but worry their concerns aren’t being addressed. 

Kate Weeks,  director of the Office of Student Disability Support Services, addressed these concerns in a statement where she acknowledged that the recent changes have been difficult for many students. 

“Students have various learning styles, and remote instruction does not always benefit everyone,” Weeks said. “Our office has been registering new students for reasonable accommodations due to disability.”

Weeks mentioned that most students with disabilities struggle more with the mid-semester transitions and time management.

The Student Disability Support Services is now working remotely, including the intake process which is typically done in-person,  an adjustment that Weeks said has been a major change for the office. However, she added that the change hasn’t slowed down services. 

With roughly 525 registered students, the office works to support various disabilities. According to their website, officials provide students with studying tips, tutoring and test taking strategies to assist in online learning. They also work with professors to ensure that students receive accommodations. 

But for students like senior Tyler Medley, who struggles with epilepsy, there is a concern that faculty and administration have overlooked and forgotten about disabled students.

Medley’s seizures have increased in frequency since the transition to online learning. 

I have absence seizures, which really look like I’m daydreaming or just not paying attention,” she said, jokingly comparing her epileptic seizures to the way Raven Simone would freeze during her visions in the Disney Channel show, “That’s So Raven.” 

But the after effects are far from amusing, according to Medley, just one seizure can lead to extreme exhaustion, depression, and mood swings, amongst other symptoms.

Some professors have been extremely considerate, [while] others have not,” the multi-platform production major added

In an email sent to President David Wilson, Medley explained her circumstances and sought support from the administration. She said he briefly replied to her initial email, but never responded after further contact.

“There are so many questions that I’m beginning to worry about,” she said. 

According to The National Center for Learning Disabilities, the $2 trillion dollar CARES Act, in response to the coronavirus relief effort, may threaten special education services for young disabled students. School districts and state education agencies won’t face legal consequences for not providing accommodations for students under the Individuals with Disabilities Act. 

Many students have found ways to combat their issues through student-led organizations like Disable The Label. An organization that strives to break all stigmas related to sexual orientation, disabilities, race, and gender through mentorship and support.

“We just want people to be more open minded and respectful to those who are different,” said executive board member Davianna Fountain, a junior social work major. 

“Some people do not have access to a computer. Libraries are closed. They either can’t focus, or they are students like Tyler, who can’t sit in front of a screen for a long period of time because their epilepsy might trigger,” she continued.