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July 29, 2020

Jasmine Jordan: Supporting students with disabilities

Jasmine Jordan is a senior in the College of Social Science. She is also the co-president of the Council of Students with Disabilities as well as a member of the Honors College and Social Science Scholars Program. This Q & A is repurposed content from the College of Social Science. Read the original piece here.

What is the CSD, and what do you do for students?

A lot of people don't realize that, on campus, every marginalized community and protected group has an organization dedicated to representing them. I may be biased, but I think our group is one of the most diverse on campus because disabilities themselves are so different and exist in every community.

CSD works to complement the efforts of the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities, which handles the education and the accommodations processes. Some common accommodations for students include taking tests by themselves or having test readers.

CSD tries to identify and solve issues outside the process of accommodations. Whether it be a student in a wheelchair struggling to have access to the building, or a deaf student whose classes went online in March without captioned lectures — those are the problems we try to address. We urge MSU to implement solutions beyond what they're legally required to do.

What do you wish others without disabilities would better understand about students with disabilities? What misconceptions and myths would you like to dispel?

Some students carry the notion that their peers with disabilities are only excelling in their classes because of their accommodations. Or, that those students get special treatment or get easier classwork. The truth of the matter is that no disabled students get easier assignments or even different assignments — the work is the exact same.

I think those are the major misconceptions on campus — either students with disabilities don't exist, they have it easier or they're inherently failing. But none of this is true.

What can every Spartan do to make MSU a more inclusive, supportive and accommodating place for everyone?

The first thing I would ask people to do is check their own bias. It's fine to want to help, but I think people need to think about their motivations and analyze them for possible ableism when getting involved to help disabled students.

The second thing I'd say is listen to disabled people and read up and actually learn about these issues. Google is your friend. It's not my job, or the job of any disabled person, to educate you — especially when there are professors doing this for money. I would like to support the field.

Lastly, I would ask the MSU administration to make all of their decisions with disabled students in mind.

How are you hoping to continue this work beyond your time as an undergraduate at MSU?

My ultimate goal is to be a Civil Rights attorney, and I really want to work in criminal justice reform. A lot of times, the conversation surrounding criminal justice reform stops before people with disabilities are discussed, but there is such an interaction there. There is a criminalization of disability. For example, look at the case of the Groves High School student who was literally placed in juvenile detention when her ADD kept her from completing her online coursework.

This intersection of racism and ableism is something I like to focus on a lot. People recognize ableism, but only when it impacts white kids. We see so many examples of white students with invisible disabilities, such as chronic disabilities, mental health disabilities, ADHD or autism, but we don't see a lot of examples in which those affected are Black people.

Even if we understand how autism works or how ADHD works, if we see a Black student displaying those characteristics that we recognize deserve accommodations, we label them as 'bad.' There's no empathy for disabled students of color. The Department of Education says the amount of kids currently detained in juvenile detention with disabilities could be as high as 85%. This is why my goal in life is to create criminal justice reform, with my focus on that intersectionality between people of disabilities and people of color, especially Black people.

By: Jasmine Jordan

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