Having a disability does not mean struggling alone

Karl Hopkins-Lutz

I want to offer a word to the students with invisible disabilities: ask for help.

I attended Kent State during the Bush years, when Kent State’s Student Accessibility Services did not offer help for people with learning disabilities. Unless you had mobility issues or needed a note-taker, you were on your own. As a result, I struggled through my studies. At one point, a (Resources for Human Development) of mine actually told her RAs that she wanted me out, no matter what they had to do: it was all on account of my invisible disability.

Since graduating in 2009, I found that other institutions are willing to provide accommodations that those with learning disabilities need in order to thrive: explaining an assignment a little more, giving a little leeway on deadline quiz times and letting you get a little feedback on rough drafts.

To this end, I have to praise the departments of Satterfield Hall for their accommodations without shaming me. I would not have graduated if it were not for professors like Elizabeth Howard, Harold Fry, Stephanie Libbon, Hildegard Rossoll, Sarah Rilling, Klaus Gommlich and Geoffrey Koby. So many of them helped me believe in myself as a scholar, even if I still struggled (some I would even call mentors and friends).

When one of my classmates was exposed as running a Facebook hate group against me for not being as good as he was in our classes, I was crushed. However, when the faculty left what to do about it up to me, I thought that accepting an apology was the most merciful thing I could do, compared to having the offender expelled.

I will say it again: Ask for all the help you can get. Talk to the student therapists in the (Psychology Clinic) or the student counselors in the education department. For years, people told me that I had to do it all myself, and when I struggled and failed, it was all my fault (Google toxic masculinity, ableism and Ayn Rand). But to those studying with disabilities, you do not have to struggle and suffer, and you can manage your time with room for studies and fun. You do not have to fall prey to the self-doubt and depression that comes with struggling while everyone else seems to thrive.

Kent State can be a very lonely place — after May 4, the school geared itself into a suitcase campus and a party school to keep students from protesting anymore. Do not let yourself fall prey to isolation, and do not let people put you in a corner for being disabled. If you manage your time and get just a little help, then you can flourish and graduate.

Trust me: After scraping my way out of Kent State and a tour in AmeriCorps, I started studying again and received honors for the first time in my entire academic life. Instead of a 2-point-whatever GPA, I now have a 3.8. So swallow your pride and recognize how you can maintain your dignity with a humble request. You will progress, you can graduate.