Hello, my name is Caleb. I work in digital communications in the Media Resources Center at Wichita State University. Last year, I was accepted in the Master of Innovation Design program at Wichita State. So, not only am I a staff member, I am a also a student. Within the last few months, I have been taking medication prescribed to manage attention deficit disorder.
Since we’ve been discussing technical and practical ways to improve accessibility in online learning, I thought I might offer my story to give life to why we do what we do. I am not an expert in accessibility issues, that’s what our fine folks in the IDT are for. What I can offer is a personal account, one that is not necessarily harrowing or inspirational, but in my opinion, a good, slice-of-life look at how a large group of people might experience certain challenges while also just trying to be a normal, successful human being.
Anyway, this is part one of a multiple part series. I don’t know how many, but let’s say 5 (setting hard goals, even if arbitrary, are one way that I try to manage my situation). I’ve written posts before, but these will be a little more personal, so let’s start with a simple tale that should be a good introduction to some of the things I’ll talk about later.
Once Upon a Time…
The story begins in the fall of 2002, on a university campus in a northeastern Kansas town. I am 18 years old, figuring out how to survive on my own, make it through the first semester as a fraternity pledge, and remember lines for the drama class I love… all while taking my final required math class.
Math is the worst, right? Math has always been my worst subject. I know I’m not the only one. But, even with tutoring and help, I failed math one year in high school. It took a summer making up the failed class and a guitar wielding, infinitely patient folk singer/algebra teacher to guide me through my final high school math classes. Needless to say, I was not confident about numbers.
So, as I started my college math course, taught by someone who wasn’t a kind and patient wizard, I wasn’t surprised that my grade started slipping.
But, I wasn’t slacking off, I really tried to understand what was wrong. So much so, that I began to get headaches. By the end of every class, I would have a searing headache. It was so frustrating. I mean, you couldn’t even read what the instructor was writing on the board!
I dropped the class. Math would be a battle I would have to fight another day.
The Turning Point
Then, I had a conversation with a friend. We were driving back to Wichita together and I was asking him about his new glasses. I’ve known him since we were 7 or 8 years old and it was funny to see him with these alien things on his face. He described how crazy it was having them, but what stuck with me, is when talked about the first time he went to the optometrist, how he assumed his vision was normal until he saw the doctor. He was so accustomed to the way he saw the world, that he didn’t know it could be any different.
So, I set up an appointment, and of course… I needed glasses.
Soon, I was a math genius.
That last statement is completely false. However, the headaches went away and I did pass the class the next time around.
I know I started this post mentioning that I take ADD medication. I will talk about my attention deficit experience, but it’s more complicated than the story I just told. It is similar, though. Even with my vision experience, It’s taken me a long time to address my attention issues. It’s really only been after coming to Wichita State and working with this team of understanding, encouraging, wonderful people, that I’ve been allowed to work on that stuff without feeling embarrassed or out of place.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts or stories about discovering learning challenges later in life. Plus, I’m also learning a lot of this stuff as I go, so feel free to share accessibility resources, articles, or websites that people may find helpful.