‘Disability is not the whole of who you are’

For students with disabilities, the University and College provide notetakers, extended test time and accessible dorm rooms, among other resources.

But the impact of disabilities extends beyond the classroom and the residence hall, and the Sara Bea Center for Students with Disabilities and the Disability Resource Office cannot solve all the challenges that come with everyday social interactions for those students.  

Elizabeth Anthony, a senior with autoimmune conditions including lupus and celiac disease, says the accompanying chronic fatigue has impacted her social relationships.

“Just because it feels so stupid to always say you’re tired, but when you have chronic fatigue it’s not really something that you can just explain to other people. Going out for me is just not really an option, because I can’t drink, I cannot stay up past midnight — it just doesn’t work for me,” she said. “And trying to explain that to people, and then trying to still be engaged in social things. My friends have been great, but it’s changed our relationship a lot, just in what I’m able to do.”

Anthony said she has felt that a number of times throughout her career at Notre Dame, she has had to choose between friends or school work.

“So you know a lot of times, you’ll see things that say, ‘You can have a social life or sleep or good grades — but not all three’? And I think that’s true for every Notre Dame student, but for me sleep is no longer a choice,” she said.

Grace Agolia, a junior who is deaf and uses a cochlear implant, says because her disability is an invisible one, she has to constantly remind people of effective communication strategies, such as speaking with an appropriate volume.

“In situations with background noise, it’s very hard. I often feel lost, and I have to turn to the person next to me and say, ‘What was that?’ And people can get very tired of doing that, and I understand that’s annoying,” she said.

Read the full article, part of a series on disability at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's,  in The Observer.

Originally published by Catherine Owers at ndsmcobserver.com on April 22, 2016.