One way to promote advocacy is to celebrate 2015 as the
25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law
banning discrimination based on disability. APA and CDIP
will be recognizing the act by “bringing awareness to disability
rights as civil rights,” wrote Pilarski in an email.
Olkin notes that recognizing disability can help everyone
by making it more ordinary and self-identifying less scary. It
should be talked about at orientation, in meetings and with
colleagues. She also calls for more role models and emphasizes
that students without disabilities can be one of the greatest
sources of support for their peers with disabilities.
Places to turn
For students with disabilities, the first step is to go to the
disabilities office on campus. Staff there can help identify
potential accommodations and help students practice the best
ways to ask for them. Gernsbacher remembers that, in her first
faculty position, she was one of the first few women hired in
the department. Years earlier, when women had not been on the
faculty, there were no female bathrooms, so they had to request
one. Gernsbacher tells this story to remind students that asking
for any accommodation for any type of disability is just as valid.
The good news, according to Gernsbacher’s study, is that
once requested, most accommodations are granted. So, students
who want such services should start making requests before the
semester begins: order textbooks, sign up for early enrollment,
and ask for syllabi prior to the first day of class.
Olkin also encourages students with disabilities to reach
out to others. Feeling alone can be discouraging and dampen
motivation to ask for needed accommodations.
“So find someone,” says Olkin.
APA has a mentoring program that matches trainees with
disabilities with psychologists with disabilities (see “Resources”
box). Finding sympathetic faculty members, reaching out to
other students with disabilities (even if they are in different
programs), or interacting with similar students via social media
can also help.
“There are lots of us out there,” Olkin says. n
Teal Burrell is a journalist in Washington, D.C.
• APA’s Resource Guides for Graduate
Students with Disabilities: www.apa.org/pi/
• APA’s mentoring program: www.apa.org/pi/
• Spotlight on Disability Newsletter: www.
• Kenneth Pope’s website (includes links to
articles on accessibility, laws and regulations,
and software and hardware resources): http://
• How to subscribe to APAGS’s listserv concerning disability issues: www.apa.org/apags/
• Psychologists with Disabilities, a special
interest group of Div. 22 (Rehabilitation): www.
To get involved in the celebration of the 25th
anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
contact Philip Keck at email@example.com or
Carrie Pilarski at firstname.lastname@example.org.