Seeking accommodations as a Student Employee
The following are some things to consider when applying for accommodations as a student worker.
Students workers are often paid poverty wages and offered lower tier health insurance plans. As a result, the disability process may be immediately inaccessible due to an inability to afford necessary doctors visits. This process will likely not become accessible without significant labor action to address the working conditions of student workers.
In order to apply for disability rights accommodations, a student worker will need to do the following:
Visit the Disability Resources page to stay up to date with the latest recommendations and requirements.
Obtain a letter from a medical professional documenting the disability
Complete the student eligibility process
Complete the employee eligibility process.
Uniquely, student workers must go through both a student accommodation process and an employee accommodation process. One will not stand in for the other. For example, if a student worker only seeks an accommodation for their status as a student, they will not automatically receive accommodations for their work duties.
As a graduate student worker, I am paid around $1000 a month for my labor while my contract is active. I am also offered a health insurance plan that often fails to cover many of the expenses that a disabled person can expect to have. In order to avoid being forced to teach in the classroom, I was required to pay significant out of pocket medical expenses in order to obtain up to date documentation of my disability. While I continue to receive medical bills for this expenditure, I estimate that the total cost of this piece of paper will be between $800 and $1000. This is an entire month of my NAU employee salary.
Confused by the process, I initially only applied for student accommodation, delaying the review that could offer me protection from teaching in the classroom. Once this was brought to my attention, I had to reapply through the employee process. This created a week-long lag in my eligibility. The rest of the specific eligibility process took a little more than three weeks. One week for DR to email the department and recommend I teach from home while under review, two weeks to schedule a formal appointment with Disability Resources, and one more week after this appointment to receive an accommodation. Other members of my cohort reported that their process took six weeks. If I include the time it took to secure documentation, my Disability Resources process took two months, during which time I was not protected from retaliation for not holding in person class.