DOORS of Opportunity and Understanding

As a small liberal arts college, Cornell is in a unique position to provide resources for students that other post-secondary schools are unable to. Examples of this  include Cornell’s small class size, ability to work one-on-one with students, numerous on-and-off campus opportunities, and disability services and resources under the office of Academic Support and Advising.

Cornell College offers accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, with teachers and faculty working as closely as possible to provide students with the best atmosphere to habilitate learning. Every class syllabus holds the same passage:

The College of Cornell wishes to fully include persons with disabilities in this course. In compliance with section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACT), Cornell College is committed to ensure that “no otherwise qualified individual with a disability…shall, solely by reason of disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity…” If you are a student with a disability and believe that you will need accommodations for this class it is your responsibility to inform the professor within the first three days of class. It is also your responsibility to contact and register with the office of Academic Support, and to provide them with documentation for your disability, so that they can determine what accommodations are appropriate for your situation.

In fact, teachers are all required to read this passage at the beginning of each block. However, as student members of DOORS – Cornell’s Peer Support Group for Students with Disabilities, represented by Andrew Crow (’16), Delanie Lalor (’18) and Aubrey Kohl (’17) – pointed out, there is more to dealing with disabilities than accommodations.

The first step is to examine how disabilities are actually looked at. The Medical Model of Disabilities looks at disabilities like a sickness that you must seek to cure; however, this is not a feasible solution for most physical and emotional disabilities. Many people that have these disabilities are not able to adapt to the “normal” environment as it exists and as the medical model expects them to. This is where the Social Model comes in; it identifies society as the main contributing factor in disabling people.

Everything from a lack of a ramp to a general negative and exclusionary attitude works against people with disabilities. However, as Crow, Lalor and Kohl explained in the open discussion part of the DOORS education event, sometimes correcting this is simple.

Self-education is huge, and can help parents, peers and educators better understand  people with disabilities. Correct language is also incredibly important. The phrase “disabled people” distances groups, while the more correct terminology “people with disabilities” is more inclusive and is conducive to greater understanding.

Another method is just listening. “I know what I need,” Lalor said to the audience. “It’s about making sure everyone is communicating and on the same level.” So what Cornell can do?

“It really helps to know that there’s someone there who will advocate for you and what you need,” Crow said, “But it’s not fair for it to be one person. More resources, more cross-talk.”

For more resources students are encouraged to reach out to the students mentioned above, or can contact the following:


Cornell Office of Academic Support and Advising

Cole Library, 309


Cornell Counseling Center

Ebersole or


Student Health Services

Eversole or


Mercy Medical Center

712 10th St. SE, Cedar Rapids



Isabel Stone, Staff Writer