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What It's Like, #8
What It’s Like is a series launching for Dalhousie Accessibility Week, one that provides members of the Dal community with an opportunity to share their first-person perspective on living with a disability. People are welcome to share with their name or anonymously.
Submitted by Sarah MacDonald:
Tell us a little about yourself and your role here at Dal.
My name is Sarah MacDonald and I am the Assistant Dean, Advancement at the Schulich School of Law. I have a Master’s of Arts, and I’m a Certified Fundraising Executive. I love working in my community both through my career at Dal as well as through volunteering on a number of Boards and leadership in the non-profit sector. I have a spouse, a home, three very cute pets. I love cooking, hosting parties, crocheting, lifting weights, swimming with my friends, going to concerts. I have a few invisible disabilities that include chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What do you wish people knew about your disability?
That each day can be different. And that’s valid and okay. Some days are comfortable and I need very little accommodation or consideration. Others are a real struggle just to get through. Sometimes, on the good days, it feels like maybe I don’t have a disability at all – or that I shouldn’t think I do. However, the reality is I’ve worked very hard for years to ensure that the good days come along. And I deserve the accommodations I need on the other days. I’d say a lot of people can relate to that, so I wanted to make sure I shared that. I also want folks to know that people at all levels of the University have disabilities. And that they all deserve to be accommodated and understood.
My disabilities fall under a category where I’ve required a psychiatrist. In addition, I also require a psychologist. I don’t think everyone understands the difference and how they exist in two separate systems in Nova Scotia. A psychiatrist is a doctor akin to a medical specialist like a dermatologist – you get put on a waitlist after a referral and you have to do just that - wait. The psychiatrist can do an assessment, diagnose, and prescribe you medication. A psychologist is a very skilled medical professional, but not a medical doctor. They use therapy as a form of support. This costs upwards of $200/hour and is almost exclusively outside the scope of our provincial healthcare system (MSI). So I’m very lucky. I had the time and flexibility to wait to be admitted with a psychiatrist. And I had the financial means to pay for a psychologist, regularly, for ten years now. I am in the minority. We have community members and colleagues that are not so lucky.
Lastly, I wish people knew and understood how a disability can affect other aspects of your work and how you interact in the world. For example, I have auditory processing issues as a result of my disability. There are lots of examples of waterfall effects of disability that others may not ever consider. I would never expect someone to know them all, but asking and thinking about this with others is always a compassionate and helpful approach.
What accessibility changes would have the biggest impact on your experience here at Dal?
A particularly interesting piece to my work is that it’s very externally facing. Some days I speak to more folks that aren’t working or going to Dal than those that do. And so, it’s not necessarily the colleagues or students that may not completely understand disability – sometimes it’s those in the community. I think it’s a long journey of making sure everyone understands what disabilities can look like (and that they are often invisible). Dalhousie can help lead that work, though. It really takes consistency in discussion, accommodation, and understanding. And there’s no end to that. There’s no final step in achieving accessibility on campus – it’s a constant dialogue for everyone to become more and more comfortable.
Previously in this series:
You can find all entries collected here.
Interested in sharing your own experiences?
We'd love to hear from you. Please take a look at our questions below and how to submit them. Please note that you can choose to remain anonymous if you wish. (Note: names will be visible to individuals receiving submissions by email).
Our questions for you:
- Tell us a little about yourself and your role here at Dal. (Note: If remaining anonymous, this prompt can be skipped — or, simply share as much detail as you feel comfortable doing).
- What do you wish people knew about your disability?
- What accessibility changes would have the biggest impact on your experience here at Dal?
If you’re interested in sharing your experiences navigating university life with a visible or invisible disability, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to the above questions or to set up a short interview.