A Social Work Professor’s Thoughts

Written by Joy Ernst on September 6th, 2022

Usually, about 20% of my students in the School of Social Work present a letter of accommodation (LOA) each semester. Those letters represent the students' desire to succeed and their willingness to use the services and supports of the SDS to exercise their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I am always happy to receive these requests because it signals to me that the student has taken steps to plan for what might happen over the course of the semester.  The student recognizes that it is their right to ask for these accommodations and their responsibility to use the process that will ensure that they can use those accommodations to work towards a successful semester. 

As a faculty member in social work, I rejoice when students use resources intended to help them succeed.  After all, much of social work practice involves helping people gain and access resources. Sometimes, social workers must help people overcome both external and internal barriers to getting the help they need. I also have worked with students who would be eligible for accommodations, but either internal or external barriers keep them from exercising their rights.

To work effectively with a variety of people and situations, the social worker must also develop self-awareness and the ability to reflect upon one's own biases. Students who have gone through the process of obtaining an LOA can reflect on the experience whether they had to overcome either external or internal barriers to getting the help they need and use it to think about how they will work with those who are reluctant to access the help they need.

Joy Swanson Ernst, PhD, MSW

Associate Professor of Social Work