I mentioned a couple of months ago that I’d been diagnosed with POTS and that it made me extremely sensitive to heat. And when I say sensitive to heat, I mean prone to dizziness, nausea and vomiting, collapsing, and fainting. It’s really annoying, because it’s something that comes up at times when you wouldn’t expect trouble.
Like in one of my classes.
The main building of my law school is 8 stories tall. On the upper 3 stories, there are 2 little boxy classrooms per floor. They have a wall of windows that face into the atrium that goes up the center of the building from the third floor to the ceiling. For the number of people they seat, they’re very small classrooms. They seat about 35 people plus the professor, with 2 rows on the left and right of the classroom and two rows across the back of the room.
Unfortunately, they have a terrible tendancy of getting hot. The higher in the building you go, the hotter these little rooms seem to get. It’s a combination of poor air circulation, density of people, and heat rising through the atrium and passing through the wall of windows at the back of the room.
I missed the first two weeks of class. The first week, it was incredibly hot and my boyfriend was out of town at a funeral, and Hudson had an accident on the sidewalk, prompting me to decide he shouldn’t be out in public for a couple days until things cleared up. I honestly can’t tell you why I missed the second week. I just don’t remember.
The third week, I went to class and was ROASTED. It was hot enough that I felt ill and dizzy, despite drinking about a litre of liquids during the class, between my gatorade and my water. The only reason I made it through was because I was wearing summery clothes – relatively skimpy. Incidentally, that week, the professor stopped me and recommended that I switch from taking his class officially to taking the class as a guided research class. He’s one of the professors who is very strict about attendence rules, and unfortunately law school attendence requirements have been held to be reasonable under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so there’s nothing I can do about it. By taking it as guided research, I’d be able to miss more classes without failing.
I fired off an email to the disability coordinator explaining the problem with the temperature in the classroom and pointing out that it’s only likely to get worse as we swing into fall and they start turning on the heat in the building (not to mention the fact that I’ll need to dress in warmer clothing). I got an email back from him stating that as I was taking it as guided research, I should have enough flexibility to deal with the problem.
That meant another week in the same classroom, which meant choosing a spaghetti strap, low cut dress even though the weather outside was a bit too cool for that. I was still too warm, and that time actually felt like I might fall over when it was time to get up and go. I had to sit for a while after people were leaving. Fortunately, the doors being opened lets out most of the excess heat, so I was okay pretty soon after.
Of course I emailed him back and explained that because of the unpredictable nature of POTS, I’d have to not go to any classes in order to avoid the risk of a collapse or faint. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the whole thing is that the first thing I lose is my ability to tell how my body is doing and what I need to do to prevent problems. I was a bit annoyed that my original email explaining why I couldn’t be in that classroom wasn’t good enough for him. It felt a little bit like they were trying to shunt me off to the side and make ‘accomodations’ that were the least inconvenient for them – put her in a guided research instead of a class, and then it’s all on her if she can’t get there!
In the end, they moved the classroom. It’s not a huge improvement – we’re still in one of the same boxy little classrooms, just moved from the 8th (top) floor to the 6th floor. The temperature is somewhat lower, though I do not know if it will be enough once the building switches from air conditioning to heating.
I hate things like this, where it feels like I’m treated as an inconvenience. It’s not like I get some kind of power trip asking for accomodations. I don’t push people around because it’s fun. When I ask for something, it’s because I NEED it, and my health, safety, and ability to continue going to school are jeopardized.
Look, I’m sorry I’m so inconvenient. But if you had to deal with the sheer number of inconveniences I deal with every day because of my disabilities, you’d realize that I’m really asking for very little.