For Some College Students, Remote Learning Is a Game Changer

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Although many college students have struggled with remote learning over the last year, some with disabilities found it to be a lifeline...

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Cory Lewis, a biology major at Georgia Military College who lives with sickle cell disease and was hospitalized four times last year, performs lab work at his home in Stone Mountain, Ga., on Aug. 9, 2021. (Johnathon Kelso/The New York Times)

Goldberg, whose condition also leaves him immunocompromised and more vulnerable to the coronavirus, asked for online accommodations as classes return in person this fall — a request the university recently granted. Colleges and universities are generally required to provide “reasonable” accommodations or modifications for qualified students with disabilities — as long as those changes do not “fundamentally alter” the nature of the program or pose other undue burdens for the institutions.Those terms have always been open to interpretation and debate.

Lynch, who also has celiac disease and diabetes, is immunocompromised. And even though she is vaccinated, she is fearful of getting the coronavirus and has lived much of the past year in isolation. Two days later, the university said that “short-term or partial remote instruction” could be considered for those unable to study or teach in person this fall. But “not a lot of classes” would be considered eligible for remote instruction, even if they were taught remotely last year, said Michael I. Kotlikoff, Cornell’s provost.

Last semester, Sophia Martino, a senior at the University of Missouri who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair, chose to attend two lab-based classes in person. In May, she got sick with COVID-19, despite being vaccinated.

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