OPINION: DSP note-taking leaves a hole in accommodations services

Shutianyi Li/Daily Trojan

At the beginning of this semester, I registered to be a notetaker for the University’s Disability Services and Programs. I was selected for two classes and instructed to upload my notes biweekly through an online portal.

The problem: DSP’s website wouldn’t let me upload documents. Whoever was on the receiving end of these notes definitely wasn’t getting them. I emailed DSP multiple times. They responded, telling me my credentials on the portal would be updated. But they never fixed the problem with my account, and I never uploaded any notes.

This was four months ago. Whoever was relying on my class notes hasn’t received a single one this semester.

There is no doubt that DSP provides necessary services to students who need them, from longer exam times to preferential seating and reduced distractions. These services enable many to maximize their academic potential independently, and make their education accessible. However, there is a lack of clear, consistent communication between both sides of their note taking system. Students relying on this service are disadvantaged.

Many registered notetakers and those with DSP accommodations say that most of the DSP academic services offered are effective with the exception of DSP note-taking.

Brennan Heil, a senior majoring in communication, said she was satisfied with her own accommodations, but ultimately disappointed in the lack of a cohesive system when she registered to be a notetaker herself.

“My notes basically never went up,” she said. “I would [ask], is anyone even getting these?”

For a sophomore majoring in graphic design who wished to remain anonymous and not share her diagnoses, this has become a recurring problem.

“I have ADD, ADHD and dyslexia and getting those notes is really important to me,” she said. “But sometimes the notes don’t show up at all, and I have to email multiple times before getting a response. Sometimes, they’re written in such bad handwriting that I can’t even read them, which is kind of counterintuitive because I’m dyslexic to begin with.”

The position of these two students might reflect the reality a number of students face — waiting on lecture notes that never come or providing notes that do not benefit the intended recipients.

Note-taking services are only one of the accommodations DSP provides, but for students who depend on these notes, their class performance could be greatly affected. They were guaranteed a service that is not consistently provided, and their academic performance may be unfairly hindered because of it.

Some are even under the impression that their note-taking classmates are to blame, which is usually not the case — notetakers are often facing technological difficulties with DSP’s online portal. Inefficient communication between DSP and the parties involved is at the crux of this problem — emails go unanswered and notes never seem to get posted.

DSP did not respond in time for comment, and this lack of response is reflective of the overall attitude toward note-taking difficulties as well. They did not reply to my uploading issues earlier this semester and did not have the time now to explain why.

One obvious solution is that DSP needs to  communicate more consistently with students. Just because they have provided students with eligibility for accomodations does not mean their job is done — they still have a responsibility to ensure these students are receiving these accommodations on a consistent basis.

DSP could also use direct lines of communication. While portal anonymity accounts for the sensitivity of disability, if notetakers and note-receivers were in contact without an intermediary, this would hold the notetaker to a higher standard of consistency. In turn, most of the technological issues and consistency issues (such as messy or late notes) could be avoided. The online portal seems to create more problems than it solves.

The lack of adequate note-taking services is a problem — one that affects many students and, more significantly, one with a quick fix. DSP needs to adapt their services to improve the experience of students.