Last semester, Sophia Martino, a senior at the University of Missouri who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair, opted for two personal laboratory courses. In May, despite being vaccinated, she contracted Covid-19.
Even after this tough year, she plans to take lessons in person this fall. But knowing that the university has already given permission for a handful of students to attend classes remotely this year, she says she feels better taking in-person classes as there is accommodation when she needs it .
“The idea of distance learning as shelter is something that has been newer since the pandemic,” said Ashley Brickley, director of the university’s disability center.
In fact, online courses are not a panacea, as Cory Lewis, a biology student at Georgia Military College, noted last year. Mr. Lewis has sickle cell anemia which can cause fatigue, chronic pain and organ damage, making him particularly susceptible to infectious diseases. He was hospitalized four times last year, including one for kidney failure, and spent months in persistent pain.
If it had been a normal academic year, he might have had to drop out, he said. Instead, he could remain enrolled. An enterprising biology professor even sent home lab kits packed with everything he needed to conduct a variety of hands-on experiments.
But Mr. Lewis was struggling to focus on his other correspondence courses and his grades were falling, he said. So he plans to study in person again this fall, despite worries about his health.
“I just learn a lot better standing in front of the teacher,” said Mr Lewis, who is fully vaccinated but said that some of his classmates weren’t. “But since I know that my health could be endangered with the Delta variant, I don’t know what will happen to the school now.”